Ear fungus is not a rare condition in cats. It is one of several ear problems your pet cat may develop over the years. At first it may seem she has fleas or is simply itchy. After ear fungus has gotten a stronger hold inside the cat’s ears, however, you will probably notice other signs. Fortunately, ear fungus is treatable, although it make take some time to completely cure the problem.
Symptoms of ear fungus include scratching and pawing at the ears and shaking the head. In addition, sometimes the cat’s ear will have an odd, unpleasant odor or you’ll see extra (brown-colored) ear wax. The ears may exhibit a little swelling, but this is not a common symptom, unless the infection has gotten out of hand or the cat has traumatized the tissue by excessive scratching.
Fungal ear infections in cats are caused by a yeast, which--like most fungi--enjoy a warm, moist atmosphere (the ear is an ideal place for fungal growth). Yeast in small numbers is normally not a problem. Sometimes, however, yeast starts multiplying rapidly and forms very large fungal colonies in the cat's ears.
Your veterinarian may first do a visual examination of the cat’s ears. Next, he may swab the cat’s ears to get a sample of the possibly infected material. This will be viewed under a microscope for signs of bacteria (or parasitic mites) and cultured for yeast. Since culturing samples may take many days before results are visible, if your veterinarian suspects a yeast infection and has ruled out other infections, she may put the cat on drops or ointments right away (rather than waiting for test results).
Ear fungus in cats is usually treated with antifungal drops or ointments. Your veterinarian may also give you instructions for cleaning your cat’s infected ears until they are healed.
Untreated, cats with ear fungus may develop other ear problems (and other infections), resulting in possible hearing loss. If you suspect your cat has an ear infection of any kind, bring her in to a veterinarian for treatment.
Since symptoms of fungal infections in ears are similar to other ear problems, it’s important to get the cat to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis--do not assume the problem is yeast. It could be a bacterial infection or ear mites; neither will respond well to antifungal treatments.
According to “Yeast Infection Can Plague Pet's Ears,” by Kimberly Meenen, Assistant Editor, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, there is no way to fully keep a cat (or dog) from developing a fungal infection in the ear.