Middle Ear Problems in Kittens

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An outer ear infection can spread to the middle ear if left untreated in kittens.

If your kitten suffers from a simple infection of the outer ear, it can quickly turn into a more serious ear problem, affecting your cat's middle or inner ear. The middle ear contains the eardrum, bones and nerves of the ear, which can cause dizziness if inflamed. A kitten with a problem of the middle ear needs veterinary treatment to prevent permanent ear damage, including deafness or balance problems.

  1. Symptoms

    • Inflammation of the middle ear, also called otitis media, results from a variety of conditions and causes pain for the affected kitten. A kitten suffering from this issue will cry in pain if you touch its head or if it opens its mouth. It will also exhibit issues with its balance, such as tilting its head to the side, circling in place, stumbling when walking, or will lean to one side. Due to the discomfort, the kitten may stop eating, become lethargic, vomit or paw at the ear. It may also react more slowly to you if you call it or become skittish due to reduced hearing in the ear.

    Middle Ear Infections

    • Bacteria and yeast can cause an outer ear infection if left to flourish within the moist, warm environment of your kitten's ear. Left unattended, this infection will spread to the middle ear. Because kittens have a developing immune system, infections can spread quickly to the inner ear, causing permanent hearing loss. If a foreign body becomes lodged in the ear, it will cause irritation, infection and blockage of the ear canal. Food or environmental allergies, and conditions such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism, can also lead to chronic ear infections of the middle ear, according to WebMD. Middle ear infections cause discolored or bloody discharge, redness, and an unpleasant odor in your kitten's ear.


    • Ear mites -- most common in kittens -- commonly cause infections of the middle ear. These tiny, eight-legged parasites feed on the wax and oils in the kitten's ear canal. The mites cause irritation and inflammation that leads to an infection of the outer and inner ear. If you see dried blood that looks like coffee grounds on the outside of your kitten's ears, and your kitten tries to scratch its ears, this means that your kitten suffers from ear mites. In addition to treating the middle ear infection, you must rid your kitten of the mites with prescription ear drops or with the use of a topical flea treatment that also kills mites. Typically you can use these in a kitten 8 weeks or older.

    Treatment and Prevention

    • To avoid infections or other problems with your kitten's middle ear, check its ears weekly to make sure the ears do not have excess, dark wax or other signs of infection. Infections of the middle ear require veterinary attention as quickly as possible to prevent the them from spreading to the inner ear. A veterinarian will give you antibacterial or antifungal drops to treat the infection, which you must administer daily, as directed. For severe infections or other issues, such as middle ear polyps or tumors, the veterinarian will perform surgery under anesthesia to drain the infected area or remove an obstruction.

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