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Ear infection

Discussion in 'Cat Health and Nutrition' started by JeffTheCat, Jul 29, 2019.


  1. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,

    My cat has an ear infection - I took him to the vet a month ago and was given ear drops. The vet said he has very narrow ear canals which increases wax production and may need surgery eventually (??).

    I've been using the drops since, he seemed to improve after a couple of weeks so I stopped but it's got worse again. Luckily he's tolerating me cleaning his ears now but it's hard to see how thorough I'm being.

    Does anyone have tips for cleaning ears and warding off infection?

    I am reluctant to take him back to the vet so soon for a few reasons - the vet always makes me feel like I'm overreacting and that it's no big deal, whatever I take him in for; the cat finds it very stressful to be in a carrier (I have to sedate him); I've been unemployed until very recently, and had a family bereavement so I have literally no money to pay for any expensive surgery.

    My cat means everything to me so if I have to, I'll go into debt for him but I want to try other options to help him first, if possible.

    Does anyone have any advice?


    [Background: indoor-only FIV+ rescue cat, 4 years old, had nearly all of his teeth extracted about 8 months ago and was pretty traumatised]
     
  2. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    I searched the forum and found lots of similar threads - it seems ear infections can go on for a while, so should I just persist with the drops and cleaning routine?

    He doesn't tilt his head or have any balance problems, so I'm taking that as a good sign for now. And he's still eating/drinking/pooping/peeing as normal. He's just a bit miserable and itchy, poor thing.
     
  3. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @JeffTheCat :)

    It is true that ear infections can take time to clear up but I would have expected to see quite a lot of improvement after a month of giving the prescribed drops and cleaning the ears. If the infection is still there then It's possible your cat needs a different type of ear medication, maybe combined with an oral antibiotic.

    Does the vet mean the narrowed ear canals are due to infection, or disease? Or that he was born with them like that?

    I am sorry you find your vet not very supportive when you take your cat in for advice. An ear infection can be painful for a cat and itchy ears can drive them bananas! So IMO you are not over-reacting at all, you are behaving with compassion and concern for your cat.

    Is there another vet at the same practice you could ask to see when you make the appointment? I have done this at my vet practice - when I phone to book an appointment I ask by name for either of the two vets I trust, as a means of ensuring I don't have to see the vet I don't like.

    Incidentally, chronically itchy ears can be a sign of a food allergy. So if the vet says the infection has gone and the ears are clean, it may be worth considering the cat may have a food allergy, and reviewing his diet.
     
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  4. TriTri

    TriTri Standing up for cats

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    @JeffTheCat I also wonder if your cat needs antibiotics, and the type depending on what infection he has. That’s interesting about the food allergy; something to consider?
    I don’t know if cats ear problems are like human’s and I hope they aren’t, as waiting to get the right antibiotic for my ear infection, was an extremely painful and lengthy experience.
    Good luck and please let us know how he gets on.
     
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  5. OrientalSlave

    OrientalSlave Shunra Oriental Cats

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    When Lola was a kitten she had a nasty ear infection which needed oral antibiotics to clear. Please go back to the vets, or at the very least ring them.
     
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  6. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for your replies. There's no need to tell me to take him to a vet - I've given reasons why I try not to do it too often (mostly because he finds it very traumatic) and I am obviously in touch with them to discuss it. The reason I post here is to get other people's experience with similar situations for advice on what I can do myself to help him.

    He used to have constant mouth infections that they kept providing antibiotics for and telling me he'd need his teeth taken out 'eventually' before I saw a locum vet who agreed with me that it was best to take them out immediately before he had more rounds of infection. I don't want the same situation again where it takes 4-5 unnecessary visits before they actually take any action.

    Anyway. I spoke to a different vet (from a home visit team I use sometimes - they're great but can't treat anything too complicated) and he said the main vet should have taken a sample to be tested when I took him in. I've arranged to go and collect a swab so I can get a sample myself that they will send to a lab to find out what's causing the infection. Hopefully that will lead to appropriate medication. He also gave me tips on how to clean his ear so I've been doing that but his ear is producing neverending wax.

    I will speak to the main vet when I collect the swab but in the meantime - his ear is getting a bit sore, should I carry on cleaning with solution and cotton balls or is it possible that might be irritating it more?
     
  7. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @JeffTheCat -

    A previous cat of mine in his senior years started producing copious amounts of ear wax. The vet took swabs for testing and nothing was found to account for it, so I adopted a cleaning routine, which I carried out most days as needed.

    I used a cotton wool cosmetic pad (or the type marketed for use on babies) rolled it into a slim tube and then dipped it in a little pure cold pressed virgin olive oil. Using the olive oil was more effective than the chemically based liquids the vet had supplied or recommended. Pure olive oil has slight antibacterial properties and is soothing. My cat stopped scratching his ears constantly and I continued with this cleaning regime for the rest of his life.
     
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  8. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    That’s interesting to know @chillminx. My cat is a rescue and supposedly 4 years old but could well be older.

    I’ve been using a gentle oil based cleaner which seems to help but it’s difficult to get him to stay in one place to clean properly.

    I’m wondering if wrapping him in a towel would make it more or less stressful, I’ve never tried it with him before.

    Hibiscrub has been recommended to me by a fellow cat owner, is sounds like an effective antiseptic cleaner - have you ever used that?
     
  9. TriTri

    TriTri Standing up for cats

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    Hi @JeffTheCat
    I’m so pleased you are having a swab done; finding out the problem and then being prescribed the correct antibiotics- the 3 lots of wrong antibiotics I was initially given did a lot more harm than good. The pain was horrendous. So if they can nip this in the bud for your dear cat, that would be great, and if no luck I would definitely do what chillminx did for her dear cat.
     
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  10. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @JeffTheCat - no I wouldn't use Hibiscrub on ears, far too strong for something as delicate as ears, even when diluted.

    Cats often hate having their ears touched or cleaned. A cat's ears are very sensitive, more so than a human's ears.

    I used to do one of my cat's ears at a time, one ear on one day, one ear the next day, to minimise the amount of time I was messing with him. And I used to distract him with treats.

    For many cats being wrapped in a towel would be terrifying to be so restricted. It's not something I'd want to do to my cats. But if you decide to try it you will need an assistant so one person can hold the cat firmly wrapped in the towel, while one person has their hands free to clean the cat's ears. You will never manage the task on your own, with the towel method, unless you have an extremely docile cat! ;)
     
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  11. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    A follow up to this issue...

    So the swab found two strains of bacteria that were resistant to the ear drops I was initially given. Jeff was prescribed a new antibiotic, which seemed to help until it ran out... I asked for a second round as 10 days didn't seem a long enough course to completely get rid of infection. The vet declined and said to bring him in to the surgery instead. So, after a stressful morning of wrestling Jeff into his carrier, the vet cleaned his ear and gave him a new topical antibiotic, with a second dose for me to give a week later. He said that if Jeff has an infection more than 3 times a year, we need to look at surgery. Two types of surgery were recommended - one that costs £1000 but may have recurring issues, one that costs £3-4000 and basically removes the ear canal and would definitely solve the issue.

    Jeff responded really well to the topical gel but I still don't feel the course was long enough for the infection to completely clear up, and he is itching and shaking his head again. He's had an ear infection since March now, with small improvements on antibiotics but I don't think he's been given enough of a chance on the medication to clear it completely.

    I'm open to the idea of surgery, especially if there's a good chance of eradicating the problem completely, but I'm scared of the risk of putting him through major surgery again. I also don't have the money to pay for it. I should hopefully have enough money in a few months but in the meantime what should I do? Should I go back to the vet and ask for more antibiotics, or should I stick to cleaning his ear myself and hope I can make him feel better until we can eventually look at surgery options?

    It's just so frustrating to see improvement but as soon as the antibiotics run out he's back to square one. He's had such a rough time with his health, I've only had him two and a half years (he's 5 now, a rescue cat) and we've had countless vet visits and major surgery last year to take all his teeth out. I just want him to be healthy and happy for even a little while! He obviously can't tell me when he's in pain so I constantly worry I'm not doing enough to help him.
     
  12. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @JeffTheCat - thank you for the update.

    I am pleased to hear the cause of the itching ears has been identified and glad the new antibiotic helped for a while. But I am sorry to hear the improvement has not been permanent. Poor Jeff! I understand it must be worrying, and I sympathise.

    Has the infection spread to the middle ear do you know?

    Has the vet prescribed pain relief to be given at home when needed to relieve Jeff's discomfort?

    I understand ear infections are more common in cats with immune system disorders such as FIV. They can also be due to food allergies, or at least food allergies might exacerbate the problem. As there is a problem with eradicating this infection, I think it might be worth you considering a review of Jeff's diet, as there would be nothing to lose by doing so and there is a chance it may help, even if only a little.

    Are you giving Jeff omega 3 fish oil as a natural inflammatory and boost to his immune system? Or any other supplements?

    I think if it were me, before embarking on expensive surgery I would want a second opinion from another vet at a different practice as to the advisability of such a step and the likely outcome/success.

    I appreciate that nowadays many vets are cautious about prescribing antibiotics. However courses of long term antibiotics are regularly prescribed for humans who have certain conditions and can be essential in maintaining health and quality of life. I don't see why the same should not apply in certain situations with cats. It may be worth your while taking Jeff to a different vet to see if they feel more antibiotics would be appropriate.

    Or maybe asking your vet for a referral to a specialist vet. Whereabouts in the UK are you located (roughly).?
     
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  13. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    I'm not sure if the infection has spread to the middle ear, the vet hasn't done any exam besides looking in the ear. The vet also pointed out a polyp in his outer ear, which he thinks might be contributing, I forgot that in my previous post. No pain relief was provided - do you think that's something I can request in the interim?

    I don't currently give any supplements, is there a particular one you would recommend? Something to boost his immune system would make sense, what with his FIV status.

    He had some gastro issues after the dental surgery, which took a long time to sort out. I finally got him settled on Miamor mild meals but they are hard to get hold of now, so he has Blink pouches - the ear infection started while he was still eating Miamor so I don't think the switch is related. Are there particular ingredients cats can be allergic to? The Blink pouches are just meat and broth with added taurine and vitamins, there's no cereal or other padding.

    I live in London. I don't drive and Jeff is a big cat (approx 9kg) so I can't carry him on public transport and rely on cabs for vet appointments. There is a home-visit vet that I use sometimes, who I like very much, but he's not able to do any difficult procedures or exams. And I think he's a little frightened of Jeff! But he has prescribed antibiotics and other meds before, and now that I think of it, the courses were longer. He's given me extra meds in the past, in case I need them, like anti-emetic and gabapentin. Perhaps I'll seek his opinion before committing to surgery, but unfortunately even that appointment will have to wait until I can afford it.

    Thanks for your advice, as always @chillminx :)
     
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  14. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I'm happy to help @JeffTheCat :)

    My word, he is certainly a big fellow at 9 kg! :D . Is he a Maine Coon - or other large breed - by any chance? I can see why you wouldn't find it easy to take him to the vet by public transport.

    A polyp in the outer ear could be contributing to his discomfort and the repeat ear infections. It would think it'd be worth having that removed surgically if the vet is recommending it.

    I would certainly ask the vet for pain relief you can give Jeff whenever he seems uncomfortable. Ear pain is an awful pain to put up with - it can be as bad as toothache! And to be in pain causes a high stress level which is bad for the immune system.

    Has the vet mentioned interferon injections for Jeff? They help fight viral and bacterial infections. By increasing the number of interferons in the body, the cat becomes more resistant to infections. It is not cheap but a good point is that studies have shown the drug has minimal adverse side effects in cats.

    Re: supplements, I would give Omega 3 fish oil to a cat with FIV as it is good for boosting the immune system. It can be given as salmon oil but some cats dislike the taste. I give mine krill oil which has a less strong fishy smell. Buy it as capsules from amazon. Cut open the capsule with a pair of nail scissors and squeeze the oil into strong tasting wet food. Start with one capsule every alternate day (as too much can cause loose stools).

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Krill-Oil-500mg-Softgels-Cardiovascular/dp/B010C5IE6Y/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2YGDWMAZLM31W&keywords=krill+oil+capsules+500mg&qid=1570921132&sprefix=krill+oil,aps,138&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzSVNQOUxMR0dES0o2JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMDkzMjIzTFU3V04zMjBWMzVJJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA0MTc1NDgzMElVVzJHSkNVVDJGJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

    There are anecdotal reports from owners of FIV cats that the antioxidant enzyme Superoxide Dismutase helps FIV cats. But the scientific studies that have been done so far are not conclusive and more studies are still needed.

    Re: food allergies, the most common statistically (apart from grains and dairy) are the meat proteins chicken, beef and fish. Allergies are fairly common in FIV cats.

    The most thorough way to check for food allergies would be to put Jeff on an elimination diet using a "novel" protein - i.e. a meat protein he has never eaten before. For UK cats this would be one of the following - kangaroo, goat, horse, reindeer, venison. These foods can be bought as single protein foods from online pet food stores such as Zooplus UK.

    If you are interested in pursuing the idea of the elimination diet you may like to read my pinned thread on the topic :--

    https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/elimination-diets.509821/

    I am not sure how practical it would be to put Jeff on an elimination diet, because he may not like any of the novel protein foods and the last thing one would want to risk would be him refusing to eat. It may be worth considering instead, the exclusion of all beef, chicken and fish from his diet for a period of 10 weeks to see if there is any change.

    It would still mean buying foods that are guaranteed to be single protein (with none of the 3 proteins mentioned) but there will be more choice and therefore probably easier to feed him than if you were using a novel protein. Unfortunately none of the foods you would need are available in UK pet stores or supermarkets. You would need to buy them from Zooplus UK or Zoo-bio.uk. (see the pinned thread for links).

    If you decide to go ahead with the diet, please let me know if I can help advise. :)
     
  15. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks @chillminx I’ll definitely get some Omega 3 supplement, and will have a look at the threads about elimination diets.

    Yes he is big! He’s a little bit overweight but is generally a very large cat anyway. He’s a former street cat so I don’t know his background but there must be some Maine coon in there!

    I’m going to speak to the vet today and ask about painkillers and Interferan, hopefully they’ll be able to prescribe without seeing him again.
     
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  16. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    Another update. I went to the vet this morning and got some Prednicare for the pain, I'm really hoping this will help. Does anyone have experience with this being used as an anti-inflammatory/painkiller?

    Jeff's developed a slight hematoma so that's making it very difficult and painful to try and clean his ear. It smells really bad, I might try and flush it with an oil-based solution the vet gave a couple of months ago. Fingers crossed I can get him booked in for surgery asap.
     
  17. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @JeffTheCat - yes, prednicare is used to reduce inflammation. As Jeff's ear smells really bad it sounds like it is infected. Is he on any antibiotics ?

    One of my cats had a bad inner ear infection a couple of years ago, and he was prescribed a course of oral antibiotics as well as well as ear drops. It did clear up but took a couple of weeks.

    The haematoma is probably linked to the unresolved ear infection. Poor fellow, it must be so painful for him. Do you have pain relief from the vet to give him? The haematoma will need lancing and draining under a G.A. Can be done while he is having the polyp removed.

    I hope you can get the surgery done very soon - it does sound quite urgent, as things stand at present.
     
    #17 chillminx, Oct 19, 2019 at 1:55 PM
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019 at 12:17 AM
  18. JeffTheCat

    JeffTheCat PetForums Newbie

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    He's not on antibiotics - I asked but was told they would only prescribe more if surgery was imminent. I was told the Prednicare would act as a painkiller in the meantime. I read that it is also used as treatment for hematoma so hopefully that will help, although as you say it will need lancing when he goes in for surgery.

    We discussed two types of surgery - one would remove half the ear canal (including the polyp) costs around £1000 and might still have recurring infections, and one which removes the whole ear canal, costs £3-4000 and would definitely prevent further infection. I'm inclined to go for the more expensive one as long as risks during surgery and recovery aren't increased. If all goes to plan I should have the money in a couple of weeks, but could be longer.

    The infection has never gone away, it's only ever mildly improved on some treatments. This is what I've found difficult with them refusing to try longer courses of antibiotics, it doesn't feel like they've been given long enough - only ten days for each.

    Overall he's in fairly good spirits, although it's clear he's in some pain. He's still purring, eating, drinking and playing as usual.
     
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