If your feline senior citizen is having trouble with her balance or seems hard of hearing, she could be suffering with a middle ear problem or an underlying disease. Senior cats over 7 tend to develop such health issues because their immune systems are weaker than their younger counterparts'.
A kitty's ear is made up of external, middle and inner parts. The outer ear consists of the ear flap and ear canal; it's separated from the middle ear by the eardrum. The middle ear consists of three delicate bones and a small cavity, all of which help your feline friend to hear, along with a small tube that connects to the back of your kitty's mouth. The inner ear connects directly to the brain and receives vibrations from the middle ear that cause your furry friend's hearing; the inner ear also aids balance. As a kitty ages, she becomes more prone to developing diseases that can damage her sensitive ears, especially the outer and middle parts.
The main cause of middle ear problems are ear infections, or otitis media. Such infections result from bacteria or fungi flourishing inside the middle ear. They're rare, but several factors contribute to middle ear infections in cats, including earwax buildup, ear mites, improper ear cleaning, ear tumors, overgrowth of hair within the ears, hypothyroidism and diabetes, according to WebMD. Older felines tend to suffer from underlying healthy conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic conditions that suppress the immune system, according to the Petfinder website. These conditions can cause infections or tumors, including those in the middle ear.
If you notice your kitty shaking her head or having trouble walking, she could have a middle ear problem. Let a vet examine her ears with an otoscope to look for signs of obstructions, infections, tumors, injuries or excessive hair. He may take X-rays, take samples of skin from inside the ear to examine under a microscope, or perform surgery to remove obstructions. Your vet may prescribe medication to treat infections, including both oral and topical medications.
Odor or discharge coming from the ears should prompt a vet visit. Left untreated, ear infections or obstructions can lead to permanent damage of the middle ear. Keep your older kitty indoors to prevent her from getting her ears wet or obtaining ear mites or other parasites. Take your feline senior citizen to the vet for regular checkups every six months.
- WebMD: Ear Infections in Cats: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Ear Problems in the Cat
- petMD: Diabetes in Cats
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Cat
- Vetstreet: Chronic Ear Infections (Chronic Otitis) in Cats
- Flowertown Animal Hospital: Middle Ear Infection Otitis Media
- American Animal Hospital Association: Ear Infections
- Petfinder: The Special Needs of the Senior Cat
- Vetwest Animal Hospitals: Hearing Problems in Older Cats
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Aging
- George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images