This article is about just how dangerous ear mites can be for a cat. Many cats, especially those who reside outdoors, have a healthy dose of the black buildup in their ear canal. But did you know ear mites, left untreated, can become a life-threatening issue?
Meet Cashmere, a cat whose had a hard life, but is now under the care of Friends for Life Cat Adoptions (FFL). FFL, a rescue-foster group based out of North Carolina, has a no-kill philosophy, and works tirelessly to find homes for needy cats. Cashmere is one of their latest additions.
Cashmere came to FFL after the owner, who lives 100 miles away, contacted the rescue after the last of Cashmere’s siblings disappeared. The family had started off with many cats and kittens, who one by one disappeared. The family suspected coyotes, but due to “allergies” the cats weren’t allowed to live indoors.
When FFL brought Cashmere under their care he was a five pound injured beauty who had everything from fleas to intestinal parasites to ear mites. He also had a puncture wound on his back that had become infected. Cashmere responded well to all of the treatment, and was neutered and put up for adoption.
Unfortunately, that week Cashmere started acting like he had a cold, then he started tilting his head. He had sticky goo coming out of his ear, and was miserable. He was diagnosed with an ear infection. A volunteer with FFL took him to the vet, where he was treated and retreated with different medications. When that didn’t clear it up, a second opinion was sought. While under sedation, it was determined Cashmere would need surgery for his ear.
Ear mites are an extremely serious issue and very uncomfortable for cats as the itching, biting and the noise of the mites in the ear canals are a real torment. Cats scratch the ear causing a secondary bacterial infection and they can develop inflammatory polyps in their ear canals which is what happened to Cashmere. The infection can cause permanent hearing damage and it also causes equilibrium issues.
The infection also can spread and go to the brain that can cause seizures. If the infection moves to the middle ear, the virus invades the tissue lining, causing inflammation, swelling, and eventually the formation of a polyp. Before long, the middle ear fills with inflammatory tissue, and the polyp can burst the eardrum.
Alternatively, the virus may also pass into the nasopharanx, which is the open area at the back of a cat’s mouth. Once there and anchored by a thin stalk, the polyp will continue to grow over a period of months until it begins to interfere with the kitty’s ability to breathe. That’s typically when the sneezing sounds begin. The cat senses there is something stuck in the back of his throat above the palate, and when he breathes through his nose, there’s a blockage that inhibits intake of air.
In addition cats that scratch their ears vigorously due to the infection from ear mites and polyps can create a type of blood blister on their ear flap called a hematoma that if it is not fixed with surgery can cause permanent damage and in most cases disfigurement.
Cashmere is recovering well after his November 24 surgery. Thankfully, FFL had the initiative to seek a second opinion, and follow up with progressive care to fix the problem.
A YouCaring webpage has been set up to help raise money to cover his vet bills. A recent update describes his recovery.
“Cashmere has had his surgery and the operation went well! He is on morphine pain med for the next few days so he will be more comfortable and his ear has been filled with a plug type treatment of steroids, antibiotics and antifungal treatment that will last 10 days, then he will return to the doctor. He will be rechecked periodically as in rare occurrences the polyp can regrow Our biggest challenge now is to keep him from scratching his ear or shaking his head which could cause hemorrhaging. He felt better immediately and is able to walk straighter and is holding his head up better.”
Please share this article with your cat friends. A lot of people think an ear mite infestation isn’t serious. Cashmere shows just how serious it can be, and how expensive. Watch out for signs: discharge, head shaking, scratching and pawing at the ear.