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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 17874
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hi. I have 4/5 month old rescue tabby kitten. He was living

Customer Question

Hi. I have 4/5 month old rescue tabby kitten. He was living mixed with other rescue cats in a shed and came to us with cat flu. He has been really fighting it and is on his 2nd batch of anti biotics. To add to this, he has been shaking his head a lot and scratching his ears. He also dips them a lot and cowers with assumed pain. All the signs point to ear mites, or maybe simply cattargh? When I took him to the vet, he said he didn't think anything was there. Not wanting to be "an internet self diagnoser" I tried to go with my vets comments. But my cat continues to do mite responses. Tonight I was able to take pics of his inner ears and was wondering if it would be possible to add them to your site for you to view and confirm or dispel my self-made prognosis?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 4 years ago.
Hello, my name is Dr. Kara and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.

I'm sorry to hear that Max has been fighting an upper respiratory infection. Just like us when they have upper respiratory infections the middle ear can fill with fluid and secondary infections can result, or there can be a lot of pressure in the inner ear simply from the fluid build-up itself. Both of those are painful.
Young cats can also develop polyps in the pharynx and Eustachian tubes that connect the ear and the pharynx and those can create pressure and pain, leading to the cat rubbing the ears and shaking their head.

It is also possible that Max has a yeast or bacterial ear infection or ear mites and those will cause itchy ears too. But if any of those are the case your veterinarian should be able to see signs of the infection or infestation in the outer ear canal.

If an ear swab is gathered from the ear and there are no signs of mites or increased numbers of yeast or bacteria under the microscope then I would be suspicious of an inner ear problem. Those can be more difficult to find but certainly a swollen, red tympanic membrane (ear drum) would point toward that. It may take a referral to an internal medicine specialist and an MRI to diagnose those.

You can try using an antihistamine to decrease the itchy feeling in his ear. Some antihistamines to try are:
1) Benadryl at 1mg per pound or 1/2 of a 25mg tablet per 8 to 15 pound cat 2 to 3 times daily. You can crush the pill up and hide it in something tasty like his canned cat food. Make sure whatever you use is Benadryl only as the combination products with decongestants and acetaminophen are toxic to cats.
2) Chlorpheniramine 4mg per cat once or twice daily.

If you'd like to post pictures of his ears I'd be happy to take a look as well.