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Dr. Bruce
Dr. Bruce, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 19144
Experience:  15 years of experience as a small animal veterinarian
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My cat has dark reddish brown discharge in his ears. The ears

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My cat has dark reddish brown discharge in his ears. The ears seem to be painful as he shakes his head and holds his ears tight against his head when touched. His last checkup said there were no signs of ear mites (which he was previously treated for) however no drops or suggestions were given for further treatment of the ears.

He seems more reserved and requires coaxing to get out of bed to eat and drink.

Welcome to Just Answer. Can you help me with a couple questions?
1) How long ago was he at the vets office?
2) How long has this dark reddish brown discharge been there?
3) Was this discharge present at his last check up?
4) Did they stain some of the material from his ears to look for bacteria and yeast?
5) How do they determine if there are ear mites?

Dr. Bruce
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
He was at the vets last week (thursday)
The discharge was just starting to be noticeable at that time.
The discharge now is very thick and the only term I can come up with is "oozing"
I was told they did not see any bacteria, but there was no mention of testing for yeast.
They saw the mites under the scope about a year ago when he was given treatment for them.

There was mention that he has some plaque on his teeth, so we scheduled a cleaning, but his current condition worries me that something far worse is wrong.
I would say at this time that actually a very good situation would be to follow through with the dental cleaning. At the same time that he is anesthetized to clean his teeth, they can do further tests to determine what the source of the ear discharge is.

Here are the steps that I would utilize.
1) Ear swab - stain the slide and look at it under a microscope to see if there are bacteria or yeast.
2) Otoscopic exam of the painful ear canal - not easy to do on an awake cat - to see if there is an ear polyp or other irregularity.
3) Skull films to look to see if there are any masses in the bulla on that side of the head - your vet will know what this is.
4) Ear cleaning while under anesthesia to help start the treatment.

I'd be suspicious in this case of a yeast or bacterial infection. Also an ear polyp can pop up every now and then.

You'll have to let me know what they find.
Dr. Bruce
Dr. Bruce and 3 other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Well, we took Riddle to the vet today and they determined that he has a systemic infection that is very advanced. His ears were even worse, and he developed sores in his mouth and on his teeth.

He stopped eating and drinking on his own, but will take a little if we bring it to him. He wants to stay in bed under the blanket the rest of the time.

Since he is almost 10 years old, and it is this far advanced the vet didn't give him very good chances or making it through treatment with a reasonable quality of life afterwards.

We are all very sad and now have a decision to make that nobody wants to even think about.
This doesn't sound good. I can't say that I fully understand what your vet is seeing. Do they feel that the ear infection is the result of a systemic infection or the cause of one? To be honest, pretty much most every ear infection that I've seen is its own separate infection. I've never seen one spread elsewhere (not that they can't but when they do it is usually through the blood stream to the kidneys, heart valves, or liver. Not necessarily would I suspect the oral cavity as a seeding or initial source point.

I'm curious to know what they did to determine that he has a systemic infection. Did they just do a CBC and see a high white blood cell count? The sores in the mouth and on his teeth, could that be just very progressed dental disease. I've seen a lot of cats with very severe dental disease, and in all reality, if the proper dental prophylaxis and care is done, they can do very, very well.

I honestly feel that at this point, your being in a position to make a quality of life decision is one that should get a second opinion. Not that your vet is wrong in their assessment, but that decision is one that you can't come back from if it is made. If your vet feels that he doesn't have a very good chance of making it through the treatments with a good quality of life afterwards, then maybe another vet in your area can give you a different opinion based on different experiences.

10 years of age isn't what I'd call an old cat by any means. Don't feel bad about getting a second opinion. That is something that you have a right too. If you want to give Riddle a chance, then it sounds like this is what you should do.

Dr. Bruce