Cats are susceptible to all sorts of infections, affecting everything from their ears to their skin to their lungs. But what makes a big difference in how these infections are treated is the type of microorganism that’s causing them. While many people assume bacteria is to blame for most infections, fungal infections can cause very similar problems for your cat’s health.
Different types of fungi, like yeasts, live in and on your cat’s body in harmony with other microorganisms. However, these—as well as opportunistic fungi your cat might pick up from other animals or the environment—have the ability to grow out of control, resulting in an infection.
In cats, yeast infections are particularly common when cats are already experiencing another health problem. Pets with allergies, bacterial infections, endocrine disorders, immunodeficiencies or other ailments are more commonly affected by yeast infections than healthy pets with strong immune systems.
There isn’t just one type of yeast that can cause problems, either. There are many different yeasts that are known to plague cats with infections. These two things—the potential for underlying health problems and the range of potential infection sources—make proper diagnosis of yeast infections very important.
If left unchecked, yeast infections can quickly get out of hand, potentially causing lasting damage to your cat’s skin, ears, lungs or other body parts. And, because the cause of infection might not be clear to the naked eye, diagnosis might take a little longer to account for testing and treatment. Therefore, a visit to the vet is in order as soon as you suspect something is wrong with your cat.
Here’s a closer look at two of the most common sources of yeast infections in cats.
Candida is a type of yeast that helps your cat’s body digest sugar. It is most often found in the mouth, nose, ears and gastrointestinal tract. However, if your kitty’s immune system is looking a little worse for wear, this fungus can spread and reproduce, causing an infection called candidiasis. Cats with diabetes are known to experience candidiasis more frequently.
Candida has the potential to infect a range of body parts on cats, but one of the most common areas it’s found is in the ears. If your cat is tilting or shaking their head and scratching incessantly at their ears, they might have an ear infection. Check inside the ear for redness, swelling, a foul odor and odd-colored discharge.
This yeast can also cause infections of the oral cavity, bladder and skin. It’s possible for the infection to spread throughout the entire body, as well.
The Malassezia yeast is even more common in cats and is likely to blame for most fungal ear or skin infections. This yeast naturally resides on the skin, making it that much easier for it to reproduce when the opportunity strikes. These opportunities might come from an injury, a scratch or a hot spot caused by excessive scratching and grooming. Of course, a fungal infection in these areas only serves to make the matter worse!
Yeast infections on the skin cause the usual symptoms of feline skin problems, including excessive scratching, biting and licking, inflammation, redness, hair loss, greasy skin, hardened skin and skin discoloration. Sores that develop from the infection may have discharge and/or produce a distinct odor.
Early treatment is key
Like all infections in pets, yeast infections have the potential to take a dangerous turn if they are not treated soon enough. Yeast infections don’t often occur alone, meaning a bacterial infection, injury or other side effect is usually developing alongside the fungal growth. Together, these things could do lasting damage to your pet.
For example, unchecked ear infections have the potential to cause permanent hearing loss. Untreated skin infections could destroy healthy tissue and cause the infection to spread, potentially internally. And, if the yeast infection does begin to infect the internal organs, more severe consequences might occur, such as damage to the bladder and urinary tract, coughing and breathing troubles.
The best way to ensure your kitty’s infection clears up quickly is to take them to the vet and have their infection examined. There’s no way to tell whether an infection is caused by bacteria, yeast or both, so you won’t know the most appropriate treatment until a culture is taken. Thankfully, once the microorganism is identified, your cat should be able to heal up with ease!