What causes discharge in a cat's eyes, ears, or nose?
Discharge is, basically, gunk that comes out of the cat that's not supposed to. Discharge is really different stuff depending on what part of the cat's body it's coming out of.
Cat Eye Discharge:
Discharge from the eyes is pretty common even when they're healthy. Usually it will happen as they sleep, and it is not necessarily a sign of illness. However, it will increase and be more visible when there is a problem such as an eye injury or an infection. If the stuff coming from your cat's eye is green, gray, yellow, or excessively thick, there is a problem, and it is likely infection. This can happen just generally or because of a scratch to the eye. This means a vet trip. If your cat is rubbing or scratching at its eyes because of the irritation, then you also need to go - the cat is likely to injure itself if it keeps doing that.
Cat Nasal Discharge:
Discharge from the nose is a sign of something wrong. The most likely culprit is a viral disease, and some cats will have recurring problems with gunk coming out of their nose for life because of it. Bacteria or fungus are more rare, but can sometimes cause it as well. Dental problems are actually another common problem, as a cat can get a tooth abscess and the infection will affect the nasal cavity. Additionally, sometimes cats sniff stuff up their nose - grass, sticks, whatever. That can cause discharge as well.
The big worry you have is cancer. This is a bigger risk if the cat is older. Tumors often cause this, and many times it will only come out of one nostril. A tumor in the nasal passage is not good, but radiation therapy can extend the life of the cat at least for awhile in most cases.
Cat Ear Discharge:
Sometimes people mistake ear wax for discharge. Many cats produce larger than normal amounts of wax, so be aware that sometimes that is the reason you see stuff coming out of there. However, you can't just be blasť about it. Ear discharge is often a sign of ear infection or a case of ear mites. Wax will generally be light brown - that is OK and probably not something to worry about. Cleaning your cat's ears regularly will reduce this problem. If the stuff coming out of the cat's ear is red, black, or pus (yellow and green and not the same consistency as ear wax - more liquid-like) then it is not OK and you need to see a vet.
What you should watch for is abnormal scratching of the ears. The gunk usually isn't a direct symptom of the disease - the cat scratches, and that repeated scratching causes trauma to the sensitive tissues of the ear and that leads to discharge. This can actually lead to more serious injuries and infections inside the ear canal. Also look for the cat shaking its head frequently, or redness around the ear. You should smell the cat's ears, as well - if there is a bad odor it is a sign of more serious problems.
If it's an ear infection, the usual treatment is antibiotics or drugs specific to the disease. If it's cat ear mites, then there are specific medications designed to kill them off.
Cat Vaginal Discharge:
This can be very serious. If the discharge is white, yellow, or red, one major possibility you need to watch out for is something called feline pyometra. This is a hormonal condition that happens to unspayed cats sometimes, and it is fatal if left untreated. Discharge from the cat's vagina is an early sign of it, and you should take it to the vet to determine the cause.
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