While ear mites are a fairly common external parasite, they are extremely contagious. They can cause severe itchiness and scratching in cats' ears and skin, as well as infection and eventual health problems. They are more prevalent in cats than dogs and are relatively straightforward to treat. Our Ocala veterinarians discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of ear mites in cats in this section.
What are ear mites?
Ear mites (otodectes cynotis mites) are commonly found in cats and are part of the arachnid class of animals. This extremely contagious external parasite makes its home on the surface of the ear canal, and sometimes on the skin's surface.
They are tiny, but you may be able to notice them as quickly moving white spots if you've got good eyesight. They have eight legs, with a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs (ear mites in cats pictures can be found by using your favorite online search engine, and the thumbnail image for this post shows a buildup of black wax inside the ear of a cat with ear mites).
They can irritate our feline companions quite severely. While ear mites are relatively easy to treat, the bad news is they can cause severe skin and ear infections if left untreated. When our vets see cats with suspected ear infections, they frequently find that the underlying cause is ear mites.
Ear mites in humans are uncommon and are not generally regarded as a health risk.
What causes ear mites in cats?
You may begin reading about ear mites and wonder how these parasites get into your cat's ears and cause such misery. Because they are so contagious, ear mites can easily spread from infected animals to infected animals. While ear mites are most prevalent in cats, they are also found in dogs and other wild animals.
If your cat spends time in boarding facilities or outdoors and comes into contact with another animal or a contaminated surface, such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can transmit easily.
Shelter cats also commonly contract ear mites, so be sure to check your newly adopted cat and schedule a routine exam with your vet as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Ear Mites
The most common signs of ear mites in cats include:
- Hair loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears
- Dark, crusty, or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds
- Head shaking
- Scratching at ears
How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats
Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your vet diagnoses your cat with ear mites, they will prescribe an anti-parasitic medication. These medications are available in oral or topical format. Your veterinarian may also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed to get rid of ear mites and prescribe a course of antibiotics, depending on the severity of the infection.
Additionally, your veterinarian will determine if any secondary infections are present as a result of the infestation and treat them as necessary. Your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend that you return in a week or two to ensure the mites have been eliminated and that no further treatment is required.
Because ear mites are so contagious, your veterinarian will almost certainly prescribe medication for any other household pets to ensure the infestation does not spread.
It’s not recommended to use home remedies for ear mites. Many at-home treatments do not kill the mites' eggs. Thus, even if the mites appear to be gone, the infestation will resume when the eggs hatch.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats
By scheduling a monthly checkup and ear cleaning with your veterinarian, you can help prevent ear mites from establishing a foothold. Establish a biweekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and house to reduce the risk of an infection occurring.
Your veterinarian at Paddock Park Animal Care Center can make parasite prevention products recommendations for your cat.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.