While they are a common external parasite, ear mites are highly contagious. They can severely irritate both ears and skin in cats and dogs and lead to infections that cause excessive itching, scratching, and eventual health issues. They are more common in cats than dogs and are fairly easy to treat. Here, our Jackson vets list symptoms, causes, and treatments for ear mites in cats.
Ear mites (otodectes cynotis mites) are arachnids that are commonly found in cats. This highly contagious external parasite lives on the surface of the ear canal and, on rare occasions, the skin.
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 cats greatly. And while ear mites are relatively easy to treat, they can cause serious skin and ear infections if left untreated. Ear mites are frequently the underlying cause of suspected ear infections in cats. Human ear mite infections are uncommon, and they are not usually regarded as a health risk.
What Causes Ear Mites in Cats
As you learn more about ear mites, you might start to wonder how they manage to infect your cat's ears and cause such discomfort. Some cat owners will ask their veterinarian, "What causes ear mites in cats?" Due to their high contagiousness, ear mites can quickly spread from one infected animal to another. Dogs and other wild animals can also contract ear mites, but cats are more frequently affected by them. If your cat spends time outdoors or in boarding facilities, gets too close to another animal, or touches an infected object, such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can spread quickly.
Shelter cats also commonly contract ear mites, so be sure to check your newly adopted cat for ear mites 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 or 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
Many a pet owner who has dealt with ear mites in their furry friend has likely frantically typed 'How to get rid of ear mites in cats' into their favorite search engine, looking for solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your vet diagnoses your cat with ear mites, an anti-parasitic medication will be prescribed. These medications are available in oral or topical form. The veterinarian may also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection.
In addition, your veterinarian will check for and administer treatment for any secondary infections that may have arisen as a result of the infestation. Most likely, your veterinarian will advise that you come back in a week or two to make sure the mites have disappeared and no additional treatment is necessary.
Because ear mites are contagious, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe medication for any other household pets to prevent the infestation from spreading.
It is not recommended to use home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods are effective at killing mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the mites' eggs. So, while the mites may appear to be gone, the infestation will resume once the eggs hatch.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats
Ear mites can be prevented by scheduling a monthly pet checkup and ear cleaning with your veterinarian. To reduce the risk of an infection at home, set a bi-weekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and your house. Your cat's parasite prevention products can be recommended by your veterinarian at Northside Animal Clinic.
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.