Ear mites are common and very contagious external parasites. Ear mites can affect and irritate both of a cat's ears and cause excessive scratching, itching, and potentially other health problems. Today, our Danbury vets discuss the causes and symptoms of ear mites in cats, including how they can be treated and prevented.
Ear Mites In Cats
Ear mites (otodectes cynotis mites) are often seen in cats and a member of the arachnid family. These are highly contagious external parasites that reside on the surfaces of an animal's ear canal, and occasionally on the skin's surface.
They are tiny, but if you have good eyesight you might be able to see them as quickly moving white spots. They have eight legs, with a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs (you can find pictures of ear mites in cats 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 cause severe irritation in cats. While ear mites are relatively easy to treat, if they aren't treated can cause severe skin and ear infections. At Mill Plain Veterinary Clinic, when we see cats that have ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. It's rare for humans to have ear mite infections, so they aren't generally considered a risk to people.
How Cats Get Ear Mites
When you are reading about ear mites, you might be wondering how these parasites got into your cat's ears in the first place. Some cat owners ask their vets, 'What causes ear mites in cats?' Because ear mites are extremely contagious, they can spread easily from one infected animal to another. While they are more common in cats, ear mites can also be seen in dogs and other wild animals. If your cat spends time in boarding environments or outdoors, they could easily get ear mites by coming too close to another animal or by touching a contaminated surface such as a grooming tool or bedding.
It's also common for shelter cats to contract ear mites, so be sure to check your newly adopted cat for ear mites and book a routine exam with your vet as quickly as possible.
Signs & Symptoms of Ear Mites In Cats
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of ear mites in cats:
- Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds
- Scratching at ears
- Head shaking
- Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears
How Cats Are Treated For Ear Mites
Many pet owners who have dealt with ear mites in their pets have probably 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 cat is diagnosed with ear mites, your vet will prescribe an anti-parasitic medication. These medications can be given in an oral or topical form. The veterinarian might also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed specifically for this purpose and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection.
Your vet will also check to see if any secondary infections have developed as a result of the infestation and treat them as required. Your vet will probably recommend returning to the office in one or two weeks to make sure the mites are gone and that your kitty doesn't require any additional treatments.
As a result of the contagious nature of ear mites, your vet will most likely also prescribe medication for any other household pets living in your home to ensure the infestation doesn't continue.
We don't recommend using home remedies for ear mites. While there are some methods that can kill mites, many at-home treatments don't kill ear mite eggs. So while it may look like the mites are gone, the infestation will start again when the eggs hatch.
Preventing Ear Mites in Cats
To help prevent ear mites from taking hold, you can arrange a monthly checkup and ear cleaning with your vet. Set yourself a bi-weekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel and bedding, as well as your house to reduce the risk of infection. Your vet can also recommend the best parasite prevention products 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.