What are ear mites?
Part of the arachnid family, otodectes cynotis mites - better known as ear mites - are common parasites seen in cats. These extremely contagious external parasites make their home on the surface of your cat's ear canal, and sometimes on their skin.
Although ear mites are tiny you may be able to spot them. They will appear as quickly moving white spots on the surface of your cat's inner ear. These problematic critters 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).
In spite of their tiny size, ear mites can cause severe irritation in our feline friends. Leftf untreated ear mites can lead to severe skin and ear infections. When we see cats with suspected ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Ear mite infections in humans are rare, and are not generally considered a risk to people.
What causes ear mites in cats?
This tiny parasite is highly contagious, spreading quickly and easily from one infected animal to another. While they are most common in cats, ear mites can also be found in dogs and other wild animals. If your cat spends time in boarding environments or outdoors and gets too close to another animal or touches a contaminated surface such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can easily be transmitted.
Cats in shelters often carry 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.
How do I know if my cat has ear mites?
If your cat has ear mites you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- 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 do you treat ear mites in cats?
So, the next question is, how to get rid of 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, 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.
Your vet will also assess if there are any secondary infections present from the infestation and treat them as required. Your vet will probably suggest you return to the office in a week or two to ensure the mites are gone and that further treatment is not necessary.
Due to the contagious nature of ear mites, your vet will probably also prescribe medication for any other household pets to ensure the infestation doesn't continue.
Using home remedies for ear mites in cats is not advisable. While there are some methods that can kill mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the eggs of the mites. So it while it may appear that the mites are gone, the infestation will start again when the eggs hatch.
Can I prevent my cat from getting ear mites?
Scheduling regular vet checkups and ear cleaning will help to keep ear mites from gaining a foothold. Keep your cat's bedding, kennel and toys clean and be diligent about cleaning and vacuuming your home to help reduce the risk of an infection occurring in your house. Your vet at Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center can recommend 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.