Anyone who lives with cats will have to deal with ear mites at some point. And dog owners should keep an eye out as well. These tiny parasites are prolific and, despite years of study, we still aren’t sure of all the ways they spread. Even indoor-only cats can end up with them, and once one cat in the house has them, the others are sure to end up with them as well.
Otodectes cynotis seen under a microscope.
The most common type of ear mite is Otodectes cynotis, which live in the ear canal and feed by piercing the thin skin. This causes severe itching and, if left untreated, can cause bacterial infections, swelling of the ear canal and eventually partial or total deafness. The mites can also travel all over your cat’s body, causing itching and swelling. Again, left untreated they can lead to systemic infections. And they spread easily to other pets, including dogs, ferrets and rabbits.
Symptoms of ear mites:
- Violent head shaking and scratching at the ears.
- Redness in or around the ears.
- A dry, crumbly substance in the ears that looks similar to coffee grounds. It may be foul smelling.
- Waxy debris in the ears.
- Raw areas and sores or hair loss around the ears from scratching.
If you suspect your pet has ear mites, the first step is to have the diagnoses confirmed by your veterinarian. Other ear problems, such as yeast infections, can look like an ear mite infestation but can be made worse, not better, by ear mite medications. Your vet also has access to better miticides than are available over the counter in pet supply stores. You can will be much happier with two treatments a week apart than with drops every day for weeks. And it will save you money in the long run.
When you get a diagnoses of ear mites, it is safest to treat all the cats in the house, even if they don’t show symptoms. And follow the full treatment set out by your vet to ensure the infection is cleared up. You and your cat will be happier for it.