Ear mites are a highly contagious external parasite. They can seriously irritate both the ears and skin in cats and dogs and lead to infections that may cause excessive itching, scratching and more serious health issues down the road. Ear mites are more common in cats than dogs and are relatively easy to treat. Here, our Oakland vets list some of the causes, symptoms and treatments of these parasites.
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.
These creatures are very small, but you may be able to notice them as moving white spots if your eyesight is good enough. They have eight legs and a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs (you can use a search engine to pull up reference images of ear mites in cats if you aren't sure about what you're seeing).
They can cause severe irritation in our feline friends. While ear mites are fairly easy to treat, if left untreated they 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.
Causes of Ear Mites in Cats
You may start to read about ear mites and wonder about how these parasites might make their way into your cat's ears and make their life miserable. Some cat owners will end up asking their vet "what causes ear mites in cats?"
Well, since ear mites are highly contagious, these creatures can spread from one infected animal to another in boarding environments, unsupervised outdoor areas or touches a contaminated surface like a grooming tool or bedding. After this physical contact, ear mites may begin setting up shop on your feline friend.
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:
- Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds
- Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears
- Head shaking
- Scratching at ears
How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats
Many pet owners who have dealt with ear mites in their four-legged friend will have likely frantically typed "How to get rid of ear mites in cats" into a search engine to try and find solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your veterinarian is able to diagnose ear mites, they will prescribe your feline friend with anti-parasitic medication, available in either oral or topical forms. A veterinarian will also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe them with a course of antibiotics if an infection has developed and required treatment
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 while it may appear that the mites are gone, the infestation will start again when the eggs hatch.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats
If your cat is recovering from ear mites, your vet will likely schedule a monthly checkup for the next little bit to help keep ear mites from gaining a foothold in your kitty's ear. Set yourself a bi-weekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding and your house to reduce the risk of re-infection at home. Your Oakland vet will be able to recommend a parasite prevention treatment for your cat as well to help keep them safe.
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.