Ear mites are a very common external parasite and are highly contagious among animals. Ear mites can irritate both the ears and skin of dogs and cats, leading to itching, scratching, and health issues down the road. These parasites are more common in cats than dogs and are relatively easy to treat. Here, our Portland vets explain the symptoms, treatments, and causes of ear mites in cats.
Ear mites (also known as 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.
Ear mites are tiny, but you may be able to notice them as quickly moving white spots if you have good eyesight. They have eight legs and a smaller set of thing legs. For reference, pictures of ear mites in cats can be found using your search engine of choice.
These parasites cause significant irritation in our feline friends and, while ear mites are quite easy to treat, they can lead to severe skin and ear infections if they aren't caught early. When we see cats with ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Ear mites very rarely infect humans and are generally not considered a risk to the health of people.
Causes of Ear Mites in Cats
You may read about ear mites and wonder about how these parasites make their way into your pet's ears to make them so miserable. What is the cause of their infection and how are they transmitted from one pet to another?
Due to being highly contagious, ear mites can spread 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.
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:
- Head shaking
- Scratching at ears
- 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
How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats
Many pet owners who have dealt with ear mites in their furry friends have surely wondered about how to get rid of ear mites in cats. Thankfully, treatment is relatively straightforward.
If your cat is diagnosed with ear mites, your vet will provide antiparasitic medication in either a topical or oral form. Your veterinarian will also likely clear your cat's ears out of the characteristic wax and discharge associated with these parasites and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on how severe your cat's specific case is.
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.
We do not advise using home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods are capable of killing mites, many at-home treatments don't kill the eggs of these parasites. So, while it appears that the mites are gone. The infestation will begin again when the eggs hatch.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats
Arranging frequent checkups and ear cleanings for your cat with your veterinarian will be a sure way of preventing more serious infestations of ear mites on your cat. Likewise, make sure that you clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and home to catch any stray mites. Your vet will also be happy to recommend parasite-prevention products for your feline companion.
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.