Ear mites are a common external parasite that can be easily transmitted between pets causing severe irritation of their ears and skin. Here, our Bedford vets share some information about ear mites including how to recognize the symptoms and how to treat your cat.
What are ear mites?
Ear mites (also known as otodectes cynotis mites) are a common parasite that affects cats and other pets. Did you know that these pests are actually a part of the arachnid family? This parasite is extremely contagious and spends its time living in both the ear canals and on the skin of your cat.
Ear mites are actually extremely tiny but if you look very closely you may be able to see the white specks of their bodies moving across your cat's skin. 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.
What are the potential causes of ear mites in cats?
You may have heard of ear mites but how exactly are they transmitted? How do the ear mites make their way onto your cat to begin with?
These external parasites are extremely contagious and pros when it comes to making their way from one animal to the next. 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.
What are the symptoms of an ear mite infestation?
Some of the most common signs that your cat may have ear mites 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 are ear mites in cats treated?
If you have confirmed that your cat does in fact have ear mites then your next thought may be how do I get rid of the ear mites on my cat?
Your vet will need to prescribe your cat with an antiparasitic medication to help rid your cat of this pest. 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.
Is there any way 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 your 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.