Ear Mites in Cats
Ear mites, Otodectes cynotis, are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal and near the ear opening in cats. Mites are very common, and more than 90% of cats have some kind of mite present in their ears at all times. The mites live on the surface of the skin in the ear canal, where they feed on tissue debris and tissue fluids, but they can also spread to the skin. When the mite population in your cat’s ear begins to grow out of control, a mite infestation is underway. Your cat’s ears may become very itchy, inflamed and uncomfortable.
Although they can occur at any age, ear mites are more common in kittens and younger cats because they haven't built up immunity to the mites.
Ear Mite Symptoms
- Irritation around ears
- Excessive scratching of ears
- Increased earwax
- Thick, black crusty ear discharge
- Shaking of head
- Skin lesions around or on the ears from scratching
Symptoms of ear mites are often similar to other ear diseases. A yeast infection, which is very common in cats, might also produce a black discharge in your cat's ears. It is important that ear mites and other ear issues be treated with the proper approach. Sometimes, treatments for ear mites can exacerbate other kinds of ear infections, like a yeast infection. So, it is best to start with a veterinary exam before beginning any treatment in your cat’s ears. Using an otoscope, a veterinarian will examine your cat’s ear canal for the presence of mites. If no mites are found, your veterinarian will likely take a swab of the ear discharge to examine further for the presence of ear mites.
Your veterinarian may begin treatment by cleaning out your cat's ears before applying medication. Keeping your cat’s ears clean can be an important part of prevention of ear mites. Try regular ear maintenance with Tomlyn Earoxide Cleanser. Your veterinarian will likely suggest a high quality mitricide, such as Lambert Kay Ear-Rite Miticide or Bio-Groom Ear Mite Treatment. This will kill the mites and prevent them from spreading. This will likely resolve any symptoms, however, there may be residual itching or dermatitis. Treatment for those may include cortisone-based or anti-histamine-based products such as Chlorpheniramine or Panalog Topical Ointment.
If your cat's skin is also affected, you will have to apply a topical medication to the skin, such as Animax Ointment. After following the prescribed course of treatment, you will need to return to your veterinarian for follow-up examinations.
Ear mites are highly contagious. All other pets should be examined and treated simultaneously.
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