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Ear Mites in Cats

While ear mites are a fairly common external parasite, they are extremely contagious. They can cause severe itchiness and scratching in cats' ears and skin, as well as infection and eventual health problems. They are more prevalent in cats than dogs and are relatively straightforward to treat. Our Norristown veterinarians discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of ear mites in cats in this section.

What are ear mites?

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. 

They are tiny, but you may be able to notice them as quickly moving white spots if you've got good eyesight. They have eight legs, with a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs (ear mites in cats pictures can be found by using your favorite online search engine, and the thumbnail image for this post shows a buildup of black wax inside the ear of a cat with ear mites).

They can irritate our feline companions severely. While ear mites are relatively easy to treat, they can cause severe skin and ear infections if left untreated. When we see cats with suspected ear infections, we frequently find that the underlying cause is ear mites. Human ear mite infections are uncommon and are not generally regarded as a health risk.

What causes ear mites in cats?

You may begin reading about ear mites and wonder how these parasites get into your cat's ears and cause them such misery. Certain cat owners will eventually inquire of their veterinarian, 'What causes ear mites in cats?' Due to their high contagiousness, ear mites can easily spread from infected animals to infected animals. While ear mites are most prevalent in cats, they are also found in dogs and other wild animals. If your cat spends time in boarding facilities or outdoors and comes into contact with another animal or a contaminated surface such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can be easily 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 ear mites in cats?

The most common signs of ear mites in cats include: 

  • 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 
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Pus 
  • Inflammation 

Can ear mites affect people?

Ear mites are typically species-specific, meaning they do not commonly affect humans. However, in rare cases, they can cause temporary itching or irritation if they come into contact with a person's skin. 

How can vets diagnose ear mites in cats?

Vets can diagnose ear mites in cats by performing a thorough otoscopic examination of the ear canal to look for signs of mites or debris. They may also take a sample of ear discharge and examine it under a microscope to confirm the presence of mites. Additionally, vets may use an otoscope with an attached camera to capture images of the ear canal for further analysis.

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

Many a pet owner who has dealt with ear mites in their furry friend has likely frantically typed 'How to get rid of ear mites in cats' into their favorite search engine, looking for solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your vet diagnoses your cat with ear mites, an anti-parasitic medication will be prescribed. These medications are available in oral or topical form. The veterinarian may also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection.

Additionally, your veterinarian will determine if any secondary infections are present as a result of the infestation and treat them as necessary. Your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend that you return in a week or two to ensure that the mites have been eliminated and that no further treatment is required.

Ear mite treatment in cats typically takes around 2–4 weeks to completely eliminate the infestation. It is important to follow the veterinarian's instructions closely and continue treatment until the mites are fully eradicated.

Due to ear mites' contagious nature, your veterinarian will almost certainly prescribe medication for any other household pets to ensure the infestation does not spread.

It is not recommended to use home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods are effective against mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the mites' eggs. Thus, even if the mites appear to be gone, the infestation will resume when the eggs hatch.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

By scheduling a monthly checkup and ear cleaning with your veterinarian, you can help prevent ear mites from establishing a foothold. Establish a biweekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and house to minimize the risk of an infection occurring at your residence. Your veterinarian at Trooper Veterinary Hospital can make parasite prevention products recommendations for your cat.

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. 

Are you seeking more information about vaccinations and preventive healthcare for your cat? Contact our experienced Norristown vets today to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Trooper Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients in Norristown. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of your animal companions. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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