Ear mites are extremely small parasitic mites, also known as Otodectes cynotis, which can infect the ears of cats. These mites are contagious, and they survive by ingesting nutrition from the cat's ear tissues and blood. They may also live periodically on the cat's paws and fur. They can be spread between cats and dogs, but they cannot live on humans for long periods of time.
Symptoms of Ear Mites
The most common clinical signs of ear mites include periodic to constant head shaking and scratching of the ears in an effort to relieve the intense itching that these parasites cause. The ears may also look inflamed and red, and there may be sores around the ears caused by continual scratching. A large amount of dark wax build-up may also be present in the ear, and the ear may have an unpleasant odor.
Diagnosing Ear Mites in Cats
Ear mites are diagnosed by taking a sample of the wax within the ear and examining it under the microscope. If ear mites are present, they can normally be seen microscopically in the wax of the pet's ears. In some cases ear mite eggs can be seen.
Treating Ear Mites
Treatment for ear mites includes anti-parasitic medications that only need to be applied to the ears once after the ears are thoroughly cleaned. Topical treatments such as Revolution and Advantage Multi contain an ingredients called selamectin and moxidectin, respectively, which will eventually control the ear mite problem. Due to the fact that ear mites are contagious, all animals in the home should be treated to prevent re-infection regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms. In cases where secondary bacterial infections have developed in the ear as a result of ear mites, ear medications containing antibiotics may be prescribed to clear the infection.
Outlook for Cats with Ear Mites
The prognosis for ears mites is excellent. In extremely severe cases of ear mites that have been present for a long time, scaring around the ear or the formation of ear hematomas may occur. In very severe cases structures within the ear may become damaged.