Learning that your cat has ear mites can be scary, but it is a fairly treatable condition if it is caught early on. Here, our Tazewell County vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of ear mites in cats, as well as how you can prevent your cat from getting them.
Ear mites, medically termed otodectes cynotis mites, are extremely contagious external parasites that make their home in the ear canal or skin surface of animals, including cats.
If you have good eyesight, you might be able to spot mites on your cat's skin or in the ear canal. They look like tiny white cats with a set of 8 thin legs.
Though ear mites are relatively easy to treat, they can cause significant irritation to your cat, leading to severe skin and ear infections if they aren't caught early.
When our vets diagnose cats with ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Humans rarely become infected with ear mites; they are generally not considered a health risk for people.
Causes of Ear Mites
As you learn more about ear mites, you may wonder, "What causes ear mites in cats?" How do these parasites get into a cat's ears and make them so miserable? How does the infection develop and how are they transmitted from one animal to another?
Because they are highly contagious, ear mites can spread easily from one four-legged creature to another. They are most common in cats, but ear mites can also be found in cats and other wild animals. Cats who spend time in boarding environments or outdoors are at risk if they get too close to another animal or touch a contaminated surface such as bedding or grooming tools.
Shelter cats also often contract ear mites, so make sure to have your newly adopted cat checked for ear mites and book a routine exam with your vet as soon as possible.
Signs of Ear Mites in Cats
The most common signs of ear mites in cats include:
- Scratching at ears
- Head shaking
- Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds
- Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears
Treating Ear Mites in Cats
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.
Preventing 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.