Ear mites in cats are a very common infection. It’s estimated about 50% of all cat ear infections are related to ear mites.
Don’t let their minuscule size fool you, when un treated ear mites can turn into a serious infection or worse, ear canal problems.
Below I’ll cover what you need to know about ear mites and how you can spot the signs your cat might have them.
Ear mites are a microscopic parasite that can infect both cats and dogs. They’re quite common and you might have seen them before. They are the tiny white dots inside the ear, but they are not always visible to the naked eye. Usually detection is done under microscope.
They are found on the skin of the ear canal and can be found feeding off ear wax or skin oils, gross I know. An adult ear mite may live for around two months, in that time they can lay hundreds of eggs which hatch after just four days.
Ear mites can spread insanely quickly if left untreated, once born they can grow to an adult in three weeks and are ready to breed. If you suspect your pet to have ear mites early treatment is highly advantageous.
One of the tell tale signs your cat might have ear mites is if they’re constantly scratching their ears or shaking their heads. In some rare cases cats have been known to pull out their own hair or draw blood from excessive scratching.
Cats are vulnerable to ear mites at a young age, although they can occur at any time. Ear mites are highly contagious often passing from parent to kitten and even different species.
Ear mites feed on wax and will cause irritation, so your pet’s ears may look red and inflamed. Look for a dry black ear discharge, it can look like coffee grinds stuck inside the ear. There may also be an unusual odour.
But irritation in a cat’s ear can also be caused by allergies, these lead to infections other than just ear mites. Because they’re so difficult to see with the naked eye it’s always a good idea to go to the vet and have them diagnose it. Vets will confirm a diagnosis of ear mites using an otoscope and provide a treatment plan.
- Itching of the ears, head and neck
- Excessive scratching at ears and around head
- Red, brown or black crusts in the outer ear
- Coffee ground like bumps in the ear canal
- Repeated shaking of head
- Abrasions and scratches on the back side of the ears
- Crusting and scale on the neck, bottom or tail
Ear mites are transferred from the host to other hosts of all species. They are extremely contagious and that is why if one pet is found to have them you should treat all pets for ear mites.
- O. cynotis ear mites (cross species)
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat’s health and onset of symptoms, as well as whether your cat has regular contact with other animals or spends time outdoors.
Vets may perform a skin scrape for laboratory analysis. Ear swabs can be placed in mineral oil to identify the mites, and your veterinarian can use an otoscope to look into the ear canals, where ear mites can be visually discovered directly in the ear.
Firstly it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet for the most suitable treatment for your cat.
If you didn’t already know most flea treatments also help prevent and treat ear mites, if your vet gives you this recommendation it’s by far the easiest. Just one or two applications is usually enough for treatment.
Ear drops are another form of treatment, however, they require up to three weeks of treatment because the drops can’t kill the freshly laid eggs. They can also bother your cat when administering the ear drops.
If you are recommended ear drops, it’s vital that you use them as prescribed over the recommended time. Some other topical treatments only need 2 weeks as they kill the eggs, these would typically include medication to help fight the infection caused by parasites.
You should consult your local vet before beginning any treatment.
You’ve often heard that the best treatments are prevention right?
You can apply a monthly topical such as Revolution for cats. It will protect your cat from various external and internal parasites. It has the ability to kill adult fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae in the environment.
The monthly preventative treats not only fleas but other parasites such as ear mites, heartworm, roundworm and hookworms. It’s safe for kittens over 8 weeks old but shouldn’t be applied to pregnant or lactating felines.
It should be noted that Revolution does not protect against Ringworm which is a fungi and not actually a worm.
Below are some quick facts you need to know about ear mites in cats.
- You can’t always spot ear mites with the naked eye. A vet will examine your cat’s ear with an otoscope to diagnose ear mites.
- If left untreated, ear mites can result in a secondary infection. Getting your cat to the vet as quick as possible will help prevent an infection.
- Ear mites are extremely contagious and spread to other pets very quickly.
- Humans can’t get ear mites.
- Ear mites can go from egg to adult in 3 weeks. By the time you notice ear mites are present, your cat could be infected with hundreds or thousands of ear mites.
Below are a few things to look out for when cleaning your cats ears.
- Scabs, cuts and a bad odor.
- Flakey or patchy skin
- Excessive head shaking and scratching of ears
- Dark debris around the ears that look like coffee
- Excessive ear wax
- Ears are sore to the touch
Before you go ahead and start cleaning their ears, try and have your cat as relaxed as possible. This will make the cleaning process go along smoothly.
Grab a small torch and tilt their head so that you can see all the way into their ear canal. If you can see what appears to be dirt in their ear or a lot of wax then that’s an indicator that they need a clean.
You’ll need to get yourself a cat ear cleaner such as Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash, make sure you have lukewarm moist cotton wool balls to apply the ear cleaner too. To clean their ears simply apply the cleaner to the cotton wool ball and carefully wipe any wax or dirt off.
Only use products suited to pets and never use products intended for humans or a product containing alcohol. Be sure nothing gets lodged in your cats ear canal and avoid sticking anything in the ear canal it self. This could damage your cats hearing.
If you have a squirming cat, it’s best to get a helping hand. If you don’t have anyone to help you keep them still, try wrapping them in a towel to keep them secure.
Treatment is typically done by your local vet. They will gently rub a treatment into your cats ears. Following this, they will prescribe an ear mite medication that you must administer back home.
Ear mites can survive in carpet and pet bedding and will lay eggs on these surfaces. Part of an effective ear mite treatment for your pet is ridding the carpeting and bedding of any remaining pests
Outdoor cats are more likely to get ear mites. They can catch them from the environment, or another animals.
I hope by now you are aware of the symptoms for ear mites in cats, and that you can catch them early for treatment.
Remember to treat them as early as possible to avoid a secondary infection that can lead to more serious problems.
Lastly ear mites are highly contagious, if you spot them in one pet be sure to treat all other pets and carpets in the house hold.