No matter the substance our bodies produce, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’ll be a parasite that’ll have its beady eye on it. The same applies to cats.
Ear mites live on the skin of a cat’s ear canals and enjoy nothing better than a hearty meal of ear wax and skin oils. These little creatures are at best an irritant, but they can cause long-term damage if left untreated.
Find out how to get rid of them as we put these tiny cat parasites under the microscope.
What Are Ear Mites?
Adult ear mites typically live for about 2 months but they multiply quickly. Their eggs take just a few days to hatch and a further 3 weeks to become adult mites capable of breeding.
The most common kind of ear mite in cats is Otodectes cynotis. Barely visible to the naked eye, they appear to us as tiny white dots.
These mites can cause serious inflammation and swelling in the ear canal. They can quickly become very itchy. All cats are susceptible to mites no matter their age or breed but those who go outdoors are most at risk.
What Are the Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats?
Cats with ear mites will generally experience itching that they find so irritating they will:
- Scratch their ears, head and neck
- Get red or inflamed-looking ears & scratch marks or skin lesions on the outer ear
- Shake their heads as if they are trying to remove something
- Experience some hair loss due to the scratching
You might also notice a dry, black or reddish brown discharge in the ear canal that sometimes has an unpleasant smell.
These symptoms are non-specific. That means they could be the result of other ear-related issues such as an infection caused by a different parasite or a skin allergy and subsequent bacterial issue. Hence the need for a vet’s opinion to ensure you embark on the right course of treatment.
How Do Cats Get Ear Mites?
Cats have a habit of picking up ear mites from nearly anywhere. More often than not it will be from another cat. Contact with another pet that has ear pests creates just the right opportunity for these mites to change hosts and move onto your cat’s coat.
Once they have successfully made the transfer, they’ll crawl their way into your cat’s ears. Although highly contagious in the cat world, it’s less common for dogs to get ear mites. However, an infected dog, or indeed another animal species, could pass on ear mites to a cat.
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Because ear mites can live in the open environment for a limited period of time, they could attach themselves to any cat that happens to be passing by. Again, this, of course, means that outdoor cats are more prone to getting infected.
How Do Ear Mites Get Diagnosed?
It may be possible for your vet to see the mites during an ear examination. They may also take a swab and look at it under a microscope. They’ll also want to know how much contact, if any, your cat would normally have with other pets or animals.
Occasionally your cat may have gone missing for a while and developed a more serious and painful infection. In these kinds of cases, your cat’s ears may be too tender or sore for them to sit still while your vet carries out an examination.
Your vet may need to sedate them to carry out the diagnostic procedure and any initial treatment. An examination under the microscope of any ear discharge will normally allow your vet to see what’s going on and rule out other potential causes.
Your vet may also want to examine your cat’s ears with an otoscope, an instrument designed to make a visual examination of the eardrum and the passage of the outer ear.
How Do You Treat Ear Mites?
Depending on how easy it is to handle your pet, your vet may want to clean your cat’s ears before sending them home. This will be to remove any build-up of wax.
Many spot-on flea products are ideal for the prevention and treatment of ear mites. A less stressful kind of treatment, it’s likely that your vet would recommend this along with additional medication to relieve any uncomfortable symptoms and reduce any scratching.
It’s advisable to get other pets in the household treated too even if they have no symptoms. However, you must check with your vet about the best course of action. Giving the wrong medication to a different species could have serious and toxic side effects and cause far more harm than good.
Another kind of treatment would be the application of ear drops. A course of these may last for several weeks. As ever, it is vital to finish the course of treatment.
Remember that there may be ear mites living in your house that could reinfect your cat. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, clean all rugs carpets along with the places your cat sits or sleeps regularly. Again, make sure that all other pets in your home get treated too.
How Long Does It Take To Get Rid of Ear Mites?
Although the life cycle of an ear mite is relatively short, you’ll need to wait patiently to be sure your cat is free of these microscopic parasites.
The itchiness should begin to ease as the medication takes hold, but you must get back in touch with your vet if your cat doesn’t make an improvement.
If in Doubt, Talk to Us
Fortunately, it’s very rare for cats to pass the typical type of ear mite that affects them on to humans. But, we’re always on hand to offer support and advice about any pet-related issues. If your suspect your cat may have ear mites, we’ll be able to help.
A video consultation with one of Cooper Pet Care’s qualified veterinarians is only a few clicks away. Fast, simple, and secure – get the answers you need.