Ear mites are tiny parasites that can infest cats' ears. These microscopic creatures thrive in the warm, moist environment of a cat's ear canal, feeding on ear wax and skin oils. While ear mites primarily affect cats, they can also infest other animals, such as dogs and ferrets. In this blog post, our Cave Creek vets explain the symptoms, treatments, and causes of ear mites in cats.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites, also known as otodectes cynotis mites, are highly contagious external parasites that live on the surface of the ear canal and sometimes on the skin. They are frequently found in cats and are part of the arachnid class of animals. 

They are tiny creatures with eight legs and a smaller set of appendages. For visual references, you can find pictures of ear mites in cats by using your preferred search engine.

These parasites cause significant irritation in our feline friends. While ear mites are quite easy to treat, they can lead to severe skin and ear infections if caught early. When we see cats with ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. 

What causes ear mites in cats?

Ear mites are highly contagious and can spread easily from one animal to another through close contact. Cats can contract ear mites from other infected animals, particularly in environments where multiple pets live together or frequent each other. Outdoor cats are also at a higher risk of encountering ear mites.

Clinical Signs of Ear Mites in Cats

The most common signs of ear mites in cats include: 

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

Diagnosing Ear Mites in Cats

Diagnosing ear mites in cats typically involves a thorough examination by a veterinarian. The vet may use an otoscope to look inside the cat's ear or take a sample of ear discharge to examine under a microscope, confirming the presence of mites.

How to treat ear mites in cats?

If your cat has ear mites, your vet will provide antiparasitic medication in topical or oral form. They will also likely clean your cat's ears to remove wax and discharge associated with the parasites and may prescribe antibiotics as needed. Your vet will check for any secondary infections and treat them accordingly.

They will schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure the mites are gone and that further treatment is not needed. Because ear mites are contagious, medication may be prescribed for other household pets to prevent the infestation from spreading. Using home remedies for ear mites is not recommended, as they may not effectively kill the parasites' eggs, leading to a new infestation when the eggs hatch.

How long does it take to get rid of ear mites in cats?

The duration of getting rid of ear mites in cats varies based on the severity of the infestation and the treatment used. Typically, with proper treatment, most infestations can be resolved within three weeks. It is crucial to follow the veterinarian's instructions and complete the entire course of treatment to ensure all mites are eradicated.

How can ear mites be prevented in cats?

Arranging frequent checkups and ear cleanings for your cat with your veterinarian will be a sure way to prevent more serious ear mites infestations 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 happily recommend parasite-prevention products for your feline companion.

Do ear mites affect people?

While ear mites predominantly target animals, humans are not completely immune. If a human comes into close contact with an infected animal, there is a slight risk of ear mites transferring to them. However, such cases are uncommon, and ear mites in humans generally do not survive long. The primary concern remains the discomfort and potential for secondary infections in cats.

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. 

Do you suspect your cat may have ear mites? Contact Animal Health Services of Cave Creek today to book an appointment.