Ear mites, tiny spider-like creatures also known as Otodectes Cynotis, are external parasites common to both cats and dogs. This type of mite is highly contagious and can spread from pet to pet in your home through direct contact.
The ear mite lives by burrowing into the ear canal. The cat’s ear will respond to this irritation by producing more wax. Since the mite feeds on wax and debris in the ear canal in order to live, this only exacerbates the problem further. Ear mites cause an intense itching and with that your cat will shake his/her head and scratch the ears incessantly; so hard in fact that the cat’s ears may develop abscesses and further infection.
Ear mites occur mostly in kittens before their immune systems are strong enough to build up a resistance to mites. However cats of all ages can contract ear mites. It is very important to treat ear mites as soon as possible. If left unchecked they can cause serious problems such as secondary bacterial infections and deafness.
Symptoms to look for:
- Frequent scratching
- Excessive shaking of the head
- Scratching when the ear flap is gently rubbed against the ear
- Reddish-brown or black waxy ear build up
- Bad odor
Your vet will first examine the ear discharge under a microscope or may just look into your cat’s ear with an otoscope. If your cat has ear mites your vet will easily see them in the discharge. Your vet will also check for any secondary infections or abscesses in the ear. Once your cat is diagnosed with ear mites her ears will need to be cleaned thoroughly with a acidifying solution and miticidal medication. Your vet will do this initial cleaning either on the examination table or (depending on the severity of the debris and the demeanor of your cat) under general anesthesia. You will then be sent home with either ear drops or oral medication that will need to be given for about 2 or 3 weeks. If your cat has any secondary infections she will also be given medication for that as well.
Keep in mind that ear mites can also be found loose in the environment. Once your cat is diagnosed with mites it is a good idea to treat all of your pets at the same time to make sure you have eliminated all of the ear mites. Have your pet and its environment treated for fleas (a good carpet and furniture cleaning and vacuuming) and mites as well. This will also kill any ear mites that might be around your home to reinfect your pet.
Keep your home clean and as debris free as possible. If any of your pets have any sort of flea or parasite infestation make sure to thoroughly clean your home. As many pests can not only live on your cat but also live in your home, just getting rid of the pests on the cat’s body may not be enough. Have your carpets and couches vacuumed and cleaned. You may also want to have your house bombed for pests.
You also may want to bath your cat with a vet approved flea shampoo once a week if your cat is an outdoor cat or if your cat comes in contact with unknown cats often.
One last thing, do not clean deep in your cat’s ear canal with a Q-Tip® or any other sort of applicator as you may accidentally hurt the cats ear or ear drum.