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Ear Mites in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Ear mites are highly contagious parasites that can seriously irritate the ears and skin of cats and dogs, leading to infections and more serious health issues. They are more common in cats than dogs and are relatively easy to treat. Our vets provide information on these parasites' causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites, also known as otodectes cynotis mites, are frequently found in cats and belong to the arachnid class of animals. This highly contagious external parasite inhabits the surface of the ear canal and sometimes the skin.

These creatures are very small, but if you have good eyesight, you may be able to spot them as moving white spots. They have eight legs and a noticeably smaller pair of hind legs. You can search for reference images of ear mites in cats if you're unsure about what you see. Ear mites can cause severe irritation in cats.

They are relatively easy to treat, but if left untreated, they can lead to serious skin and ear infections. When cats are observed with suspected ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Ear mite infections in humans are rare and are generally not considered a risk to people.

Do ear mites affect people?

While ear mites primarily affect cats and other animals, they can occasionally cause minor skin irritation in humans. However, they do not typically infest humans as they do with pets.

What Causes of Ear Mites in Cats

You may start reading about ear mites and searching for pictures and wonder how these parasites might make their way into your cat's ears and make their life miserable. Some cat owners will ask their vet, "What causes ear mites in cats?"

Since ear mites are highly contagious, they can spread from one infected animal to another in boarding environments, unsupervised outdoor areas, or when a contaminated surface like a grooming tool or bedding is touched. After this physical contact, ear mites may begin setting up shop on your feline friend.

Shelter cats also commonly contract ear mites, so be sure to check your newly adopted cat for ear mites and schedule a routine exam with your vet as soon as possible. 

Clinical Signs of Ear Mites in Cats

The most common signs of ear mites in cats include: 

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

Diagnosis of Ear Mites

A veterinarian will examine the cat’s ears using an otoscope to diagnose ear mites. They may also take a sample of ear debris and view it under a microscope to confirm the presence of mites.

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

Many pet owners who have dealt with ear mites in their four-legged friend will have likely frantically typed "How to get rid of ear mites in cats" into a search engine to try and find solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your veterinarian can diagnose ear mites, they will prescribe your feline friend anti-parasitic medication in either oral or topical forms. A veterinarian will also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe them a course of antibiotics if an infection has developed and requires treatment

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 unnecessary. 

Due to the contagious nature of ear mites, your vet will probably also prescribe medication for any other household pets to prevent the infestation from continuing. 

Using home remedies for ear mites in cats is not advisable. While some methods can kill mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the mites' eggs. So, while the mites may be gone, the infestation will start again when the eggs hatch. 

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

With proper treatment, ear mites can be eliminated within three weeks. However, to prevent re-infestation, it is crucial to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and complete the entire course of treatment.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

If your cat is recovering from ear mites, your vet will likely schedule a monthly checkup for the next little bit to help keep ear mites from gaining a foothold in your kitty's ear. Set yourself a bi-weekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and house to reduce the risk of re-infection at home. Your Exeter vet will be able to recommend a parasite prevention treatment for your cat as well to help keep them safe.

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. 

Are you searching for more information about preventive healthcare and vaccinations for your dog? Contact Pacific Crest Companion Animal today to book your cat's next appointment

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