Ear mites are the mites that live in the ears of animals. It is an infection that causes intense itching in one or both ears.
The most common ear mite found in cats and dogs are ‘otodectes cynotis’. These are tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a cat or dogs ear canal. Ear mites can infect the internal and external ear canal and usually have a life cycle of 3 weeks.
Ear mites can infect dogs and cats of all types and ages but are much more common in cats (in particular kittens and outdoor cats) and dogs that spend a lot of time outside in long grasses. Ear mites contribute to 50% of all feline ear infections. They are highly contagious and are easily passed through casual contact between animals.
The infection usually produces a dark coloured discharge. Other signs and symptoms in cats and dogs include excessive scratching and rubbing of the area, head shaking, a strong odour, inflammation of the ear and a possible obstruction of the ear canal with a ‘coffee ground-like’ discharge. Cats also may experience hair loss or dermatitis and have scratches or scabs near the ear.
The treatment for ear mites is the same for cats and dogs. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical solutions, ear drops or antibiotics. If the ear has a build up of debris, gentle cleaning will be required with cotton and an ear cleanser. Seek your veterinarian for assistance if required as it may be difficult depending on your pets temperament.
By ensuring you clean your pets bedding regularly and checking all your pets for for infestation (especially if your pet has just recovered from ear mites) you can help avoid further problems. One of the best ways to avoid the infection to begin with is with gentle routine cleaning of the ears which can prevent ear mites as it will alert you for any future problems.