Ear mites are one of the most common causes of feline ear discomfort. But what exactly are ear mites? They are tiny parasites that live inside the ear canal of an infected animal; in the case of cats, the most likely organism is Otodectes cynotis. The mites live on the wax and other dirt inside a cat's ear.
So, how do you know if your kitty's irritated ears are infested with ear mites?
- The first sign is that your cat may scratch at his itchy ears or start shaking his head a lot. While the mites are microscopic, they are pesky; imagine feeling hundreds of little crawly things in your ears.
- Another sign of feline ear mites is the insides of the ears will look dirty, usually with a dark brown or reddish-brown debris. Sometimes a black crust forms, as well. This crust can clog the ear canal over time.
- Your pet's medical professional can easily diagnose feline ear mites. Often, they can be seen in the ear with an otoscope; other times, your vet will swab the ear and examine the debris under a microscope.
- Feline ear mites are highly contagious. In fact, cats can get them or share them with other animals as well. So, if any of your pets (including dogs, cats, or rabbits) have ear mites, you may want to treat all of them.
- To treat feline ear mites, the first step is to clean out the ear; you need to remove the buildup. The best way to do this is by very gently flushing the ear with a solution of tepid water and mild dish soap, then rinsing. Since there is a risk of damaging your cat's ear drum or pushing mites further into the ear canal, you may want to have your veterinarian do this.
- Once the ears have been cleansed of residue from the mites, you can apply medication. Most of the effective ear mite treatments contain insecticide that contains pyrethrins. The medication will usually be in the form of drops which you will put in the cat's ears, then massage so it gets good coverage. While you can buy over the counter treatments for mites, the medication provided by your vet is generally stronger and may be more effective.
- Medication is generally applied daily, for several days in a row. Then, you usually wait a week after which the cleansing and medication process is repeated. You may need to do this whole procedure for three or four cycles before ridding the ears of mites.
- Ear mites can actually live outside the ears. While they usually live in the ears, they can also survive in the surrounding fur. An ear mite will spend his whole life in a cat's ear, from hatching, starting its own family through its death. You may need to use medication outside of the ear area for this reason.