Ear Mites in Cats: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Ear Mites in Cats - Symptoms Treatment and Prevention

When it comes to your cat’s health, there are a lot of different things that you need to keep in mind. You not only need to make sure that you take care of their dietary and nutrition needs, but also protect them from parasites and other ailments. There are so many different types of parasites that can affect cats, but one of the most common parasites is ear mites. Ear mites in cats can be very uncomfortable for your cat, but there are a few things that you can do to prevent them and treat them.

There are several different types of ear mites that commonly affect cats, but the most common is the eight legged Otodectes cynotis. These are mites that actually feed on the oils and wax that is found in your cat’s ears. Each ear mite has a life cycle that lasts for about three weeks. You can’t really see them with the naked eye, unless of course you have great vision. They can cause irritation and inflammation, and can also lead to infection of both the external ear and the inner ear canal.

The Causes of Ear Mites

First, you really need to take a closer look at the causes of ear mites. Believe it or not, ear mites are actually quite contagious. They can be passed from one pet to another with simple casual contact. While it is more common for cats to have ear mites, dogs can also be affected by them. Over half of the ear infections in cats are due to ear mites. Humans however, are typically immune to getting them.

The Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites

It is really important for you to look for signs of ear mites so that you can treat them effectively. Here are a few signs that you will want to look for:

  • excessive scratching
  • rubbing of the ears
  • hair loss
  • dermatitis
  • waxy secretions
  • odors
  • inflammation
  • debris that looks like coffee grounds
  • scabs or scratches around the ears
  • head shaking
  • dizziness
  • disorientation
  • lack of coordination or balance

If you notice these symptoms, it may be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian. They will be able to do a physical exam and see if ear mites are present. Then, they will be able to offer you effective forms of treatment.

Long Term Risks and Effects of Ear Mites

Aside from these symptoms, there are other risks that are associated with ear mites. For instance, sometimes it can lead to further infection of the skin. It can also lead to rupturing of the blood vessels inside of your cat’s ears. This is also called an aural hematoma in cats, and it typically requires surgery to fix it. In severe cases of ear mites, your cat may even have partial hearing loss, and in some rare cases even complete hearing loss. These are the risks of letting your cat’s ear mites go untreated.

While ear mites affect cats of every stage of life, it is more common to see them in kittens and cats that spend time outdoors.

Many cat owners ask if ear mites hurt the cat. While ear mites in and of themselves are not necessarily painful, they can be very uncomfortable. If the ears were to become infected due to the ear mites, there could definitely be some pain associated with the condition. For this very reason, early diagnosis and treatment is vital. While it may not hurt the cat at first, if left untreated it will definitely lead to pain and discomfort over time.

Surprisingly enough, ear mites don’t always just stay in your cat’s ears. They are parasitic, and while they prefer the ears, they can travel all over your cat’s body. They also like to affect other animals, including dogs, hamsters, rabbits and others.

Ear Mites Infection
Image by Uwe Gille

Diagnosing Ear Mites in Cats

In order to get an accurate diagnosis, your veterinarian will swab the discharge that comes from your cat’s ears. This will then be put under a microscope to ensure that ear mites are the culprit. It is important to not diagnose your cat yourself, because there are a lot of other ear problems that can closely mimic the symptoms associated with ear mites. You can never be too careful when it comes to your cat’s health, so it is definitely a good idea for you to talk to your vet right away at the first sign of a problem.

Treating Ear Mites Effectively

Ear mites are typically treated with a prescription medication that is applied to your cat’s ears. There are also some topical treatments that are used directly on your cat’s skin. If your cat’s ears have become infected or have debris built up in them, then they may actually need to clean them before applying medication. Cleaning the ears is not difficult, but must be done with caution. You have to be gentle, and it may be best to let your veterinarian take care of it. At a minimum, let them assist you with it.

If your cat’s ears are infected, a prescription antibiotic may be necessary to treat the infection. Once you begin treatment, your cat will start to feel better right away. While they may act better, you still need to complete the treatment to ensure that the ear mites have been totally eradicated. If you don’t complete the treatment, then the problem could just come back again.

To be on the safe side, since we mentioned that the ear mites can travel around the cat’s body, it is also a good idea to use a pyrethrin shampoo on your cat to get rid of any parasites that may remain. You can find this type of shampoo at your local supermarket, pet supply store or veterinary clinic.

Preventing Ear Mites

So, we know all about identifying and treating ear mites, but what most people want to know is how to prevent them altogether. Did you know that prevention is really the best thing that you can do for ear mites? To prevent ear mites, it is important for you to clean your cat’s ears on a regular basis. This will allow you to see any issues early on before it becomes a full blown problem.

You may also choose to give your cat a monthly preventative treatment that covers ear mites. One of the most popular is Revolution for cats. This medication is prescription strength, and it not only fights against ear mites, but it also protects against hookworms, roundworms, heartworms and fleas. It is really an all around great product, and you apply it topically each month for 30 days worth of protection.

Are Home Treatments Effective?

Many people swear by using home treatment plans to get rid of the ear mites. While home treatments do work in some cases, it is difficult to know the severity of the ear mites without taking your cat to the vet. Without knowing the extent of the ear mites, you may not be able to get them the treatment that they need at home. Sometimes, it requires prescription antibiotics to get rid of infection and other complications that arise due to the ear mites.

While there are some effective home remedies, you don’t just want to trust that it will be effective for your cat. Instead, make sure that you talk to your vet before trying any “at home treatment” options.

Facts You May Not Know About Ear Mites

Now that we have covered most of the information you need to know about ear mites, here are a few facts that you may not have known:

  • Ear mites are not always easy for you to see. Sometimes, it requires a special instrument to confirm a diagnosis.
  • Secondary infections can result if you don’t treat the ear mites themselves.
  • Pets are prone to ear mites, but humans don’t ‘catch’ them from their pets.
  • The life cycle of an ear mite is typically around 21 days from egg to adulthood.
  • By the time you notice that your cat has ear mites, they could have hundreds, or even thousands, of ear mites.

If your pet has had ear mites in the past, it is really important that you clean their bedding thoroughly and check to make sure that no other pets in the home have them. They are passed back and forth with ease, so if one pet has them, chances are others may as well. Treat them all together so that you don’t run the risk of reinfestation down the road.

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One Response

  1. Our cat was outdoorsy he certainly had the most sever case of earmites i had ever seen. His eyes and sinus ate was ifected. The eye had sunken. Yellow and green discharge with bloody ness. His checks wete bigger than gerbals. We ended up putting him down. All this has escaladed in to two years. But the sunken i got completly closed. Was putting him down the right choice????? My heart says it was . Please reply and let me know.

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