Unfortunately, ear mites are a common issue in both cats and dogs. With a variety of different types, they get into the ear canals and, despite popular belief, can also infest other areas of the body. Most commonly, Otodectes cynotis is the ear mite to blame and they can actually move from cat to dog causing issues for both. With this being such a common issue, we though it important to share information so all pet owners know what to look for and how to start treatment.
Symptoms of Ear Mites
With ear mites as contagious as they are, they typically start with parents before moving to babies. Once in the house, this increases the risk to all other pets; although we’re focusing on dogs and cats, they can also affect hamsters, rabbits, ferrets, gerbils, mice, and others. Before you start to worry, they cannot affect us humans.
For puppies and kittens, most owners report excessive scratching around the ears but they can also shake their heads trying to rid themselves of the strange sensation. The more severe the infestation the more severe the shaking and scratching will become. If the infestation is serious enough, it can cause bleeding in the ears so look out for this and dried blood if you didn’t catch the initial bleed.
In terms of appearance, dried blood can look like coffee grounds and this should be visible within the ear if ear mites are present. If you see a build-up within the ears, we recommend visiting your vet as soon as possible. Although it could be a sign of a yeast infection or bacterial infection, ear mites are the most common cause.
So far, we’ve noted how common the problem is but this doesn’t take away from its seriousness. If your pet doesn’t receive sufficient treatment, permanent hearing loss can be caused by damaged eardrums and ear canals. If ear mites are elsewhere on the body, this doesn’t necessarily cause scratching but it’s certainly something to keep a watchful eye on.
Treating Ear Mites
After visiting your veterinarian, they’ll suggest a solution. Since some products don’t contain the essential ingredient for killing ear mites, pyrethrin (an insecticide), they won’t be successful and the problem can worsen. For cats, Milbemite (milbemycin) and Ivermectin (acarexx) have both been approved and some vets will also recommend Revolution (selmectin) or Frontline (fipronil).
Depending on the extent of the issue, all ear mites will normally die within two to four weeks and we mustn’t forget to treat all areas of the body. If you aren’t sure whether your pet has ear mites elsewhere, speak to your vet or use a dip, shampoo, or spray designed for ticks and fleas as they should contain the same ingredients as those listed above.
For cats, the tail is an important part of the formula because they sleep in a position that places the tail in close proximity to the ear. Therefore, always include the tail in treatments and treat all other pets even if they haven’t got ear mites. As we’ve seen, the issue is incredibly contagious and extremely likely to spread once one pet has it so vets always advise treating all pets simultaneously. Once the ear mites are away from your pets, they won’t survive for long so you don’t have to worry about treating your whole house.
Summary – Although a serious issue, treatment is simple and full recovery is expected as long as you get in contact with the vet immediately after spotting ear mites!