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Ear Mites in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

While ear mites are a fairly common external parasite, they are extremely contagious. They can cause severe itchiness and scratching in cats' ears and skin, as well as infection and eventual health problems. They are more prevalent in cats than dogs and are relatively straightforward to treat. Our Poway veterinarians discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of ear mites in cats in this section.

Ear Mites 

Ear mites (otodectes cynotis mites) are commonly found in cats and are part of the arachnid class of animals. This extremely contagious external parasite makes its home on the surface of the ear canal, and sometimes on the skin's surface. 

They are extremely small, but if you have excellent eyesight, you might be able to see them as white spots that move quickly across the screen. They have eight legs, with the pair of hind legs being noticeably shorter than the other pair (pictures of ear mites in cats can be found by using your preferred online search engine; the thumbnail image for this post depicts a buildup of black wax inside the ear of a cat that has ear mites). Ear mites are a common source of irritation and discomfort for cats.

They have the potential to cause our feline companions a great deal of irritation. Ear mites aren't particularly difficult to treat, but if you let them go unchecked, they can lead to serious skin and ear infections. We frequently discover that ear mites are the underlying cause of ear infections in cats that we initially thought had ear infections. Infections caused by ear mites in humans are extremely rare and, as a rule, are not considered to pose a significant health risk.

What Causes of Ear Mites in Cats?

You may begin reading about ear mites and wonder how these parasites get into your cat's ears and cause them such misery. Certain cat owners will eventually inquire of their veterinarian, 'What causes ear mites in cats?' Due to their high contagiousness, ear mites can easily spread from infected animals to infected animals. While ear mites are most prevalent in cats, they are also found in dogs and other wild animals. If your cat spends time in boarding facilities or outdoors and comes into contact with another animal or a contaminated surface such as a grooming tool or bedding, ear mites can be easily transmitted.

It is also common for cats that live in shelters to acquire ear mites; therefore, you should make sure to check your newly adopted cat for ear mites and make an appointment for a routine exam with your veterinarian as soon as you can.

Symptoms of Ear Mites

The most common signs of ear mites in cats include: 

  • Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears 
  • Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds 
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Pus 
  • Inflammation 

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

Many a pet owner who has dealt with ear mites in their furry friend has likely frantically typed 'How to get rid of ear mites in cats' into their favorite search engine, looking for solutions. Fortunately, when it comes to ear mites in cats, treatment is relatively straightforward. If your vet diagnoses your cat with ear mites, an anti-parasitic medication will be prescribed. These medications are available in oral or topical form. The veterinarian may also clean your cat's ears with a cleaning solution designed for this purpose and prescribe a course of antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection.

Additionally, your veterinarian will determine if any secondary infections are present as a result of the infestation and treat them as necessary. Your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend that you return in a week or two to ensure that the mites have been eliminated and that no further treatment is required.

Because ear mites are contagious, your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend treatment for any other pets in your home to ensure that the infestation does not spread to them.

It is not recommended to use home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods are effective against mites, many at-home treatments do not kill the mites' eggs. Thus, even if the mites appear to be gone, the infestation will resume when the eggs hatch.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

By scheduling a monthly checkup and ear cleaning with your veterinarian, you can help prevent ear mites from establishing a foothold. Establish a biweekly reminder to clean your cat's kennel, bedding, and house to minimize the risk of an infection occurring at your residence. Your veterinarian at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital can make parasite prevention products recommendations for your cat.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you seeking more information about vaccinations and preventive healthcare for your cat? Contact our experienced Poway vets today to book an appointment.

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