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Causes of Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

By Robyn Johnson. September 10, 2012 | See Comments

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Causes of Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Mites need particular conditions to live and thrive. Learn how pets contract and host ear mites, so you can keep them from feeding off your best friend.

As parasites, ear mites live on the host animal, gaining sustenance from dead skin cells and waxy buildup. There is not necessarily a cause for ear mites to appear in the animal’s ear canal, other than direct contact with the ear mites. It could be from casually brushing heads with another infested animal, or coming into contact with an infested animal’s bedding. Ear mites are highly contagious, which means they will jump from one animal to the next just by quick contact. If the animal has particularly floppy ears, ear mites can more easily be concealed, yet all breeds of dogs and cats are susceptible to infestation. In fact, cats tend to become infested more than dogs, often due to a multiple cat home where hygiene may be lacking, and possibly poor husbandry. The areas shared by multiple cats with ear mite infestations need to be thoroughly rid of mites so that the infestation does not reappear.

From Mother to Newborn

It is very common for ear mites to be transferred from a mother to her newborn pups or kittens, because the instinctive bonding relationship requires nuzzling faces and cleaning fur. It is also common among larger groups of dogs and cats, because once one has contracted the mites, the other exposed animals will quickly develop an infestation. Outdoor animals have a higher likelihood of contracting an ear mite infestation, but indoor groups of animal typically spread the infestation quicker.

Why Mites Love Ears

While ear mites are easily transferred from pet to pet, the infestation is caused by a positive parasitic environment for breeding. The ear canal is a semi-protected warm moist spot, with perfect conditions for mites to thrive. If the few mites that jump from one host to another breed in the canal, the infestation is imminent. Since the mites are nearly invisible to the naked eye, it is difficult to catch the problem before the infestation is in full swing.

Types of Ear Mites

There are four main kinds of infecting ear mites, Otodectes, Notoedres, Sarcoptic mange and Demodex. Otodectes and Notoedres are both tiny, and spider-like, and they live in or on the skin, typically around the media canal. Demodex and Sarcoptic Mange mites, however, cause infection of the external flap of the ear, avoiding the ear canal. These mites bite and burrow into the skin, causing intense skin irritation and inflammation. A female mite, as young as three weeks old lays her eggs, which then hatch after three of four days.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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