Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs
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Ear mites are a common (and itchy) condition in cats and dogs. They can cause some serious damage if not treated quickly and properly. Learn more about your pet's risk for ear mites.

Ear mites are very common in cats and dogs, and if not treated, infection can lead to damage of the ear canal, possibly leading to hearing loss. They are tiny arachnid parasites often identifiable by the brown discharge they leave behind in the ear canal. All breeds, ages, and ear shapes are susceptible to ear mite infestation. Good ear hygiene and awareness are important in maintaining ear health and staying ear mite free.

Ear Mites Causes

Commonly, ear mites will infect newborn puppies and kittens from the mother. Mothers and their litters are often found nuzzling with their face and ears very close; his contact is all it takes for ear mites to find a new home. It is difficult to see a new infestation on pups and kittens right away, but generally become identifiable in a few weeks, due to the coffee ground-like discharge. Eventually the animalโ€™s ears look like there are specs of dirt in the canal, but often upon further investigation, the infestation is diagnosed. As ear mites are extremely contagious and easily transferred by simple contact, they are to blame for half of all ear infections in dogs and cats.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Because ear mites feed on the waxy build-up inside the ear canal of dogs and cats, keeping the ear canal clean is a great way to prevent an infestation. Also, keep your pets from coming into even casual contact with other animals known to have an infestation. Of course, this isn't always possible, but minimizing contact will maximize ear health.

Ear Mite Infestation Test Explained

Avoid the urge to diagnose your pet with ear mites, as there are other issues that may appear to be ear mites. Make an appointment with your veterinarian so that a swab test may be performed. The vet will use a cotton swab to carefully obtain material from the ear canal. A telescope is then used to investigate the nature of the material, and diagnose the issue.

Symptoms of Ear Mites

When your dog or cat has an ear mite infestation, some symptoms include constant intense scratching on and around the ear, hair loss, and inflammation. It is common that the animal will drag the afflicted ear around on the carpet or furniture, in an attempt to relieve the itching. Brownish waxy secretion and the brown discharge can build up in the ear canal causing full or partial blockage, resulting in decreased hearing ability. Dogs and cats will scratch the area and sometimes scabs form. The infestation may also result in an unpleasant odor.

How to Treat an Ear Mite Infestation

There are a few different approaches from which your veterinarian can choose. Ear drops are commonly prescribed, and sometimes recommended in addition to topical medications and gentle cleaning. There are ear cleansers, such as Epi Otic that can be used to remove debris from the canal.

In short, you can prevent ear mites are at-home, but you'll want to treat ear mites with the help of your vet. Keep an eye out for the symptoms of scratching and coffe-like discharge, and your pet's ears will thank you.

Causes of Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

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 animalโ€™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 animalโ€™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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