Fast Facts About Ear Mites In Cats:
Tell us: Have you ever battled ear mites in cats? What worked in treating them?
This piece was originally published in 2009.
Thumbnail: Photography by Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock.
Signs Of Ear Mites In Humans
You are at the risk of getting ear mites if you have pets or when you have close contact with someone elses pets. So, the first step to staying safe from mites is to check your cats and dogs. The most common sign is your cat will constantly paw or scratch at ears. This happens because their presence makes your pet feel uncomfortable. In addition, you will also observe black dust-like particles looking similar to coffee grounds in their ears.
Diagnosing also helps to stop spreading mites in other pets too. Initially, your cat will not seem bothered but once mites grow in large numbers their weird behavior can easily be seen.
If you get ear mites the common signs are dark ear wax, ear wax discharge with a stench, redness in ears and the skin around ears, itching, and ear irritation.
Moreover, this condition is also accompanied by another ear condition called tinnitus. This effect is characterized by humming, buzzing, and ringing sounds in ears. If overlooked and not taken care of, the affected person can feel high pressure inside the ears and may also lose hearing power permanently.
How Are Ear Mites Treated
You wont need an exorcism to get rid of these pests, but it is important to follow all of your veterinarians instructions to a T. Once a cat has been properly diagnosed with ear mites, treatment generally begins with a thorough cleaning of the ears to remove any wax or debris that may shield the mites from topical medications that are applied directly in the ear and the areas around it. These topical medications are typically prescribed for a period of two to three weeks and work in a way similar to that of lice shampoo in humans to eliminate ear mites completely.
Ear mites come with a high risk of infection, so many veterinarians will also prescribe ear drops or a treatment of antibiotics to relieve any infections that the cat may be suffering from. Infection treatment times can vary, but it usually does not exceed one month. Be sure to schedule a follow-up visit to be sure all your cats creepy crawlies are completely gone.
Because ear mites are so contagious, all pets in the household should be treated for ear mites. Additionally, it is important to keep an infected cat away from other animals as much as possible until the end of treatment.
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Are Ear Mites Contagious To Humans
Humans are not definitive hosts of ear mites. But there are cases of ear mite infestation in people. Although quite rare, some of these cases are traced back to ear mite-infested pets in the family. To survive, mites need a host. They are unable to last long on environmental surfaces.
Close contact with a pet that is harboring ear mites, such as sharing a bed with your cat or allowing your dog on the furniture, increases the risk of being infected. Ear mites from your pets ears can travel to your bedding or furniture and attach to other pets or you.
Take note, however, that you can also get ear mites by playing with anyones pet that has ear mites or by sitting on a couch or sleeping on a hotel bed where ear mites are present.
How Do Cats Get Ear Mites
Ear mites are common among outdoor cats and highly contagious between animals, although thankfully not to humans. Eggs are laid in the ear and take roughly three weeks to mature into an adult mite who can then breed and add to the infestation. And mites are not just relegated to your cats earsthey can occasionally go wandering and cause itching elsewhere on a cat’s skin.
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Ear Cleaningeasy Does It
Ear cleaning is important for a number of reasons. Accumulated debris can make it difficult for topical medications to penetrate and effectively kill the mites, and the ear discharge itself can predispose the cat to secondary bacterial and yeast infections. In some cases, the accumulated discharge may be so severe that it plugs the external ear canal, preventing the cat from hearing normally.But ear cleaning must be done with special care. Flushing or blind probing of the ears can cause serious problems, including rupture of the eardrums. In some instances, the cats eardrums will already be damaged as a result of infection, and vigorous cleaning makes things worse. If one or both eardrums are perforated or ruptured, infection can spread to the middle and inner ears. It is also possible for ear cleaners and medications to cause deafness if the eardrum is not intact. In fact, many commonly used products are ototoxic, meaning that if they flow past the eardrum into the middle ear, they will irreversibly damage the specialized nerve cells there.
But caregivers can learn techniques to gently and safely clean cats ears. First and foremost, never aggressively flush the ear with a bulb syringe, or blindly probe it with a Q-tip.
Ear Mites In Cats Treatment
When a cat is infected with ear mites, the ear mites in cats can then quickly start to reproduce and increase in number within the cats ears.
The entire life cycle of ear mites in cats, from hatching out of eggs to maturing to a reproducing adult, takes only about three weeks. Prompt treatment is required so as to prevent permanent damage from happening and to relieve the cat from intense itching which the mites cause.
While there are several over-the-counter treatments that are available which are can be used so as to treat ear mites in cats, a prescription treatment that is given by your veterinarian is the best.
Over-the-counter treatments often take a few weeks to get rid of the ear mite population, and the cats do not like to have medication applied to their ears on a daily basis.
Additionally, a veterinarian can confirm if a cat is suffering from ear mites, or if another medical condition is leading to the symptoms.
Two medicinal products, Acarexx and Milbemite, are the prescription that is given for ear mite in cats treatments which are directly applied to cats ears. In most of this cases, the treatments only require being applied once to get rid of the ear mites.
Prescription products which are applied to the skin to get rid of ear mites in cats include Revolution and Advantage Multi.
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How To Keep Ear Mites From Returning
To make sure no ear mites are hanging out in kittys fur, your veterinarian can also recommend a parasite preventive to help keep the bugs away for next time and make sure any other ear-mite hitchhikers have been taken care of. After prescribing your cats specific treatment plan, your veterinarian may also want to see your feline friend back for a checkup in a week or two to make sure all the bugs are gone for good.
Little Bit More About Ear Mites In Humans
Ear mites do not generally bite. And if at all they bite, they wont remain on your body. If your pet sleeps with you in your bed, the ear mites would come out on the bed and enter your ears. When ear mites are on the furniture or on your bedding, they need a host to survive, so chances are high that they find their way in your ear canal even if the pet is not in your bed.
All in all, not only pet parents but all those who came in contact with the bed and furniture are vulnerable. That said, if you visit a house where pets have ear mites, you may catch some of them.
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What Are Ear Mites And What Causes Them
Ear mites are creatures that resemble tiny spiders and they live in your pets ear, feeding on her blood and the tissue of the ear canal to survive. Once they reach adulthood they can reproduce, causing more and more mites to appear. While it is possible for just one ear to be infected, in most cases an animal will experience ear mites in both ears at the same time.
Ear mites are contracted from the environment in which your pet lives or visits. Often, they attach to your furbaby when she passes through heavily grassed or wooded areas, clinging onto her when she brushes past. However, since they are very easily passed between animals, if your cat or dog comes into contact with an infected animal on the street, in the groomers or kennels, or even your local veterinary offices in Castle Rock, CO, she could become infected with ear mites too.
Many people worry if ear mites can be passed to humans. However, this is not the case. Ear mites can only be transferred between cats, dogs and ferrets. They also do not live long without a host.
How Does An Indoor Cat Get Ear Mites
Felines are playful animals by nature. As a result, they tend to interact with myriads of the environment and other animals.
Even if your cat stays most of the time indoors, an ear mite infection can happen nonetheless.
Felines can catch ear mites from the environment or another animal.
If your pet plays with another animal exposed outside, it can get ear mites.
Ear mites can spread through direct contact. At the same time, it could also spread through another animals environment.
The best way to prevent ear mites is by constant grooming of your pet.
If your kitty is an indoor pet without interaction with other animals, chances are it is safe from ear mites.
However, if your pet plays outside, you should often check her to avoid possible infection.
Preventing ear mites on cats also prevents possible ear mite infection on you and your family.
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How Do Ear Mites Look
There are a lot of types of ear mites in cats and dogs and humans. The most common one is Otodectes cynotis, an eight-legged crab-like ear mite. Although theyre invisible to the naked eye, you can see them under a microscope or with a special tool called an otoscope, usually used by a vet.
Ear mites have a life cycle of three weeks. During this time, they consume large amounts of ear wax and ear oils and try their best to reproduce like crazy. Its when they have a stable source of food and good shelter that they multiply immensely.
When this happens, you still cant see traces of an ear mite infestation, but its there. Because there are so many mites feeding off of your cats wax and oils, an ear mite infection may start to develop. Its important to treat ear mites at this point so the infections dont get too bad.
You might have noticed that cats with ear mites usually have a black or dark-brown discharge clogging up their ear canals. This debris you see isnt an ear mite colony, but rather discharge from the ear infections. As soon as you see it, youll recognize it. It looks oddly similar to coffee grounds.
What To Do If Your Cat Has Ear Mites
Is your cat shaking her head or scratching her ears? It might be ear mites, a common parasite that lives on the surface of their skin. Heres how to check for ear mites in cats so you can treat and prevent them from spreading.
Lots of things can make cats scratch their ears. When it’s a problem and not just everyday itching, the culprit might be ear mites. You may first notice this pest when your cat is shaking her head or pawing at her ears. Or it could be that while you’re petting your cat and notice clusters of black coffee-ground-like specks inside the ears. Gross! Read up on what to do if those pesky bugs could be whats making your cat uncomfortable.
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Does My Dog Have Ear Mites
Ear mites are spider-like parasites that live in your dogs or cats ears and feed off oils and waxes there. Although they are contagious, they tend to remain on their host, if possible, so if the infestation has not progressed they may not spread to other pets in the early stages of infestation. They do not bite, but cause irritation and scratching that can result in injury or infection. Symptoms of ear mites include:
Odor from the ear
Wounds, inflammation, and infections in the ear from your pet scratching
Ear mites can move to other parts of your dog’s body if the infestation grows out of controlEar mite infection is most commonly caused by Otodectes cynotis, parasites that live out their life cycle in your pets ear canal, feeding off skin debris, wax and oils. They lay their eggs in the ear, which hatch every 3 weeks, and grow to be reproducing adults. They are spread by direct contact with infected animals.
Your veterinarian will make a diagnosis of ear mites by looking in your dog’s ears with an otoscope to visualize the mites or by taking a sample of ear discharge and examining it under a microscope. Your veterinarian will also look for signs of other infection such as bacterial or fungal infection that could be causing symptoms or coincide with ear mites.
For more information, check out our guide to Ear Mites in Dogs.
Symptoms Of Ear Mites In Humans
Just like in dogs, the presence of these pesky parasites in the ears of people can be very uncomfortable. Tell-tale signs of ear mites in humans include:
- Persistent ear itchiness
- Sense of increased ear pressure
Symptoms tend to differ between persons. You could exhibit all of these signs or only a few. If left untreated, ear mite infestation in humans can cause damage to the ear canal leading to loss of hearing. Some people develop a temporary itchy rash when there are pets infested with ear mites in the household. But these cases are very rare.
If you develop any of these symptoms, have your ears checked by your doctor right away. The sooner you get professional medical attention, the sooner appropriate medication can be administered to kill ear mites and their eggs. Also, you should make an appointment with your vet to have your pet checked for ear mites.
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How To Prevent Ear Mites
One of the best ways to avoid getting ear mites is to keep a close eye on your family pets. Recognizing the first signs of an ear mite infection in animals can protect you and others in the household. Although human transmission is rare, its still possible.
If you notice a dark discharge from your animals ears or frequent head-scratching, see your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian can examine your pets ear canal for the presence of mites. If theres an infection, your vet will thoroughly clean their ear and then prescribe medication to treat the infection. This can include antiparasitic treatments like selamectin and moxidectin or imidacloprid.
Also ask your vet about preventive measures for future infections, such as giving your dog a monthly antiparasitic application.
If your pet has an infection, make sure you keep other family pets separate. You can also protect yourself by not sharing a bed or furniture with your pet. This is especially the case while theyre undergoing treatment.
Sanitize and wash any items your pet uses on a regular basis, such as chew toys and their bedding.
Can Humans Get Ear Mites From Cats
Anyone living with cats is at risk of getting ear mites. Generally, ear mites are not considered a risk to humans. Animal-to-human transmission of ear mites is extremely unlikely, but it can happen in rare cases.
The ear mites can travel to your bedding and furniture and then attach themselves to a new host that could be you, someone in your house, or another pet.
Though humans are rarely infected with ear mites, there is still a chance you can be adversely affected. For example, some feline parents have been known to develop skin rashes if their cat has ear mites or other types of parasites such as ringworm or lice. The other parasites can result in hair loss on your cats back.
If you develop any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away. Treating an ear mite infection involves killing live mites and their eggs.
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How To Prevent Ear Mites From Returning
One of the best ways to prevent ear mites from returning is to make sure your cat completes their full course of treatment. There are often two three-week treatments that need to be given to your cat, making the grand total of time spent targeting the ear mites six weeks, or more. If you dont give your cat the second treatment theres a good chance their ear mites can re-emerge.
Unless your feline friend is just one cat who lives with no other animals, you need to make sure youve treated all of the pets in your household with a full course of ear mite treatment even if they arent showing symptoms.
Another way to take preventative action against ear mites is to make sure youre attentive to any leftover wax, oily residue, or mite debris left in your cats ears.
While you can use a magnifying scope to see if you can spot any tiny white dots its best to pay another visit to your vet if you suspect another ear infection or mite infestation.