There are several types of mites that can live in your pet’s ear, but the most common are Otodectes cynotis - tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a pet’s ear canal.
An individual mite has a three-week life cycle, and is barely detectable by the naked eye. Causing irritation and inflammation, ear mites can infect the external and internal canal, and lead to more serious skin or ear infections if left untreated. Infection usually produces a characteristic dark discharge; in some cases, the ear canal can become entirely obstructed by this coffee ground-like debris.
What Causes Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats?
Highly contagious, ear mites are most common in outdoor cats, which can infect their canine companions. They are most often passed from pet to pet in casual contact at home or outside.
Here are some general symptoms to watch for:
- Excessive scratching and rubbing of ears
- Head shaking
- Hair loss and dermatitis
- Black or brown waxy secretion
- Strong odor
- Inflammation of the ear
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has Ear Mites?
It is important to bring your cat to our clinic for an accurate diagnosis. Our veterinarian will take a swab sample of ear discharge and evaluate it under a microscope. It is important to avoid self-diagnosis, since certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mites.
Routine cleaning of your cat’s ears will alert you to any early problems. If your pet has recently been diagnosed with ear mites, be sure to thoroughly clean his bedding and check your other pets for infestation following treatment.