A common problem in cats is ear mites, especially
in young cats. These mites can cause significant discomfort, fortunately most
cats rapidly respond to treatment. Those that do not should be investigated
for underlying problems.
Ear mites are caused by a parasite. The most
common one we encounter in cats is Otodectes. It is spread by
contact, and is especially prevalent in outdoor cats.
This is a drawing of an Otodectes mite as it would appear
under the microscope
The primary symptoms of ear mites
are scratching at the ears, shaking of the head, and a dark
discharge. These symptoms mimic other ear diseases, so an
This is typical of the discharge present in a cat with ear mites.
It is important to make a correct
early in the course of the
disease because it can significantly affect the final outcome. The
primary method of diagnosis for this disease is a microscopic check
of the discharge for mites. We look for mites
or mite eggs, either one gives us a positive diagnosis.
discharge taken from the ear of an affected cat is
classic for this disease. Sometimes there is so much
discharge it literally flies out of the ear as a cat
shakes its head. Many people have had the lovely
experience of wearing (or even tasting) this discharge as
a cat flings its ears vigorously.
Gentle ear cleaning goes a long way towards
correcting this problem. These ears are very sensitive, and the ear
drum (tympanic membrane) might even be damaged. Cleaning the ears of
pets that might have this problem should not be attempted at home
until after we have initiated therapy. We have a page devoted to
cleaning due to its importance.
After the ears are gently
cleaned by one of our nurses a topical medication is instilled. This medication
contains anti-inflammatories to soothe inflamed ears, antibiotics to minimize
secondary bacterial infection, and an anti-paracidicital to kill the mites.
Daily cleaning of the ears and application of medication is continued until
the problem is resolved, usually 7-10 days.
In some cats we use an injectable medication
called Ivermectin. This drug is especially useful in cats with ears
that are too sensitive to clean, or in cats that it is unlikely that
you will be able to clean the ears at home on a daily basis.
Ivermectin is very effective and is used commonly, although a very
small percentage of cats can have a reaction to this drug and develop
central nervous system signs.
Our new flea control product by Pfizer called
"Revolution" will also kill ear mites.
There is a relatively new ear medication for
ear mites that is dosed only once.
The best method of prevention is
to eliminate exposure to affected cats. Check your cats ears several
times weekly and clean them as often as needed. alway clean the ear
very gently to prevent trauma to a diseased ear drum.
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