Ear Mites

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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.


Cause

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.


Symptoms

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 accurate diagnosis is imperative.

This is typical of the discharge present in a cat with ear mites.


Diagnosis

It is important to make a correct diagnosis 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.

This 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.


Treatment

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 ear 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.

The flea control product by Pfizer called “Revolution” will also kill ear mites. We recommend it as the best overall product for cats for flea and parasite control. We offer special pricing on all our dog and cat flea products that is less expensive than those advertise on TV and web site like PetMeds.

There effective ear medication for ear mites is dosed only once.

Prevention

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. Always clean the ear very gently to prevent trauma to a diseased ear drum. Using the flea control product Revolution by Pfizer is the best way to go to control ear mites and general parasites, including fleas.