Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Ear mites in cats are one of the most commonly seen veterinary health care problems. Treating ear mites in cats has finally become a relatively easy experience now that veterinarians can prescribe safe and effective medications that do not require applications every other day for weeks. Caused by a little mite called Otodectes cynotis, the mites generally live along the surface of the ear canal, but can also be found on other areas of the body or in the environment. These mites can, but seldom do, infest humans. If present for long periods, hey can lead to serious ear difficulties in cats and dogs.

As ear mites move about and feed along the cat or dog’s ear canal they create substantial irritation and subsequent inflammation. The mites feed on tissue debris and secretions from the ear canal lining. With repeated irritation, the ear canal thickens and debris builds up within the ear canalThis debris, caused by mite waste products, dead tissue and fluid resembles coffee grounds. In chronic (long term) cases of ear mites in cats and dogs, there often is secondary bacterial and yeast infections present that complicate the treatment and create even more stress on the animal

Generally, ear mites do not break the ear drum. However, in the presence of infection and with severe enough affliction with ear mites, the ear drum can be penetrated. When this occurs, a very severe middle ear disorder can result where the animal can loose balance, become disoriented and have severe physical signs of trouble.

The ear mite life cycle, which takes about twenty-one days from egg to adult, entails going through four different stages:

Stage 1: The Eggs
Female ear mites usually lay about 5 eggs daily during their entire adult life. Deposited on the surface lining of the ear canal, the eggs hatch within 4 days.

Stage 2: The Larvae
Once hatched from the eggs, the larvae feed for 4 days then rest for 24 hours as they molt into the nymphal phase.

Stage 3: The Nymphs
Two stages of nymphs are recognized. Each feeds for 3 to 5 days and then rests and then molts to the next stage.

Stage 4: The Adults
Just barely visible to the naked eye, the adult ear mite appears white in color and feeds off the epithelial debris in the cat’s ear. There can be literally thousands of mites crawling about the ear canal and external ear surfaces. Ear mites do not burrow into the skin as Sarcoptic Mites and Demodex Mites doThey are communicable from one animal to another by direct contact.

* Head shaking
* Scratching the ears (there may be sores around the ears as a result of scratching)
* Reddish-brown to black discharge (crusts and cerumen) in the ears that resemble coffee grounds
* Sometimes there seem to be no observable signs of ear mites

A diagnosis of ear mites by the veterinarian is usually made by one of the following methods:

* Direct visualization of the mites with an otoscope
* Microscopic examination of the ear discharge

Although some cats show no outward signs of ear mite infestations, the mites can be diagnosed as described above. In most cats with ear mites if you briskly rub the ear canal area the cat will respond by automatic scratching movements of the back leg. Triggering this automatic scratching movement seldom occurs in cats that do not have ear mites. Veterinarians check for ear mites as part of the routine physical exam, especially in multi-cat households

TREATMENT: There are a number of medications used to treat ear mites in cats. Your veterinarian will prescribe an effective product. One study showed that treatment with ACAREXX was 92% effective in treating adult ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) infestations after 7 days. In a well-controlled clinical field trial, one treatment of ACAREXX was 94% effective in clearing cats and kittens of adult ear mite infestations within 7 to 10 days.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a different method or different medication; be sure to have a follow-up exam done four weeks after you think all the mites are gone.