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Ear Mites in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Ear mites are external parasites that feed on your cat's blood, potentially causing serious complications. Here, our Citrus County vets discuss the causes of ear mites in cats, their symptoms, treatment and how they can be prevented.

Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites (also known as otodectes cynotis mites) are commonly found in cats and are part of the arachnid class of animals. These parasites make their home on the surface of the ear canal and sometimes on the skin of cats. 

If you have good eyesight, these tiny external pests look like quickly moving white spots. They have eight legs and a smaller set of thing legs. If you are curious about what ear mites in cats look like, you could look at pictures online using your favorite search engine.

While ear mites can be easily treated, unmanaged infestations can lead to secondary complications like ear infections. When we see cats with ear infections, ear mites are often the underlying cause. Ear mites very rarely infect humans and are generally not considered a risk to people's health.

What causes ear mites in cats?

If your cat shows signs of ear mites, you may have questions like what causes ear mites in cats? How are they transmitted from one pet to another?

Ear mites are extremely transmittable, quickly moving from one animal to another when in close contact. Cats may be most commonly affected by ear mites, but they can also affect several other animals, including dogs. Suppose your cat spends time in boarding environments or outdoors and gets too close to another animal or touches a contaminated surface, such as a grooming tool or bedding. In that case, ear mites can easily be transmitted. 

If you brought your cat home from a shelter, you should immediately examine them for any potential ear mite infestation.

What are the symptoms of ear mites in cats?

If your cat becomes infected with ear mites, they may display the following symptoms:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Inflammation 
  • Hair or loss or irritation due to excessive scratching around the ears 
  • Dark crusty or waxy discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds 
  • Pus 

How to Treat Ear Mites in Cats

When you discover an infestation, you may immediately think about how to get rid of ear mites in cats. The good news is that treatment is pretty straightforward.

With ear mites in cats, the treatment options may include prescriptions like an antiparasitic medication and antibiotics if needed. Your veterinarian will likely clear your cat's ears from the characteristic wax and discharge associated with these parasites and prescribe antibiotics depending on your cat's specific case. 

If your cat has been scratching or licking excessively, resulting in a secondary infection, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic or cream to treat the affected area. Your vet will probably suggest you return to the office in a week or two to ensure the mites are gone and that further treatment is unnecessary. 

Due to the contagious nature of ear mites, your vet will probably also prescribe medication for any other household pets to ensure the infestation doesn't continue. We do not advise using home remedies for ear mites in cats. While some methods can kill mites, many at-home treatments don't kill the eggs of these parasites. So, while the mites appear gone, the infestation will begin again when the eggs hatch.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Cats

By bringing your cat in for routine checkups and preventive care, you can help ensure that any potential conditions or parasitic infections are treated before they become too serious. You should also often clean your cat's bedding and toys to help kill any pests trying to make a home out of your cat. Parasite prevention is readily available and should be administered routinely throughout the year. Speak with your vet to learn more.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your cat may have an ear mite infestation? Contact Dunnellon Animal Hospital today to schedule an examination.

New patients are always welcome.

We look forward to meeting your precious pet at Dunnellon Animal Hospital.

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