Since we have been discussing external parasites, we can’t forget to discuss our “old friend,” the ear mite. While the last two newsletters were focused on parasites that, for the most part, have seasonal fluctuations, ear mites persist year-round. This is because they don’t actually survive off of the host for more than a few hours. They are easily transmitted directly between various animals and can therefore be contracted any time of year. Ear mites can be transmitted to cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets.

If you’ve never seen them, ear mites are pinpoint-sized parasitic insects that live and breed in the ear canals. They feed on skin debris, cell fluids, and blood, and they can bite on the tissue of the ear canal. Symptoms include a dark brown–sometimes crumbly–discharge from the ears, head shaking, scratching at the ears, holding the ears down, and pain.  If left untreated, complications from ear mites can lead to ear infections, aural hematoma (a blood clot in the ear), and in extreme cases, permanent damage, including deafness. Sometimes an animal with ear mites will stop scratching, but this does not mean they cleared the infestation on their own. It means there is so much debris built up in the ear canal that the animal can no longer feel the mites crawling around.

Luckily, despite all the harm they can do, ear mites are easy to diagnose and treat. They are readily visible under magnification with an otoscope in the ear canal or a swab of debris under a microscope. A diagnosis of ear mites should always be made before starting treatment, as ear mites are not the only things that can cause brown debris from the ear canals. As some over-the-counter treatments can take weeks or months to clear an infestation, a misdiagnosis could mean that the animal will remain in pain until the correct diagnosis is finally made and treated.

The treatment of ear mites itself is relatively simple. To begin, the ears are cleaned of as much excess debris as possible without harming the ear canal. To kill the mites, we apply a dose of Revolution. This is the preferred treatment at Cats On Broadway, as it is a single application to the skin and lasts for 30 days. This eliminates the need to apply repeat treatments directly into the ear canals, which many animals will dislike while their ears remain painful or sensitive until the infection is cleared. One treatment of Revolution will clear almost all ear mite infestations, and many animals are more comfortable within the first week.

All cats, dogs, and other susceptible animals need to be treated at the same time, even if they are not showing symptoms. One untreated pet can re-infest everyone else again after treatment is complete. Pain medication may be prescribed as necessary. We also always recommend rechecking the ears one month after treatment to make sure the infestation is cleared and to check the ear for leftover wax plugs, which need to be removed to prevent possible future complications.

We hope that you’ve found this information to be useful.  If your cat exhibits any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s definitely a good idea to make a vet appointment.  With quick identification and the right treatment, ear mites can be eliminated with relative ease!