EAR MITES LOVE CATS (DOGS, TOO)
Pets often suffer from earaches from ear infections. Sometimes infection results from parasites like ear mites. These tiny parasites are common in cats, and causes otodectic mange, more commonly known as ear mite infestation. Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) are a kind of arthropod that are actually related to and look something like spiders. The first four legs of all stages bear unjointed short stalks and suckers, and adult males also have suckers on the rear legs. Ewwww!
Dogs and cats with itchy ears often invite ear rubbing marathons. Read about doggy moans and groans of ear-rubbing delight here.
I’m sharing this information from my EAR MITES entry from Cat Facts, The Series 5 (E): The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia which includes these topics:
Ear Mites, Ears, Eating, Eclampsia (Milk Fever), Electrical Shock, Elizabethan Collar, Endoscope, Enteritis, Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex, Epilepsy, Euthanasia, and Eyes
I’ve broken the massive CAT FACTS book into catnip-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every week or so, but ONLY for subscribers on my Pets Peeves Newsletter. Of course, you can still get the entire CAT FACTS book either in Kindle or 540+ pages of print.
EAR MITE LIFE CYCLE
The mites live on the surface of the skin of the ear and ear canal. Adult females lay eggs with cement that sticks them in place. After incubating four days, eggs hatch into six-legged larvae. Larvae feed for three to ten days, consuming the debris of the ear canal, and piercing the skin to suck lymph. Each larva hatches into an eight-legged protonymph, which then molts into a deutonymph. The deutonymph becomes attached to an adult male end to end by the suckers on their rear legs. If a female adult emerges from the deutonymph, fertilization occurs and the female becomes egg bearing. The life cycle lasts three weeks.
CONSEQUENCES OF EAR MITES
Ear mites are the most common cause of ear inflammation. Symptoms of ear mite infestation include brown, waxy debris in the ear canal, and/or crust formation. The crawling mites inside the ear canal produce intense itching and discomfort. Infested cats will shake their heads, dig at their ears, and show a variety of restless behavior.
Excessive head shaking or scratching at the ears caused by ear mites can result in secondary trauma to the pinna, the external portion of your cat’s ear. This can cause a kind of blood blister called a hematoma.
DIAGNOSING EAR MITES
Ear mites are extremely contagious, and outdoor cats are most commonly affected. These parasites aren’t selective; they infest many species, including cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets and other pets. Kittens often acquire ear mites from their mother.
If one pet is diagnosed with ear mites, all the animals in a multi-pet household must be treated to prevent reinfestation. When left untreated, ear mites can cause severe problems of the middle and inner ear, which may affect the cat’s hearing and balance.
Diagnosis is made by actually seeing the mite. The parasite is tiny, white, and nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. Generally, the veterinarian will make a slide of a sample of the ear debris, and examine it under the microscope to identify the parasite.
HOW TO TREAT CAT EAR MITES
Treatment consists of flushing out the debris, and applying insecticide to kill the mites. Bland oil, like mineral oil squirted into the ear canal followed by gentle massage helps flush out the crumbly material. Because of the three week lifespan of the mites, more than one treatment may be necessary to kill the mites as they hatch.
A number of over the counter ear drop medications are available for treating ear mites in cats. Many of them contain insecticides such as carbaryl or pyrethrins in a mineral oil solution. Sometimes, steroids are necessary to help the inflammation subside, and antibiotic ointment may be indicated to treat bacterial infections.
NATURAL OPTIONS FOR TREATING EAR MITES
Holistic veterinarians may recommend using a green tea rinse, since it’s a natural antiseptic and can gently remove the ear debris caused by the mites. Steep a tablespoon of green tea leaves in a cup of hot water for three or four minutes, strain it, and allow to cool to room temperature. Flush your pet’s ear canal with the tea, using a small dropper.
A natural traditional way to treat ear mites is to suffocate the bugs with oil. Place two or three drops of vegetable oil in the pet’s ears, and massage. The oil also soothes the itch, but you’ll need to treat the ears daily for at least a month to catch all the maturing bugs, and your cat’s oily head may not be to his (or your) liking.
When the cat’s ears are very sore, sedation may be necessary to properly clean his ears. Even when ear drops are effective, some cats object to having their ears cleaned and treated, and unless the entire course of treatment is completed, the problem will recur. In addition, some cats are resistant to certain medications, or are hard for owners to handle and medicate at home.
For these stubborn cases, an injectable medication may be the answer. One or two beneath-the-skin injections of an insecticide called Ivermectin is effective, but not FDA approved for this use. Veterinarians may use the drug “off label” with the informed consent of their clients.
Has your cat ever suffered from ear mites? How did you get rid of them? Please share your experiences! (Oh, and I hope you’ll forward this post to those who need the info…)
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