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Common Illness – Ear Mites in Cats

01/19/2016 by Colleen Williams
January 19th, 2016 by Colleen Williams
        

Causes of Cat Ear Mites

ear mites in cats

Kittens are extra prone to contracting ear mites. (Flickr.com/ljcybergal)

Attracted by the wax and oil inside a cat’s ear, mites take up residence when a pet comes in contact with another animal who is infected. Ear mites in cats are highly contagious; if one feline has them, other pets in the house are likely to get them. However, ear mites are much more common in cats than dogs.

Outdoor cats, who come in contact with all sorts of wildlife, are even more likely to contract them. Ear mites in kittens are almost a rite of passage! Kittens haven’t learn to clean their own ears yet, leading to a buildup of wax that tempts mites. The conditions kittens are raised in – close contact in animal shelters or with littermates  – are also conducive to the spread of ear mites.

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats

ear mites in cats

Ear mites in cats often appear as coffee ground-like specks. (Wikimedia Commons)

The primary symptom of cat ear mites is excessive scratching, both inside and outside the affected ear(s). Pets in pain may scratch their ears bloody, leading to scabs near the ears and neck. Fur loss, or alopecia, can also occur if your cat’s claws are too long or the mites are left untreated. In some cases, the actual ear mites are visible in the ear canal as coffee grain-like specks. If ear wax and secretions build up, your cat’s ears may even start to smell bad. Cats with dermatitis or other coat conditions may experience more severe symptoms, as their systems are are already weakened.

A cat with mites may also shake its head repeatedly – if your pet’s collar has a bell, listen for a symphony of jingles. Watch for swelling of the ears! An aural hematoma is a collection of blood that can lead to permanent injury, requiring surgery to correct.

How To Treat Ear Mites in Cats

ear mites in cats

A vet exam is needed to diagnose ear mites in cats, which require medication to successfully treat. (Flickr.com/tom-poes)

You’ll need to visit your veterinarian in order to clear up a case of cat ear mites. Even if you see the “coffee grain” mites, avoid self-diagnosing your pet. Many cases of ear mites in cats are actually bacterial infections, and roughly half of all ear infections in cats are initially caused by ear mites.

First, your vet will conduct a physical exam of your pet, including taking temperature. (Sorry, kitty!) Next, swabs will be taken from each ear and examined for the presence of mites or other discharge. Depending on the severity of wax buildup, the vet may thoroughly clean your cat’s ears using cotton swabs and a gentle cleanser.

Ear mite medicines for cats are typically in the form of medicated ear drops or a topical ointment. Drops should be given twice daily, applied directly into the ear. Try swaddling your cat in a soft blanket or towel, making a kitty burrito with just the head out. Always follow the directions on the medication’s package and those given to you by the clinic. Stopping treatment too early or applying infrequently will not treat the cat’s ear mites and may even worsen them if antibiotic resistance occurs, requiring a switch to a different medication.

Cat Ear Mites Prevention

ear mites in cats

Regularly launder both your own bed and your pets’ to prevent the spread of ear mites. (Flickr.com/jackyboo)

Ensure your pet’s ears are clean to prevent future cases of cat ear mites. Senior cats, kittens, and outdoor cats may require extra cleaning sessions to prevent an accumulation of debris in the ear. Regularly inspect ears for trauma, wax or other abnormalities; lesions indicating skin cancer commonly appear on light-colored skin like that inside the ears. Senior cats and kittens should visit the vet twice yearly.

At home, launder everything an infected animal came into contact with. Although not as stubborn as bedbugs or fleas in cats, ear mites can be resilient. Routinely washing pets’ beds – as well as your own sheets – helps prevent ear mites from getting a foothold in the house.

 

Sidebar image via Wikimedia Commons.






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