Are Mittens’ ears bothering him as in super itchy? Are his ears pretty dirty with dark debris? Does he go outside at all? I have two words for you, ear mites. These little buggers can really irritate a cat if left untreated. Here’s what you need to know about ear mites in cats.
What are ear mites in cats?
Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis, are microscopic bugs, or mites, that usually cannot be seen with the naked eye. Ear mites can take up a residence in your cat’s ears and skin, but they do prefer the ear canal. Their life span is only about two months between hatching to dying off, with of course reproducing as much as possible first, causing more of an infestation.
Once you’ve seen a picture of one or looked under the microscope, chances are you just got the creepy crawlies or you are scratching your own ears. Behind the scenes of a veterinary clinic, techs become pretty excited when they find them under the microscope.
Ear mites are extremely contagious between cats, rabbits, ferrets, and dogs. A cat can infect your cat by direct contact, so if Mittens is playing or getting into a brawl with the cat that lives in the alley, that is probably where he picked up the ear mites.
How to Identify Ear Mites in Cats (Symptoms)
Symptoms of ear mites include severe pruritus, or itching, of the ears, so much so that a cat can really scratch up their ears and cause a skin infection and hair loss, and dark semi-moist or crusty debris in the ear canals. Ear hematomas are even possible from the cat digging or shaking their ears desperate for relief. Many stray cats picked up or kittens from a farm will have ear mites if they’ve never really been in a house setting.
Treatment for Ear Mites in Cats
First, schedule an appointment for Mittens to see the veterinarian, before his ears drive him so crazy there is no fur left on them. Be sure to tell the veterinarian about Mittens’ environmental history and if he could be exposed to animals that are outside, like that alley cat,
The veterinarian will want to perform an ear swab, taking as much debris as possible and placing it on a microscope slide with mineral oil. Then comes the fun part for the techs – looking for the little bugs. Usually, they can be found right off the bat, even swimming through the mineral oil on the slide.
Next, the veterinarian may order an ear flush to irrigate as much debris out of the ear canal as possible. Then prescribe ear drops or other medications to kill the adults since the larvae cannot be dissolved. Rechecks will be needed under Mittens is ear mite-free.
It is best to keep infected cats away from others until cleared. If you Mittens has a housemate or two, there is a substantial possibility that the other cats in the house will become infected as well.
Keeping your cat’s ears clean can also help, see here how because ear mites can also lead to other ear infections, so as soon as you notice them scratching and dark debris, be sure to contact your veterinarian. If they find that Mittens’ does have ear mites, ask to take a look under the microscope!