Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Question: Ear mites in Cats

Dr. Schaeberle,

My cat has just been diagnosed with ear mites. How could that happen?




Ear mites are very small insects that look like microscopic ticks that live in the ear canal of cats and dogs. The majority of pets that get these are definitely cats and kittens.

Ear mites live in the ear canal of pets and occasionally crawl out onto the face and head of the pet. When your pet rubs faces with another pet that has ear mites, your pet can pick them up. They eventually find their way into your pet’s ear canal and start breeding and living there, too.

As they begin to overpopulate, they can cause an inflammatory process to begin, and sometimes a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. This causes a lot of discomfort to your pet; she will start shaking her head and scratching at her ears, causing even more inflammation and infection.

The typical discharge produced is a dark brown to black, dry crusty material that resembles coffee grounds. But don’t be fooled; other ear canal infections can look like this too, so you want to get it confirmed by your veterinarian to make sure your pet gets the proper treatment.

There are many different treatments available for ear mites. Some products take 2-3 weeks to work, others 1 day, and other topical products prevent them in the first place. Your veterinarian will know which one is the best for your pet. And by the way, only in the most unusual cases will people ever get ear mites, so you can feel safe that you won’t get them. However, people have been known to get rashes from them.

And remember, if one of your pet’s have ear mites, and you have other pets, they may get them and need treated too. You may need to get your whole clan checked out by your veterinarian.

So if your cat, kitten or dog is shaking his head and scratching at his ears, take him to your veterinarian right away to get the proper treatment. Whether it’s ear mites or another type of infection, your pet will thank you for getting rid of this annoying problem.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

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