Ear Mites in Cats — Symptoms and Treatment

November 8, 2012

in Cats

by Kurt Schmitt

Ear mites in cats are a fairly common occurrence in the United States. They can be very unpleasant for your cat, and in more severe cases, dangerous.

If left untreated, they can lead to secondary bacterial and yeast infections. Over time, some cats seem to develop immunity to mites, so younger cats with developing immune systems are more likely to to be afflicted. Cats with weakened immune systems are at higher risk as well.

What are ear mites? — Mites are small, crab-like parasites that typically live on the head, and in the ears. In more extreme cases, they can cause a rupture of the ear drum, and may lead to deafness and even seizures. Mites are the most common cause of outer-ear inflammation in cats.

Sensitivity to mite infestations varies, with some cats appearing less bothered by it than others. Younger cats are typically more sensitive than older cats.

Symptoms of mites — The most common symptoms of ear mites in cats are head shaking and excessive scratching of the ears. The most obvious sign is a build up of dry, black wax that often resembles coffee grounds.

As can happen with parasite infestation, secondary bacterial infection is not uncommon. Some cats may experience a loss of hair around the ears, and the waxy build up may cause additional irritation in the ear.

In more severe cases, excessive scratching may cause ulceration at the back of the ear. This may lead to permanent disfigurement.

Treating mites — To avoid damage to the ear, treatment for ear mites in cats should be done by a veterinarian and begins with cleaning out the ears.

The wax may be softened with mineral oil prior to flushing out the ears. This breaks up the wax and removes a large number of mites.

Following the ear cleaning, an ear mite treatment can be administered. In order to prevent recurrence of infestation by mites that have migrated away from the ear, flea control medication may be used. Over-the-counter remedies may work, but treatment will typically take longer than preparations from your veterinarian.

Since ear mites in cats can also be spread to humans and dogs, it is necessary to take some precautions. Physical contact with affected cats should be limited. In more difficult cases, your veterinarian may administer “off-label” drugs. This is a very treatable condition, although treatment may take some time in more severe instances.

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