Ear Mites in Pets

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are parasites that live in the ear canal of animals. The most commonly seen species in veterinary practice is Otodectes cynotis, which lives in the external ear canal of dogs and cats (responsible for roughly 90% of ear mite infections seen in cats). A brownish, waxy substance accumulates in the ear (looks like coffee grounds). Animals scratch frequently at the ears and shake their head. Ear mites appear as tiny white dots moving around in the ear canal.

How did my pet get ear mites?

Ear mites are spread by physical contact. Another animal with ear mites that has come in contact with your pet can pass them along.

What harm comes from ear mites?

Ear mites can cause infections of the middle ear and inflammation. Ear mites cause intense itchiness, which is why infected animals are constantly scratching at their ears. As a result of the scratching and shaking of the head, auricular hematomas (blood filled pockets in the ear) may develop, which require surgery to drain.

Can ear mites be passed onto my children, myself or other pets?

Because mites are transmitted by physical contact, all household pets are likely to get them if one pet becomes infected. Humans have been reported to develop skin rashes but overall it is extremely unlikely to experience any symptoms as a result of a pet infected with ear mites.

How do I get rid of ear mites?

There are over-the-counter topical medications available at most pet supply stores, however, these do not kill mite eggs and therefore treatment can last for up to 30 days. Single-use products are available through your veterinarian, which usually eliminate ear mites after just one dose. The most common of these products, and the one we recommend at RAH, is Revolution. A thorough ear cleaning is necessary to get rid of the waxy brown debris (and as many mites as possible) at the start of treatment.

How quickly does it take for ear mite treatment to work?

The ear mite life cycle takes 21 days. To ensure all mite eggs have been eliminated treatment needs to continue for a minimum of 3 weeks. If using a single use product such as Revolution one dose is often enough to get rid of an ear mite infection but it will still take up to three or four weeks for the infection to completely clear up.

How do I prevent against ear mites?

Ear mites are most prevalent among outdoor cats. This does not mean that your indoor cat won’t ever get ear mites –remember that just one chance encounter with an infected animal is all it takes! Though ear mites are less common among dogs, they are still susceptible, especially if they live in a household with an outdoor cat. There is no full-proof way to avoid having your pet come in contact with ear mites. The best preventative measure is to use a product like Revolution on a regular basis (once a month, year round). This will not only ensure your pet never endures an ear mite infection but also protects it against a variety of other parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites like roundworms.

Why does my pet have re-occurring ear mite issues?

If you’ve been treating diligently for ear mites and find your pet still has itchy, inflamed ears and is constantly shaking its head there could be a number of things going on. First, be sure that the infection was in fact ear mites not a bacterial or fungal infection. Bring your pet in to see a vet if you suspect ear mites to ensure a proper diagnosis. Second, be aware that bacterial and fungal infections can develop secondary to ear mites; you may have successfully rid your pet of the mites, but now he/she may require treatment of a secondary ear infection. Third, did all household pets get treated? All pets must be treated at the same time or they will simply re-infect each other. Finally, if you are trying a topical medication that requires daily application consider switching to a single-dose medication.