Ear Mites in your Pets

Ear mites are a problem found frequently among cats, dogs, and other pets. These tiny parasites do not burrow as most mites do.  They reside within the ear canal itself, feeding off of wax and oils.  Ear mites are highly contagious and spread easily with any physical contact.  Although these parasites can be seen, they are easy to miss.  In fact, many owners do not realize that their pet even has ear mites.  Generally, the resulting infections are relatively mild.  If left untreated, however, hypersensitivity may lead to further complications.

The life cycle of an ear mite is usually between three to four weeks.  During this time a female ear mite will lay about five eggs per day, each day.  Eggs hatch within three to four days of being laid.  Mites then crawl around inside the ear canal, feeding on earwax and other debris found in the ear.  As ear mite infestations progress, your pet’s ears become increasingly irritated.  Such irritation causes the lining of the ear to secrete excess oils and serum.  As a result, a thick, dark, crusty substance forms within the ear, often times producing a foul odor. Irritation and blockage of airflow can lead to bacterial or fungal infections.  If allowed to progress further, the resulting discharge may become so thick that it closes off the ear canal.
There are many symptoms that may suggest your pet suffers from ear mites. Because mite infestations usually cause external ear canal infections, irritation and discomfort are the most obvious indications.  Other symptoms include red and swollen ears, or a crusty residue around the ears.  You may notice that your pet is scratching or shaking his or her head excessively.  Constant scratching may then lead to sores and abrasions around the affected ear(s). Luckily, there are preventative measures that can be taken. 
There are many over-the-counter medications available to treat ear mites.  These certainly help, but like fleas, ear mites have become resistant to these weaker treatments.  Prescription medications for the treatment of ear mites have proven to be much more effective and are available through your veterinarian.  Such treatments include Acarexx, Revolution, and Tresaderm.  Acarexx is an approved Ivermectin ear mite treatment for cats that is designed to be 100% effective with a single dose. Another product proven effective for cats is Revolution, a topical flea control product that also controls heartworms, intestinal worms, mange, and ear mites. Tresaderm is an ear medication for dogs and cats that uses a combination of chemicals to treat ear infections caused by bacteria, yeast, or ear mites.  Treatment usually includes cleaning the debris from the infected ears with a quality ear cleanser and/or medication. This involves filling the ear canal with the solution and massaging the base of the ear.  This motion helps to break-up and dislodge build-up of earwax and discharge.  Residual debris can then be removed using a cotton ball.  Your veterinarian may also suggest the use of topical ointments if your pet’s skin has been affected by excess scratching. 
The best way to prevent a dog or cat from developing an ear mite infestation is to prevent it from coming into contact with affected animals. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  Simple preventative steps can be taken, however, to keep these parasites under control.  Preventative methods include drying your pet’s ears after bathing, keeping your pet on a heartworm preventative that also attacks ear mites, and checking the ears regularly for foreign matter, either at home or at the vet.  Take these steps to prevent ear mite infestations and help keep your pet healthy and happy.

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.