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What are Ear Mites?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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Ear mites are parasitic organisms which infest the ears of cats, dogs, and other furry pets. Left untreated, an ear mite infestation can have some serious consequences, including rupture of the ear drum, so it is imperative to treat ear mites as soon as signs of them are observed. Pet owners should also be aware that ear mites are highly infectious, although humans are typically left unmolested by ear mites.

These microscopic organisms look like small crabs, and for your pet, they are extremely annoying. Early signs of ear mite infestation include frequent head shaking and scratching around the ears. Animals may scratch so much that they draw blood, and an unpleasant-smelling discharge may develop. Another ear mite tip off is the appearance of a substance which looks like coffee grounds in the ears.

The most common form of ear mite is Otodectes cynotis. The treatment for dog ear mites and cat ear mites, regardless of species, is the same: a pesticide is applied to the ear to kill the mites, and the application is repeated several times afterwards to ensure that all of the mites and their eggs have been killed. Failure to follow through on a treatment series for canine or feline ear mites can result in a recurrence of the infestation.

If you suspect that your dog or cat has ear mites, it is a good idea to go to the veterinarian. The veterinarian can confirm that the problem really is ear mites, and not another type of infection. He or she can also clean your animal's ears to remove debris and mites; the vet may also apply a soothing lotion to ease itching and soreness. This will make the animal more comfortable, and increase healing time. Once the animal's ears have been cleaned, you will be given a topical or oral medication to use to treat ear mites, or the vet may use an injection of medication.

When topical medications are used to treat cat and dog ear mites, it is important to ensure that they are worked thoroughly into the ear. Many animals do not appreciate it when people mess with their ears, so it's a good idea to work slowly and patiently, and to wrap the animal in a towel to keep him or her calm. After an ear mite treatment, offering a treat as a reward is recommended, so that the animal will associate a positive outcome with the experience.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By DoggyPiles — On Jan 19, 2009

Ear mites crawl into a pet’s ear and they are on the hunt for ear wax or cerumen. The mites then irritate the ear to the point that the lining would produce serum, which is actually a form of clear blood. When the serum mixes with the cerumen and the ear mite’s fluid, they form a black or brown substance. The substance is so thick, it sometimes can close of your pet’s ear canal. The result of this blockage can eventually cause serious bacterial or fungal infections.

In order to keep ear mites away from your pet, there are a few precautionary measures that one must take. It is important to fully complete an ear mite treatment regimen, even if signs of ear mites are no longer present, usually about a month. This time period would represent the three week life cycle of the ear mites. Failure to complete the full course can cause the nymphs to develop into adulthood and later multiply. This is a method known as interrupting the ear mite’s cycle.

If you have multiple pets, the best thing to do when you discover that one of them has developed an ear mite infection, is check, and treat them all. As stated before, ear mites are never confined to the animal’s ear. As a matter of fact it isn’t unusual for them to be found on the neck and other parts of your animal. For treating this situation, you should use a Medicated Pet Wash on your pet and this typically remove any mites on your pets coat and treat for any skin irritations from the mites.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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