Ear Mites in our cats and dogs

Mum, Daughter, Cat, Dog in Grass

They’re barely visible to the naked eye but the tiny mites that can set up camp in our cats’ and dogs’ ears often lead to severe irritation and health problems.

There are several types of mite that can blight our pets but the most common is Otodectes cnotis. Despite being hard to see, they can cause inflammation and infection around the internal and external ear canal - leading to more serious skin or ear infections if left untreated.

Parasites are drawn to the waxes and oils found in the ear, as they provide an abundant food source. Unfortunately the mites can breed quickly, causing pain and discomfort to their host.

These mites tend to live along the surface of the ear canal and can be identified by the thick reddish brown crusts and scales that can be seen in the ear when they are present. Mites are also happy to settle on the neck, ear, rump and tail of dogs and cats.

Some pets may have ear mites and show no signs of discomfort, while other animals become hypersensitive to them. An allergic reaction occurs and in some cases the ears become so itchy that the dog or cat may scratch itself badly on the outer surface of the ear.

Symptoms of ear mites in cats and dogs include:

• Head shaking
• Excessive scratching and rubbing of ears
• Brown or black waxy secretion
• Inflammation of the ear
• Scratches or scabs near the ear
• Debris in the ear that resembles instant coffee powder
• Strong odour
• Hair loss and dermatitis

If you suspect your pet might have ear mites it is important to take them to a vet for accurate diagnosis. It is best to avoid self-diagnosis, as certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the symptoms caused by ear mites.

Mites spread easily from one pet to another through direct contact, so if one animal is found to have ear mites then all the animals in the home should be treated for them. Treatment is often quick and effective.

Remember to clean bedding before returning it to your treated pet and take advice from your vet on inspecting and cleaning your pet’s ears to try and minimise the risk of the problem recurring.

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