Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs: What to Look for and How to Treat Them

By Katie, RVT

Our clinic sees ear mites fairly regularly and often owners don’t know their pets are infected because they are microscopic.

If you suspect your pet has ear mites, it is crucial to get them to the vet to have their ears swabbed and check under a microscope as soon as possible. Female ear mites can lay up to five eggs per day in your pet’s ears and mites live 21 days. That can add up to a lot of mites in a short period of time.

In this video, we were able to locate five ear mites in one swab – two that are breeding and one baby, so it is already an advanced case.

Keep reading to find out the treatment for ear mites and what an untreated case of ear mites can lead to.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are a type of ectoparasite that are fairly common in household pets. Ear mites are called otodectic mange.

The most common type of otodectic mange is otodectes cynotis, which eat skin debris and oil in your pet’s ear to survive.

How do pets get ear mites?

Ear mites are more common in cats than dogs, are highly contagious and are passed on by contact with other infected animals. Therefore, it is more commonly found in outdoor cats, particularly those that are in close contact with other cats.

Ear mites rarely spread to humans, but can cause a short, transient rash.

Dogs and cats can pass ear mites on to their kittens and puppies, so be sure if you are getting a new pet to check their ears for signs of ear mites, particularly those being raised in an outdoor environment.

Ear mites are found year-round, but are more commonly found in the spring and summer.

What are the signs of ear mites?

Inflammation, irritation and itchiness will lead your pet to scratch at their ears and shake their head more frequently.

You may see chunky black discharge in your pet’s ears that looks like coffee grounds.

Ear mites effects

Ear mites, if left untreated spread, causing more of the black discharge formed by blood from your pet’s ears, the mites’ feces and natural ear discharge. This black granular discharge can clog your dog or cat’s ears, rupture their eardrum and cause deafness.

Your pet can also damage their ear or the surrounding area by scratching too vigorously or shake their head so hard they cause a hematoma, a ruptured blood vessel in their ear that may also require treatment.

What is the treatment for ear mites?

First you need to bring your cat or dog to the vet to have an ear swab performed. If ear mites are found, an oral or topical treatment will be prescribed.

We don’t recommend some of the natural remedies found on the Internet, such as drowning the mites in oil or using eucalyptus or tea tree oil. It would take a lot of oil to drown mites and could further clog up your pet’s ear. Eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil are toxic to pets if they lick it.

Mites might be driving your pet crazy!

Since humans don’t usually get ear mites, it is hard to know what they might be going through. However, one physician took it upon himself to find out. Dr. Robert Lopez self-infected himself with ear mites and in 1993 wrote an article about his experience for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Needless to say, he found the noise and pain excruciating. Click here to read more about what Dr. Lopez went through.

No one wants their pet to suffer with ear mites like Dr. Lopez, so if you live in the Calgary area and suspect your pet could have ear mites, please give us a call at 403-615-8016 to make an appointment have your dog or cat’s ear swabbed.