Ear mites are microscopic bugs that live in and around your pet’s ears. They live on the secretions and dead skin cells in the ear canal. The mites lay their eggs on the pet, which go on to hatch and continue the infestation. Ear mites are highly contagious between dogs and cats and some pocket pets. They generally spread from one pet to another through close contact and shared sleeping areas. As a rule, they don’t tend to bother humans.
How do I know if my pet has Ear Mites?
In the early stages of infestation, your pet may not show any signs of the mites. As their numbers grow and they do more damage to the lining of the ear, the pets tend to scratch their ears and shake their heads. The lining of the ear responds to the presence of the mites by increasing their wax production. This excess wax, combined with the excretions of the mites tends to look dark brown to black. Sometimes you can see this exudates in your pet’s ear. Keep in mind that the mere presence of a discharge in the ear does not mean that your pet has ear mites (it could be an infection, a foreign body reaction or even a tumor causing the discharge).
How do our veterinarians diagnose ear mites?
During the physical exam, the doctor will look in the ears of your pet with a hand held otoscope or a video-otoscope to look for the mites. If they are there in large numbers, we might be able to see them moving around in the ear. If there are only a few of them, we might need to examine the debris in the ear under the microscope to make the diagnosis. If we see any mites, or even their eggs on the slide, we know the pet is infected.
How does our veterinary team treat ear mites?
In order to treat ear mites, first we have to clean out the debris in the ear canal. Depending on the amount of debris (and sometimes it can fill the entire ear) and the personality of the cat, this procedure may require sedation or anesthesia. We clean the ear canal using irrigation solutions and de-waxing agents. Once we have cleaned out the ears, we can instill medication into the ear that will continue to kill the mites and sooth the painful ears. Because mites can also live around the head, we typically use an injectable drug called Ivermectin to kill the mites as well. Many pets will scratch their ears to the point of bleeding and we may choose to administer cortisone by injection and/or pills to help reduce the itchiness.
At home, we have you clean out the ears 2-3 times per weeks with an irrigating solution such as Epi-Otic or Dermapet. Click here for instruction in ear cleaning. This keeps the wax and debris out of the canal so that the medication can do its job. In addition, you will instill medicated drops (typically Tresaderm) into the ears twice daily for 10 – 14 days. If there are other pets in the house, they all need to be treated or they may pass the mites back to your pet. In order to reduce contamination from mites in the environment, it is advisable to wash all bedding in hot water.
What is the prognosis for this problem?
If treated properly, most mite infestations will be cleared up in a couple of weeks. Treatment failures generally occur from people not treating other pets in the house, inconsistent application of the drugs, or stopping treatment before the full 10 days are up.
If you have any questions regarding this, or any other problems concerning your pet’s health care, please feel free to contact us at (909) 980-3575.