What do I need to know about Ear Mites?

Otodectes cynotis (ear mite) is the most common mange mite in cats and dogs, and most often seen in cats. They are tiny white parasites that live in the ear canal, and can drive your pet crazy! They are highly contagious and can infest whole litters of puppies and kittens. When a pet is diagnosed with ear mites, all in-contact pets in the home should be treated. They cannot be passed to humans.

Adult mites do not burrow but live on the surface of the skin in the outer ear canal. Signs of ear mite infection are scratching or shaking of the head, brown crusty debris (a combination of blood, wax, and mite feces) in the ear, and even bleeding in and around the ear (usually as a result of incessant scratching). The amount of debris does not always relate to the severity of clinical signs. Mite saliva is an irritant to the skin, and having things crawling in your ears isn’t fun either!

Ododectes cynotis develop from an egg, to a larva, to two nymph stages, and finally mature into an adult. They take about 3 weeks to develop into adults, and at this stage is when they infect host animals. Diagnosis is done by both visual inspection with an otoscope, and by taking an ear swab. The debris from the swab is placed on a slide and looked at under the microscope. Mites can be seen crawling around, and eggs are often present. Ask your veterinarian for a peak under the microscope if you dare!

Treatment: The ears need to be thoroughly cleaned at the start of treatment to remove the majority of debris and mites. A spot on treatment is then applied according to your veterinarian’s instructions, and repeated in one month.