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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Ear Mites

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Ear mites are most known for infecting cats or kittens, but ear mites can also live on dogs, ferrets, and rabbits. Ear mites are also known as Otodectes cynotis.

They are very contagious and get transmitted from direct contact with an affected animal. Ear mites can only survive a limited time in the environment. Ear mites are not considered to be a zoonotic disease meaning transmitted from animals
to humans. They can be quite difficult to see by the naked eye although I have frequently seen clumps of ear debris moving due to a high ear mite load. Ear mites are the second most common ectoparasite in pets behind fleas.                  

Signs of ear mites include, scratching their ears, shaking their head, hair loss or dried blood around the ears from scratching excessively, and dark debris in the ears. Ear mites are determined by a veterinarian by doing an ear swab and observing the mites under the microscope. Solutions are usually straight
forward with a prescription medication. The veterinary staff will also usually start by cleaning the debris from the cat’s ears to allow the medication to work better.

These medications can’t kill the egg, so they are targeted at killing the adult and larval forms of the mite. Usually, the veterinarian will want to re-check the ears sometime after the initial treatment to make sure the infestation is completely resolved.

Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.