What are ear mites?
The ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) is a surface living mite that lives on cats, dogs,
rabbits and ferrets. It is usually found in the ear canal but it can also live on the skin
surface. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on animals. Cats become infested
by direct contact with an infested animal. The mite is just visible to the naked eye
and can be seen as a white speck moving against a dark background.
What effect do ear mites have on cats?
Ear mites are the most common cause of feline ear disease. They are the second most
common ectoparasite found on cats; the most common is the flea. Infestations are
most common in kittens and young cats although cats of any age can be affected.
Clinical signs of infestation vary in severity from one cat to another and include
• Ear irritation causing scratching at the ears or head shaking
• A dark waxy discharge from the ear
• Areas of hair loss resulting from self-trauma - scratching or excessive grooming
• A crusted rash
• Aural hematoma - a large blood blister cause by rupture of small blood
vessels between the skin and cartilage of the ear usually on the inner aspect - caused
by scratching at the ears
Skin lesions most frequently affect the ear and surrounding skin but uncommonly
other areas of the body may be affected.
How are ear mite infestations diagnosed?
Typical clinical signs with a history of contagion between cats or cats and dogs
would suggest the involvement of ear mites. Ear mites cause over 50% of feline ear
disease. However other conditions can result in very similar clinical signs.
A veterinarian makes the diagnosis by seeing the mite. This is usually
straightforward and may be done either by examination of the cat's ears with an
otoscope or by microscopic examination of discharge from the ear. If the ears are
very sore, the cat may need to be sedated to allow the ears to be properly examined
How can I get rid of ear mites from my cat?
Three steps are required to successfully treat ear mites:
• Treat the ears of all affected and susceptible pets
• Treat the skin of all affected and susceptible pets
• Treat the indoor environment because the mite is capable of limited survival
Your veterinarian will advise you about which insecticidal products are suitable.
There are several ear medications licensed for the treatment of ear mites. There are
no products licensed for use on the house or on an animal's skin but many products
licensed for flea control are effective.
Your veterinarian may ask you to continue the treatment regime for at least 21 days
after which he may check the cat to ensure that the mites have been eliminated.
Do ear mites affect people?
Ear mites may cause an itchy rash on susceptible people if there are infested pets in
the household. Eradication of the mites from the pets will cure the problem.
This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest E.
Ward Jr., DVM.
© Copyright 2002 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license.
January 25, 2008.
Animal Clinic, PA