Ear mites live in the ears of animals, typically cats, ferrets, rabbits, and sometimes dogs. We can’t get ear mites but our pets can be infected with them easily. Brief physical contact with an animal that has them gives some mites enough time to move to the uninfected animal and begin making a home in the ears.
The signs your cat has ear mites are excessive scratching of the ears to the point where tufts of hair are missing or there are red patches. Ear mites tickle as they move around and you’ll see excessive large amounts of black or dark brown material in the ears that is drier and crumbly compared to ear wax.
Ear mites are very common in cats and cause inflammatory conditions similar to bacterial infections, in more severe cases your cat may have skin problems around the neck, tail, and could experience deafness if not detected early on. Initially, ear mites are just uncomfortable to your cat and aren’t life threatening. They just tickle as they move around and are parasites so they feed off your cat’s blood and some of the dark crumbly discharge is blood mixed with wax, dirt, and other materials.
Treating ear mites usually means a trip the vet where they can take a sample of the discharge and look under a microscope to properly diagnose that it is mites and then decide which type of treatment is best. There are numerous products available for getting rid of ear mites that are topical treatments that you put into your cat’s ears. Many are topical treatments that are placed in the ears for a set number of days. There are also treatments that are placed between the shoulder blades of your cat similar to flea and tick medication. Ivermectin is a powerful anti-parasite medication and has proven to be the most effective medication. There are also derivatives of ivermectin, these are selamectin and moxidectin.
After the ear mite infection has been treated, the ears often need a good cleaning and flushing to remove all the debris and dead mites. An over-the-counter ear cleaner for cats or a home remedy of a little vinegar and water will do the trick. The best way to prevent ear mites is to talk to your vet about what products are available that treat mites as well as fleas and ticks. Revolution and Advantage Multi are two products that has shown to take care of mites as well as other parasites.
If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, keeping parasites at bay is important for his health and your wallet!