What are ear mites and how do I fix it?

Most folks have heard of ear mites and many have treated pets with itchy, red ears for this common parasite.  In our critters, they can be like fleas — easy to pass around and difficult to get rid of.  Here’s the skinny on what an ear mite is and what the heck we have to do to get rid of them.

Ear mites are tiny parasites that up close (under the microscope) resembles a tick:


Ear mite under the microscope.

These guys live inside the pet’s ear canal and eat ear wax for nutrition.  There are males and females, who mate and lay eggs.  Eggs hatch into larvae that grow up inside the ear canal and change into adults over three weeks’ time.  The adults mate and the cycle continues.  Adults live up to 2 months inside the ear.

Ear mites can be extremely irritating to the pet; they can fill the ear canal with debris and cause ear infections.  Some cats will claw the outside of their ear with their back legs and give themselves wounds because the ears are so annoyed.

Meanwhile, the cat or dog is socializing with other pets inside the house or other critters outside and the mites pass easily between them.  This means that all of the critters need to be treated to get rid of the problem.

Ear mites with otoscopy

This is what we see with our otoscope. Little white dots that are crawling around the ear canal, wreaking havoc and just generally annoying everybody.

There are a few different treatments available.  There are medications that are applied to the back of the cat and are absorbed by the skin that kill mites for 30 days.  These work well if the ear is properly cleaned out prior to application (Revolution, Advantage Multi).  Other treatments are applied directly to the inside of the ear; a couple of products require an ear cleaning and one application (Milbemite, Acarexx).  Others require an ear cleaning and application of the product every day for a few weeks (Tresaderm).

For critters that go outdoors, a topical Revolution or Advantage Multi can be the preferred method for treatment because if applied every 30 days it will both treat and prevent ear mite issues.dscn0056



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