Do you notice your cat scratching his ears frequently, then shaking his head afterward? If so, he may be suffering with ear mites. Ear mites are pesky parasites that live in cat’s ear canals. Although they most often impact kittens living in multi-cat environments such as shelters, ear mites can also be found in adult cats.
The most common symptom of ear mites is a cat that scratches his ears frequently, sometimes creating wounds around the ears because of the amount of scratching. Sometimes, cats with ear mites may develop an ear infection.
A complication that sometimes arises in cats suffering with ear mites is an aural hematoma, which is caused by the constant scratching and head shaking afterward. The hematoma develops when a blood vessel in the visible portion of the ear ruptures and fills the earflap with blood. This is extremely uncomfortable for cats and requires surgery to correct.
A diagnosis of ear mites is pretty easy. Cats with ear mites usually have a crusty black ear discharge. A veterinarian will take a sample of the discharge, review it under a microscope and will see live ear mites and eggs as well.
Although there are over the counter remedies available, they often aren’t as effective as those prescribed by a veterinarian. Over the counter medications usually kill live ear mites, but don’t kill the eggs. This often requires several doses over a few weeks to eliminate the mites totally.
Ear mites are very contagious, so if you have other cats it’s best to treat them too as a preventative measure. If the medication you’re using is one that’s applied directly into the ear, it’s best to clean your cat’s ears first. Otherwise, ear debris may prevent the medicine from penetrating to effectively kill the mites. Ear discharge can also cause secondary infection, which is another reason to clean the ears prior to giving medication.
Cats can be very difficult when it comes to having their ears cleaned, so it’s best to have it done at a veterinarian’s office. If they find a secondary infection during the cleaning, they can then prescribe the medications necessary to get rid of the mites and the infection.