What is Ear Mites?
Ear mites are very common crab-like parasites that infest both dogs and cats. These tiny mites usually live on the surface of the skin of the ear canals, head, neck and even the bodies of pets. They feed on the tissue debris and secretions caused by mite waste products and resemble coffee grounds. The mites cause your pet to itch profusely, so if you see him shaking his head or scratching his ears, he may be infested with ear mites.
They are extremely contagious and frequently spread to other pets within the household. Ear mites are also often one of the primary causes of ear infections and inflammation. If left untreated, ear mites may result in serious complications such as a middle ear disorder for your dog or cat. They can affect pets of any age, but are most common in young pets.
The common symptoms and signs of ear mites include:
- Shaking their heads
- Scratching the ears
- Abnormal odor from the ears
- Buildup of earwax
- Thick, crusty brownish to black discharge that resembles coffee granules
- Fresh or dried blood in the ear canals
What Causes Ear Mites?
Ear mites are caused by a tiny mite called Otodectes cynotis that lives on the surface of the skin on the ear canal and on the debris of tissue and secretions from the ear canal. As these ear mites feed off and move about the ear canal, severe irritation and inflammation is caused.
It can also affect the other areas of the body including the tail, neck and back. They are highly contagious and can easily spread to other pets within the household – mother animals often transmit ear mites to their young. They seldom infest humans.
Diagnosing Ear Mites
The diagnosis of ear mites is based on the symptoms as a thorough examination of the ear. Your veterinarian will use a lighted otoscope that magnifies and draws the ear mites out of the ear wax. A microscopic examination of the ear discharge may also have to be performed if the ear mites are not visible on the otoscopic examination.
Help for Ear Mites
It is important to treat ear mites immediately as they are a major cause of ear infection. A number of commercial products containing insecticide such as pyrethrin are available in the form of dips, sprays and shampoos and have proven to be quite effective in treating ear mites that live all over the body.
Your vet will first clean out your pet’s ears and may also prescribe ear preparations as well as topical medications such as Fipronil (Frontline), selamectin (Revolution) or Ivermectin to treat the skin. Treatment may need to be used for two to four weeks for all the mites to be killed.
Natural and holistic treatments have also proven to be highly effective in cleaning the ears and getting rid of ear mites. Treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies have been specifically formulated to treat and prevent ear infections as well as ear mites without the side effects of commercial synthetic pesticides or prescription drugs.
Herbs such as Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil), Rosmarinus officinale (Rosemary), Calendula officinalis (Marigold) and Verbascum thapsus soothes and conditions ear passages to prevent itchy ears and maintains and supports ear health.