Ear mites can be observed with the naked eye, but the most noticeable indication of ear mite infection in felines is the dark colored wax and mite debris that accumulates inside the ear canal of the infected animal. In more severe infections, small granules of dried blood may be observed, and the tissue around the ears will be red and inflamed. Infected animals may also be observed pawing repeatedly at their ears, or rubbing their heads along floors or other surfaces. Most cats with ear mites will shake their heads frequently and hold their ears flat against their head.
Ear mites are small parasites that live in the ears of cats and other animals, and are the cause of some of the most frequently diagnosed feline ear conditions. They are highly contagious and can easily be spread from one animal to another. Although they can live anywhere on the body, they are most commonly found in the ears, since most animals lack the ability to adequately clean their ear canals. The condition is much more common among outdoor cats and kittens.
Although ear mites can cause significant damage if left untreated, there are a variety of safe and effective methods that veterinarians can use to address the condition. Treatment usually begins with a thorough cleaning of the infected ear, followed by application of one of several available insecticides. These medications are toxic to the mites, but safe for the infected animal. Selamectin, ivermectin, fipronil and milbemycin are some of the most frequently prescribed drugs.
Treatment should be continued for two to four weeks, and be combined with regular bathing to remove any mites that might be hiding elsewhere on the cats body. Home remedies such as baby oil also have been proven effective against ear mites.
The most common species of ear mite is Otodectes cynotis, an eight-legged, light-colored microscopic creature that feeds on earwax and other debris found in the ear canals. They move physically from host to host when animals make contact with each other, and otherwise spend their entire life cycles from larvae to adulthood within the ear. They live for approximately three weeks and reproduce rapidly, and the typical infection can involve many generations of mites. They reproduce most rapidly among animals in confined quarters, which can lead to high rates of infections in facilities that house large numbers of animals. Ear mites also have been found on dogs, foxes, ferrets and hedgehogs.
If left untreated, ear mite infestations can lead to a variety of complications. Infected animals frequently scratch at the skin around their ears, which can lead to severe tissue damage in some cases. Bacterial infections can result from damage to tissue, and hearing can be severely damaged. In some cases, debris can build up to the point where it blocks the ear canal completely. Untreated infections can lead to an ear condition called otitis externa, which can progress to the middle ear and cause loss of balance, coordination and hearing. Prompt veterinary care is essential for animals infected with ear mites.
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