There are several types of mites that can invade the ear canals
of dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens. The same mite can affect
both dogs and cats. In the puppy and kitten, the most common ear
mite is Otodectes cynotis. It is not important in the
diagnosis and treatment of ear mites to identify the exact scientific
type of mite. Regardless of the exact mite species involved, we
usually refer to mites of the ear canal simply as ear mites. Contrary
to popular belief, however, is the fact that ear mites can live
anywhere on the animal's body.
How are the mites transmitted?
Ear mites are extremely contagious. They can be passed from the
mother animal to her offspring. Additionally, the mites are easily
spread to other pets within the household including cats, dogs,
rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets, etc. Humans are not
What are the symptoms?
Puppies with ear mites will scratch around their ears and/or shake
their heads. The amount of scratching and shaking depends on the
severity of the mite infestation. With more advanced infestation,
the ear canals will bleed and either fresh or dried blood will
appear inside the canal. Dried blood resembles coffee grounds.
If you peer into your pet's ears and notice a build-up of a material
that looks like 'coffee grounds,' then your pet probably has ear
mites, although a bacterial and/or yeast infection is also a possibility.
Ear mites are very common, but still serious. Left untreated,
they severely damage the ear canals and eardrum and can cause
permanent hearing loss.
If mites spread out of the ears to other areas of the body, the
animal may or may not scratch the area.
What is the management?
Various commercial ear preparations are available to kill the
mites. These products contain an insecticide, usually pyrethrin.
Ear products without an insecticide will not kill the mites. Ivermectin,
fipronil (Frontline), and selamectin (Revolution) have also been
used by some veterinarians. (Milbemycin (Interceptor) and Acarexx,
a form of ivermectin have recently been approved for the treatment
of ear mites in cats.) Depending upon the medication used, the
ears may need to be treated two to four weeks until all mites
are killed. As previously mentioned, many ear mites live all over
the body, including the feet and tail. These areas should also
be treated. Most products designed for fleas and ticks such as
sprays, dips, and shampoos, which contain one of the above ingredients
will be effective. Be sure to use products approved for use on
dogs, and to treat the tail. This is because while sleeping, the
tail is curled around the puppy's body where it lies in close
contact with the ear. Because mites are very easily transferred
between pets, it is best if all pets in the household receive
simultaneous treatment. Most types of mites do not survive long
off the pets, so the treatment of the house and yard is usually
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