Does your cat seem to be scratching or itching his ears more than normal? Perhaps he shakes his head, is losing hair around his ears, or has scabs in or around his ears. These are all symptoms of ear mites, an annoying pest that can take up residence in your cat's ears. Read on to learn more about ear mite infestations in cats and what you can do about them.
What are ear mites and what causes an infestation?
Ear mites are tiny, microscopic insects. The same species of mites can infect both dogs and cats, though they are more common in cats. These parasites live in the ear canal, where they feed on wax and oily secretions from the cat's ear. Humans cannot contract ear mites, but they are easily passed from cat to cat. So your cat may have picked up ear mites when he came into contact with another cat that had them or when you brought home an item that came into contact with another cat who was infected.
What risks do ear mites present?
Since ear mites make the cat's ears very itchy, most cats rub and itch their ears until sores form. These sores can become infected. Sometimes, all of the rubbing and itching can cause a blood vessel inside the cat's ear to rupture, causing severe bleeding. Such ruptures must usually be repaired surgically.
How are ear mites treated?
If you think your cat may have ear mites, it is important to bring him to the vet. The vet can rule out other possible causes of itching, such as fleas, and can also make sure the ear mites have not caused any more serious issues.
If your cat is confirmed to have ear mites, your vet can place a specially prepared insecticide in the ears to get rid of them. You may need to apply a second dose of this medication at home a few weeks later. Your vet will show you how to place the drops in the ears properly. Your cat's symptoms should begin clearing up as soon as the medication is administered. Your vet may also clean out your cat's ears to remove the dirt and wax that's so appealing to ear mites.
How can you protect your cat from future ear mite infestations?
The best thing you can do is keep your cat away from other cats who may be infected. Do not let your cat go outside, and if you bring home any "used" cat items, launder them in hot water or wipe them down with a bleach solution as soon as you get them home to ensure they don't pass ear mites on to your cat.
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