Topical Treatments for Ear Mites in Cats: What You Need to Know

Topical Treatments for Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis, are tiny parasites that feed on ear wax and oils in a cat’s ear canal. These pesky creatures can cause severe irritation and inflammation. Ear mites are highly contagious between cats, so if your feline friend is scratching their ears relentlessly, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by the vet.

If your cat is shaking their head, scratching incessantly at their ears, or seems off balance, they may have an ear mite infestation. You may also notice a dark, waxy debris in the ear canal that looks like coffee grounds. This is ear mite excrement and dead skin cells. As the infestation worsens, the ear canal can become swollen and inflamed, and a secondary bacterial infection may develop.

Topical Treatments for Ear Mites in Cats

Diagnosing Ear Mites

To diagnose ear mites, your vet will use an otoscope to view the ear canal. The mites themselves are often visible, as are eggs and mite feces. A sample of the debris may be taken to view under a microscope, which will confirm the presence of ear mites.

The good news is, ear mites are easily treated. Your vet will likely prescribe topical medication, usually in the form of drops, to kill the mites. It may take up to a month of treatment to fully eliminate an infestation. In severe cases, oral medication or steroids may also be used to reduce inflammation. Be sure to treat any other cats in the household to prevent re-infestation. With proper treatment and home care, your cat can get quick relief from those pesky ear mites!

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Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats

If your cat is scratching at their ears constantly, shaking their head, or seems irritated, they may have ear mites. Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal and feed on wax and oils. An infestation can be uncomfortable for your cat and lead to inflammation and irritation.

1. Excessive Head Shaking and Scratching

The most common symptom of ear mites in cats is excessive scratching and head shaking. The ear mites cause an itchy irritation in the ears that leads to your cat trying to relieve it by scratching at their ears frequently and shaking their head. You may notice your cat tilting their head to the side, scratching at their ears with their hind legs, or rubbing their ears along the ground or furniture.

2. Dark, Crusty Discharge

Ear mites feed on wax and oils in the ear, and this can lead to a buildup of dark, crusty discharge that looks similar to coffee grounds. You may see your cat shaking bits of this discharge from their ears, or you may notice it when examining their ears. The discharge is made up of earwax, oils, dead mites and eggs. It has a distinctive foul odor due to a secondary infection.

3. Ear Inflammation and Irritation

An ear mite infestation left untreated can lead to inflammation of the outer and inner ear. The ear may become red and swollen, and the ear canal can become inflamed. This inflammation and irritation, combined with the incessant scratching, can lead to damage of the ear flap, blood vessels, and ear canal. In severe cases, you may notice sores or abrasions on the ears and ear flaps.

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If your cat is showing symptoms of an ear mite infestation like frequent head shaking, scratching at their ears, and dark discharge from the ears, it’s best to have them checked out by a vet as soon as possible. A vet can properly diagnose an ear mite infestation, and prescribe medication to eliminate the mites and allow your cat’s ears to heal.

Topical Ear Mite Treatments for Cats

When it comes to treating your cat’s ear mites, topical medications are very effective and easy to administer at home. Available as drops, creams or ointments, these treatments kill the mites and soothe inflammation in the ears.

1. Ear Drops

Ear drops are a popular choice for ear mite treatment. Products containing moxidectin, milbemycin, or selamectin are common. You place a few drops of the medication in each ear, usually once a week for 3-4 weeks. These drops work quickly to eliminate mites and eggs. However, some cats may not tolerate drops well, so you may need someone to help hold and calm your cat during application.

2. Revolution

Revolution is a popular topical treatment that comes as a liquid you apply to the skin on the back of the neck. It absorbs into the skin and enters the bloodstream, then circulates to the ears where it kills mites. You only need to apply Revolution once a month. Although very effective, it may take a few applications to fully clear up an ear mite infestation. Revolution can also be used to prevent re-infestation once the initial infestation has been treated.

3. Ear Creams and Ointments

Thick creams or ointments, like those containing permethrin, lindane or ivermectin are also options for ear mites. You apply the medication inside each ear, coating the entire inner surface. Creams typically require once weekly application for 3-4 weeks. Ointments may only need to be applied once. These treatments are very soothing and healing. However, some cats dislike the greasy feeling from creams and ointments. You need to take care to not overapply, which could lead to irritation.

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With any topical treatment, be sure to also thoroughly clean your cat’s ears to remove built up debris. Follow up with your vet in 4 weeks to confirm the mites have been eliminated. Prevent re-infestation by regularly checking and cleaning your cat’s ears.