The ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) lives on cats , dogs , rabbits , & ferrets ! It’s usually found in the ear canal but it can also live on the skin. Ear mites are highly contagious & pets become infested by direct contact with other pets. The mite is barely visible to the naked eye & may be seen as a tiny white speck !
It takes 3 weeks for a mite to develop from an egg to an adult, going through a total of 5 stages. Adult ear mites live about 2 months, during which time they continually reproduce. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on the host animal, although mites can survive for a limited time in the environment.
Ear mites are a common cause of ear infection, although other ear conditions may cause similar clinical signs. They are the 2nd most common external parasite found on pets (2nd to the Flea)
Infestations are a common in puppies & kittens, although pets of any age can be affected.
Clinical signs vary & may include:
1. Ear irritation, leading to scratching at the ears/head shaking
2. A dark waxy or crusty discharge from the ear
3. Hair loss resulting from self-trauma caused by scratching or excessive grooming
4. A crusted rash around/in the ear.
5. An ear hematoma (a large blood blister on the ear, caused by rupture of small blood vessels between the skin cartilage) occurs due to the scratching at the ears.
6. Skin lesions most frequently affect the ear & surrounding skin but occasionally other areas of the body may be affected.
A diagnosis is made by observing the mite with an otoscope & by microscopic exam of ear swabs.
Your vet will advise you about which treatments are suitable. No medication can penetrate the eggs or pupae, so treatment is directed at killing the adult & larval forms.
Ear mites may cause a temporary itchy rash on susceptible people if there are infested pets in the household, although this is considered to be a rare event. Eradication of the mites from the pets will cure the problem !