If you notice that your cat is scratching his ears or shaking his head often, unfortunately he may have ear mites.  Ear mites in cats are parasitic mites that infect the ears of cats; they can also affect dogs.  They usually live in the ear canals, but can also live in other parts of the body.  The pests can cause ear infections and other complications, so it is important to catch them early and seek treatment.

Ear Mite Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of ear mites in cats are scratching the ears and shaking the head.  You may notice that your cat’s ears appear flattened or laid back.  This is because he may be in pain, so take caution if you want to examine the ears.  Often times, cats with ear mites have a foul odor coming from the ears.  If you notice any of these symptoms, it is recommended to take your cat to a veterinarian.

Ear mites are very contagious and can be passed on from cat to cat or cat to dog.  If you have more than one pet, you should probably treat them all at the same time even if they don’t show symptoms.  Humans cannot be affected by ear mites, though, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Ear Mite Treatment:
If you don’t treat the cat ear mites quickly, the cat could damage its own ears by scratching them, leading to bleeding and possibly hematomas.  Untreated ear mite infections can result in damage to the ear canals and eardrums, leaving deformity of the ears and possible deafness.  It is also common for cats to develop secondary bacterial or yeast infections. 

To treat ear mites, your veterinarian may prescribe an oily insecticide for the ear canals.  You must clean the “black ear gunk” from the ear canal daily to ensure the medication reaches the mites.  To do this, use a cotton ball.  Pet supply stores also carry ear mite treatments, but it would be best to talk to your veterinarian before trying any of these.  Continue treatment techniques until the vet says to stop.  If you stop immediately when the ear mites or gone, they could come back.  You want to make sure that the infection is completely gone.

Outdoor cats are more likely to be affected by ear mites than indoor cats.  If your cat goes outside often, you may want to treat their ears monthly with a prescription ear ointment applied to the skin; you can talk to your veterinarian about what the best thing to do for prevention is.  Ear mites in cats cannot always be prevented, but it is best to try to keep your cat as clean and groomed as possible to reduce the risk. 

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