When Scratching Is Not a Good Idea: Ear Mites
“When the itch is inside the boot, scratching outside provides little consolation” ~ Old Chinese Proverb.
Although ear mites are extremely itchy, they generally do not infect an area that cannot be reached. The problem is that continuously scratching the ear for that bit of consolation may cause a severe secondary bacterial skin infection. The best way to provide any lasting relief for the itch that accompanies ear mites is by actually treating to cure the underlying condition itself.
Ear mites are quite tiny and they resemble microscopic ticks. Rabbits, ferrets, dogs and cats are susceptible to this infection; however, cats are the most commonly infected. Ear mites do not burrow into the skin but derive their sustenance from tissue and ear wax causing discomfort, irritation, and itching. Mites that do burrow into the skin are responsible for causing mange. The life cycle of the ear mites consists of 4 stages:
1st Stage: Eggs from the female are deposited in the ear canal. The female mites generally lay several eggs a day for their entire adult life.
2nd Stage: The eggs hatch and become larvae. The larvae feed for about 4 days then, during the 5th day, they rest as they molt in the nymph phase.
3rd Stage: One stage of nymph (protonymph) molts into the deutonymph after feeding for 4 days. The deutonymph has the ability to begin mating.
4th Stage: The mite at this stage appears white, is mature, and feeds off of skin tissue debris and wax in the ear.
Ear mites are extremely contagious between pets that are in contact with each other. They generally come off one pet and climb onto the other. Fortunately, ear mites do not seem to affect humans although some people may develop rashes.
When an animal has ear mites, they will scratch around and inside the ear as well as shaking their head. The infection produces what has been described as looking like “coffee ground” discharge. This is generally caused from the dried blood and crusts from the mites and debris due to the scratching. Cats that have ear mites sometimes show a scratching movement of the back leg when the ear canal area is rubbed. This reflex is rarely seen in cats that do not have mites. Other symptoms of ear mite infection may include fever, walking in strange patterns such as circles, and loss of balance. A veterinarian is best qualified to make a proper diagnosis.
Luckily there are many treatment options for animals with ear mites. A product called Eradimite Ear Mite Treatment does not require a prescription and contains pyrethrins that work as an insecticide to kill ear mites. The way to use this product is to apply 10 drops to each ear and massage in well. This treatment is repeated every 2 days until the condition is cleared. Mita-Clear is also over-the-counter, and is extremely effective at killing both adult and larval stages of ear mites. This product comes as a convenient lotion that is generally applied to the affected area after the ear has been cleaned by a separate ear cleaning solution such as the 1800-PetMeds Ear Cleaning Solution. Another treatment which is also applied topically is called Tresaderm which contain thiabendazole. This medication does require a prescription and kills yeas and mites as well as their eggs. Tresaderm also contains an antibiotic to help treat any secondary infection that might have been caused by the constant scratching. Revolution for cats is also a prescription product that may be used for the treatment as well as for the prevention of ear mites. Selamectin, the active ingredient in Revolution, is effective against ear mites as well as heartworms, fleas, roundworms and hookworms.
There are other treatments that may be used for ear mites that your veterinarian may choose to recommend or prescribe. It is extremely important not to make any assumptions about ear mites on your own, and always take your pet to be evaluated by a veterinarian. Even though ear mites seem easy to identify, the discharge could be a sign of a more serious infection. If ear mites are diagnosed in a multi-pet household, all pets will most likely have to be treated to prevent the back and forth spreading of the mites. After treatment is completed, it is also important to take the pet in for a recheck to ensure that the infection has been totally eradicated and to make sure there is no secondary bacterial infection that still remains untreated. Also, don’t hesitate to call your PetMeds pharmacist who is always more than happy to answer any of your medication related questions or concerns.