• Adele Danskin

Ear Mites in Cats

Otodectes cynotis mites, most commonly called ear mites, are a common and relatively mild external parasite infection. Complications may arise when an animal has an immune hypersensitivity reaction that results in intense irritation of the external ear.

Cats that are afflicted with ear mites will typically scratch at the ears excessively and shake their heads, even pulling out their own hair and drawing blood as they scratch. Some cats will shake their heads so much that an hematoma of the ear will form (with blood pooling in the ear due to breakage of a blood vessel). Also of concern is when cats scratch at their ears to the point that injury is done to the ear canals or ear drums.

This type of mange is common in young cats, although it may occur at any age. It is known for being highly contagious, frequently passing from parent to newborn, and between animals of different species (this mite does not affect humans). The mite also commonly spreads out to other parts of the body.

Symptoms and Types

  • Itching of the ears, head and neck

  • Sometimes generalised itching

  • Excessive scratching at ears and around head

  • Frequently shaking the head

  • Thick red-brown or black crusts in the outer ear

  • Coffee ground like bumps in the ear canal

  • Abrasions and scratches on the back side of the ears

  • Crusting and scale on the neck, rump and tail


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health and onset of symptoms, as well as whether your cat has regular contact with other animals or spends time outdoors. Your vet will perform a complete physical exam on your cat, including standard lab tests, such as a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel, to be sure that your cat does not have any other diseases.

A thorough dermatological exam will be performed, with skin scrapings taken for laboratory analysis. Ear swabs may be placed in mineral oil to identify the mites, and your veterinarian can use an otoscope to look into the ear canals, where ear mites can be visually discovered directly in the ear. If your cat is hypersensitive as a result of the infestation, making a deep examination of the ears difficult, a diagnosis may be made by your cat's response to medical treatment.

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