Published on September 1st, 2016 | by Debbie Martin1
Ear mites and what you should know
There are a number of parasites which household pets are vulnerable to. Of these parasites, ear mites are among the most common – which makes it especially important that pet owners be familiar with them and how they operate. This article will examine how the presence of ear mites can be established and how they can be effectively removed.
What are ear mites?
An ear mite is a variety of parasite which lives mostly in the ear canal of a cat or a dog. While cats are more susceptible to ear mite infestations, a dog can contract the parasites through contact with an infested cat. In fact, transfer of mites between animals is the most common way for an animal to become infected – particularly if they are in the habit of sharing the same space – such as kittens and puppies raised as a whole litter This makes it especially important that any treatment be applied not only to the infected animal, but to every other animal in the house as well.
Once they have gotten inside the ear of a suitable animal, ear mites feed on the skin debris they find there and in doing so cause irritation and inflammation to the host animal which creates a brown discharge which can block the ear canal. Ear mites can also lay eggs in a pet’s ears, which will take around three weeks to hatch and develop into adult mites that can in turn reproduce. In spite of their name, ear mites can venture outside of an animal’s ear and take residence in the fur and skin.
This is not a very agreeable state of affairs, from the perspective of your pet. It can be painful and lead to more severe consequences further down the line. It is important, therefore, to take prompt action if you suspect that your pet has become infected. But how can you tell when your pet is playing host to ear mites?
What are the symptoms?
There are a number of signs that your dog is suffering from ear mites, which you should be aware of. You should check your pet’s ears occasionally for these and other symptoms.
Though ear mites are extremely small, they are not so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye. If you look very closely at the inside of a pet’s ear, you may see a number of tiny dots, moving around. These are mites. If you were to look at them under a microscope, you would see that they have long legs and bodies, like that of an insect.
Mites cause irritation, which your pet might attempt to address through scratching, rubbing and shaking. Mites can also cause ears to inflame and to secrete a dark wax. If you look into the ear canal, you might see a strange brownish substance – this is evidence of an ear mite infestation and you should take the pet to a vet if that is the case.
The presence of ear mites can also bring about other painful complications – the skin around a dog’s ear can become infected. Furthermore, the intense scratching and head-shaking which a mite infestation invariably prompts can lead to a raft of other problems – some of which may require surgery to correct.
Unlike other conditions, like bloat, dogs of all ages can be infected by mites – though some species might be more susceptible than others.
How can mites be removed?
While you can and should examine your pet for signs of mite infestation, it is important to remember that the symptoms created by a mite infestation can also be brought about by other things – like a bacterial infection. It is important, therefore, to seek the opinion of a professional.
If you suspect that your pet has become infected with ear mites, then take them to a vet for a more thorough examination. The vet will establish for certain whether ear mites are present by taking a sample from the animal’s ear and examining it under a microscope. In this way the problem can be confirmed as being caused by mites, rather than any other sort of infection.
Another advantage of visiting a vet is that they are able to prescribe medicine which is far more powerful than that which can be bought over-the-counter. Some of the treatments your vet may offer need only be applied once.
Should it turn out that the animal is indeed infected with ear-mites, then a number of actions can be taken to remove them, along with undoing the damage their presence might have caused to the animal. In instances where the mites have caused an infection, your vet may prescribe a series of antibiotics in order to keep the infection at bay.
Your vet may prescribe a cream which can be rubbed directly into the skin of the ear. This may alleviate the symptoms of the problems quickly, but it is important that you finish the entire course of medication. In addition, you may want to treat the other animals in your household in the same way, in order to ensure that they, too are protected. If you are unsure about the best course of action, your vet will be able to offer further advice to help.
Can humans get ear mites?
The good news is that humans cannot infect humans, as they do not survive long enough to do so. Very occasionally, however, mites may take residence for short periods of time on arms and legs, causing a mild rash. This is rarely anything worth worrying about.
How can mites be avoided?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can minimise the chances of mites taking residence in your pet’s ear. All of them centre on keeping your pet as clean as possible. The ears should be cleaned at least once a month and the bedding even more often than that. This is particularly advisable if another pet in the household has recently been infected with ear mites, as they can be easily passed from one animal to another.