Ear mites


Ear mites, often wrongly referred to as "ear ticks" are parasites seen frequently in cats, mostly in kittens and cats that go outside, ferrets, and less often in dogs. The mite is known as Otodectes cynotis and its life cycle lasts 3 weeks. The disease is transmitted by one infested animal to the other, but we believe the organism can live up to three weeks in the environment. 

These mites belong to the acarid family. If they colonize in the ear canal, they will reproduce in large numbers and proliferate easily, causing a moderate to severe inflammatory reaction. The intensity of the symptoms depend on the number of parasites present, the animal's own resistance, and the presence of a hypersensitivity or allergies. 


The princial signs are: black secretions in the ears (look like ground coffee beans), redness of the ear canals, frequent head shaking, itching of the ears which can sometimes be accompanied by lesions on the pavilion of the ears (external portion of the ear) or on the neck caused by excessive scratching. 


A definitive diagnosis of the condition is made by performing an ear smear (with a cotton swab) and looking at the sample under a microscope. We quite often have a multitude of mobile mites, larvae, and the parasite's eggs. Sometimes, there is no presence of mites on the smear because there are too many secretions on the sample. If a strong clinical suspicion is present, a treatment for otocariosis will be necessary even if the smear is negative. 


The treatment consists of two steps: the first is to kill the parasites and the second is to calm the inflammation in the ear. A treatment should be applied to your pet's skin once a month for 2 months in order to get rid of the mites. The first treatment is administered in the consultation room and the second is done at home. To relieve the otitis, a thorough ear cleaning is done by a technician and then drops are applied in your pet's ears twice a day for 21 days. Generally, this protocole eliminates even the most stubborn parasites. In somes cases of severe itching, your pet might have to wear a cone to prevent self-mutilation by excessive ear scratching. The cone can be removed when the itching has considerably subsided. It goes without saying that because this parasite is not species specific, any susceptible animal (cats, dogs, and ferrets) coming into contact with an infested one must be treated with an antiparasitic. However, ear drops should not be administered to these animals if they do not have an otitis. 

If you think your pet is suffering from otocariosis, come and see us!