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Feline Ear Mite Invasion
Dark build-up of blackened crud inside a cat’s ear canal can signal an ear mite invasion. If you take a bit of cotton, dampen it with olive oil and roll it around the ear gently and pull out sediment that resembles burnt coffee grounds, your cat has ear mites. This sediment is a combination of blood, oils, ear wax, ear mites and waste products.
Ear mites cannot be seen easily by the naked eye. Even though these tick-like mites are white, they are microscopic. Ear mites live inside the ear, but they also travel. They can end up on the tip of your cat’s tail if he curls his tail around him when he sleeps. If your cat is aggressively biting the tip of his tail, ear mites might be why. Ear mites can crawl out of the ear and move on to the head or the face of the cat. Ear mites are also contagious among animals. If one cat has ear mites, it is a sure bet that all the rest of the pets in the home are infested.
When an ear mite lands in a cat’s ear canal, it will live inside the canal devouring ear wax and oil and loose tissue. The mites have three stages of life…larvae, nymphs, adult. This life cycle only lasts for a period of three weeks. Once hatched, the larvae (six legged) will feed on the oil, tissue and wax for a period of four days. In a period ranging from three to ten days, the larvae molts into an eight legged protonymph. During a 5 day stage the protonymph molts into a deutonymph. Three to five days later, the deutonymph becomes attached to an existing adult mite. If two males are attached, the union is meaningless. If the adult hooks up with a female, she is fertilized so she has the ability to produce eggs.
Ear mites can drive cats crazy. When cats are infested with ear mites, they will shake their head violently, and scratch their ears. If the invasion is severe, they may also rub the side of their head along the carpet, furniture or floor. In advance stages, ear mite infections give off a distinct odor. Ear mites are commonly found in stray cats, or cats who have access to outside.
Treatment of ear mites
Over-the-counter products for ear mite prevention should be avoided at all costs. Generally, though they may kill the adult mites, they don’t affect the eggs and the larvae. There are injectables, topical and oral meds available that will work against the ear mites. Make a vet appointment for the proper treatment.
Before any treatment is given, it is important to clean the ears out of the sediment that has already collected there. Use cotton balls, not Q-Tips (Q-Tips have the capability of pushing the crud deeper into the ear canal). Keeping the cotton ball moistened with warmed olive oil will help clean out the ears. Treatment of ear mites is a repeatable treatment unless a one-time ear mite medicine is used.
Topical treatments should be used once every three days. Wait for one week, repeat application. Wait another week and repeat the process. One time treatments are easier on the cat and the owner.
Revolution: Revolution flea treatment by Pfizer is effective against fleas, ear mites, heartworm, ticks, roundworms and hookworms. Follow the package directions carefully when applying this product.
Ivomec 1% - This is NOT to be confused with the Ivomectrin paste available over–the-counter for livestock. Ivomec solution is available at your vets. Over-medicating with Ivomec can place your cat into toxic shock.
Ivermectin is an injectable solution used for ear mite invasion. According to Dr. Susan Little DVM, DAVBP of Bytown Cat Hospital, Ivermectin can be used both orally and topically.
Acarexx Otic Suspension- This is a one-time application for ear mites. The tip of the container is designed to get deep into the ear canal. There is no stinging sensation so the cat is less likely to shake goop all over you or your vet.
In Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, he offers the following suggestion: “A mixture of ½ ounce of almond or olive oil and 400 IU Vitamin E (capsule) makes a mild healing treatment for cats or dogs. Blend them in a dropper bottle and warm the mixture to body temperature by immersing the bottle into hot water. Put about ½ dropper full in each ear and massage gently. Then clean out the opening gently….apply this oil every other day for 6 days.” This will heal the ear, smother some of the mites but not kill the mites.
Be diligent when you are on the prowl for ear mites. Untreated, ear mites can cause damage to the ear canal and change your cat’s behavior from pussycat to tiger. Be careful when bringing in new cats to the home. Quarantine the new arrival until a vet check has been done. Ear mites are not contagious to people just to other pets.