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What are Ear Mites?

Ear mites have been known to cause blockage of the ear canal if not treated and, in serious cases, can lead to more severe skin infections. While these parasites can have harsh effects on cats, they are generally easy to remove.

Ear mites are a common nuisance for pets, particularly cats that have recently met new animals. The common form in North America, Otodectes cynotis, are tiny parasites that eat the wax in the ear canals of cats. This is understandably distressing for cats, and will often lead to them constantly playing with their ears in an attempt to remove the parasite. Pet owners can easily identify ear mites by the signature brown discharge that they cause in the cat's ear.

Ear Mites Average Cost

From 493 quotes ranging from $150 - $300

Average Cost

$200

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Cats

Because ear mites are so irritating to cats, an infected cat will often try to remove them itself. If a cat is displaying any of the following symptoms, there is a good chance that it is hosting ear mites:

  • Near-constant scratching of the ears
  • Hair loss in and around the ears
  • Brown discharge of the ears that looks similar to coffee grounds
  • Strong, unpleasant odor coming from the ears
  • Inflammation of the ear
  • Incessant head shaking
  • Dark red scratches or scabs in and around the ear
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Causes of Ear Mites in Cats

Ear mites are highly contagious, making up more than half of all feline ear infections. It is easy for them to spread through the following methods:

  • Contact with an infected pet
  • Contact with a toy or bed of an infected pet
  • Lack of proper ear cleaning after exposure to an infected pet
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Diagnosis of Ear Mites in Cats

While it can be tempting to self-diagnose ear mites, this should be avoided whenever possible. Certain forms of bacterial infections can easily be mistaken for ear mites by the untrained eye, and the treatments are very different.

When diagnosing a cat with ear mites, a veterinarian will first ask for a medical history. This will help determine if the symptoms could be caused by some sort of hereditary ear disorder. At this stage, it is important to inform the veterinarian if the cat has had any exposure to infected or unfamiliar pets.

To determine what is causing the symptoms in the cat, the veterinarian will swab a sample of the discharge from the cat's ear. They will then examine it under a microscope to determine if the issue is ear mites, a bacterial infection, or something else entirely.

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Treatment of Ear Mites in Cats

The good news is that there are several different ways to treat ear mites, and all of them are easy and non-invasive. Depending upon the guidance of the veterinarian, treatment can look like any of the following options:

  • Topical Medication:

    Often, a veterinarian will prescribe medications that are applied directly in the ear and the areas around it. These medications work in a way similar to that of lice shampoo in humans and eradicate ear mites completely. These topical medications are typically prescribed for a period of 2-3 weeks.

  • Infection Relief:

    Because ear mites come with such a high risk of infection, veterinarians will often prescribe ear drops or a treatment of antibiotics to relieve any infections that the cat may be suffering from. Treatment duration can vary, but it usually does not exceed one month.

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Recovery of Ear Mites in Cats

It is essential to return to a veterinarian if any symptoms begin to reappear. It is likely that the same medications will not work if a group of ear mites has developed a resistance to previous treatments and the veterinarian will need to prescribe a new treatment plan.

There is also a possibility that, during healing, the owner will need to gently clear the cat's ears of debris. This will mean faster recovery for the cat as well as increased comfort. Most cats will allow their owner to clean out their ears with a cotton swab and gentle ear cleanser, but depending on the cat and the severity of buildup, a veterinarian's assistance may be required.

Until the end of treatment, it is important to keep an infected cat away from other animals as much as possible. Due to the highly contagious nature of ear mites, spreading the infection is likely if the infected cat is around uninfected pets.

For each of these treatment options, the cat will typically feel relief within the first day or two. That said, it is important to finish any treatments completely to ensure that the ear mites are removed entirely.

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Ear Mites Average Cost

From 493 quotes ranging from $150 - $300

Average Cost

$200

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Ear Mites Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Kitten

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Two and a half months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Scratching Ears

I just got the fit set of shots Wednesday he had diarrhea Friday and then started barfing he won’t eat just drink water today he was scratching his ears and his ears stink what’s going on with him?

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Your kitten may have G.I. upset from a number of different causes. It is possible that it is due to the vaccines but more likely that it is due to a parasite, diet change, something the kitten got into that didn’t agree with her G.I. system or an infectious cause. Kittens can become dehydrated very quickly so it would be best to give your veterinarian a call so they can recheck him and get him fluids, anti-emetics, and something for the diarrhea.

July 12, 2020

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Zelda

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short hair

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy, Shakes Head.

My cat has ear mites, but I can't hold her still while trying to put the drops in, and it states to put up to 5 drops. If I'm lucky, I can get one drop in before she moves her head and wrestles her way out of my hold. Is there any medicine that is set up so you just put enough dosage in with one "squirt" or drop of medicine?

July 24, 2018

Zelda's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Topical spot on medications like Revolution (selamectin) may be used to treat ear mites; the medication is applied to the skin monthly and will treat the ear mites as well as preventing a recurrence. It may still be required to clean the ears out as some debris may still be present. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM “For the treatment of ear mite (O. cynotis) infestations in dogs and cats, Revolution should be administered once as a single topical dose. A second monthly dose may be required in some dogs. Monthly use of Revolution will control any subsequent ear mite infestations. In the clinical field trials ears were not cleaned, and many animals still had debris in their ears after the second dose. Cleansing of the infested ears is recommended to remove the debris.” www.zoetisus.com/_locale-assets/mcm-portal-assets/products/pdf/revolution-prescribing-information.pdf

July 25, 2018

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Tony

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Mix

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Black Debris In The Ear

My cate has ear mites and I have been given the ear drop treatment, and then he loses appitie and my starts vomiting like once a day. Does ear mites or the ear drop cause the vomiting? Or this is something else?

July 15, 2018

Tony's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I would not think that the ear mites or the medication would cause a loss of appetite or vomiting, and those things seem like thy might be unrelated. He may need a recheck, for his ears, and for these new signs that are happening.

July 15, 2018

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Purrcy

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Lynx Point Siamese

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Head Shaking

One of my cats had a bad ear infection not long ago and got tresaderm for treatment. Now i think my other cat is showing signs of either infection or ear mites. From what I've read, the tresaderm will treat if infected obviously..but it is also used as ear mite treatment. Is that true. If i treat him with the tresaderm for a few days will it help if he has mites? He shakes his head a lot. He does not have any discharge at all and does not have bald spots on his ears or anything. The only symptom is that he shakes his head a lot. Does that sound like mites?

May 27, 2018

Purrcy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Ear infections due to yeast, bacteria, or mites can all look very similar, as can allergies. Tresaderm is a very broad spectrum treatment for bacteria, yeast and mites. Without seeing him, I can't recommend any medication, but Tresaderm does treat a variety of problems. If things aren't resolving for Purrcy, it would be best to have him examined and have your veterinarian determine the cause for his ear problems.

May 27, 2018

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Marble

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Turkish Van

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Brown Spots
Brown Spots, Yellow Wax

My cats right ear is bothering him. He keeps scratching at it and keeps it pressed against his head. When I tried to peer into it he growled at me. He has a yellow wax in there and a couple of brown spots. The eye on the same side of the ear is very runny

May 8, 2018

Marble's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is possible that the brown spots you’re seeing are due to ear mites, you can try to apply Revolution (selamectin) and use a topical ear cleaner for ear mites which should be available at your local pet shop; if there is no improvement you should visit your Veterinarian. If you are unable to get near the ears, you should try to visit your Veterinarian for a check to have them cleaned. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 8, 2018

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Tux

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Tuxedo

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching
Ear Twitching
Scabs Around And On Back Of Ears
Holding Ear Flat
Holding Head To One Side
Rubbing Ear On Surfaces

I have 4 cats. 1 has extreme hair loss and scabs with itching. He 2 hold their head to one side 1 rubs his ear on the floor 1 puts her ears flat Which one would be the easier to diagnose? The 8 yr old has several symptoms but also has FIV The Turkish Van is developing redness around the nose looks like an allergy but could it be from mites? HE has itchy ears and tilting head to one side. No hair loss like the Tuxedo The grey cat has ear twitching The fluffy female is doing the holding ear to head thing. I'm fairly sure they have mites given the descriptions on this site... but what cat do I take to the vet for confirmation? Or how can I confirm it? Which coloured cat would be the easiest to spot an infestation?

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Heidi

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Persian Cat

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7 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Shaking Head
Scratching Ears
Loss Of Appe

My 7 weeks old Persian kitten seems to have lost her appetite..she used to be a quite active kitten..she also shakes her head vigorously and scratches her ears.

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Milo

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Bombay

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My Milo is two years old. For the past several months he has been repeatedly diagnosed and treated for ear mites. He is currently sick again. Each time the symptoms are the same, hair loss, head shaking, brown flakes on and in ears, and it sometimes spreads to his paws. Is there anything I can do to help prevent this? He's on immunity vitamins but they dont seem to be helping.

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Neko

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Tuxedo mix

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4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Scabbing

Last night, I went out with a friend, and didnt get home until very late. So I just went to bed. The next morning, though, when I was petting her, I noticed a ton of bumps inside her ear, and some scabs under her fur below her ears and above her eyes. I also saw a few little white things sticking out of her skin, that almost looked like ticks, only white. Some of them are reddish brown and really plump, whereas the white ones are flat. Could this be ear mites?

Ear Mites Average Cost

From 493 quotes ranging from $150 - $300

Average Cost

$200

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