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Your cat fluffy has come home with ear mites, acquired from one of her feline friends. Is your dog in danger of contracting the pesky little critters?
Can Dogs Get Ear Mites From Cats?
Ear mites are highly contagious arachnids that feed on the wax and oils of your pets’ ears. Both cats and dogs can get them, and they can pass them to one another. They are not known to pass to humans, however, so you are probably safe. If your dog or cat has ear mites you will notice them itching their ears. While the mites do not actually bite your pet, the movement of these parasites in their ear canal is extremely irritating and causes the dog to scratch at them, often resulting in secondary infections. Fortunately, there are several ways to get rid of ear mites in either your cat or dog, or both if they have been sharing!
Does My Dog Have Ear Mites?
Ear mites are spider-like parasites that live in your dog’s or cat’s ears and feed off oils and waxes there. Although they are contagious, they tend to remain on their host, if possible, so if the infestation has not progressed they may not spread to other pets in the early stages of infestation. They do not bite, but cause irritation and scratching that can result in injury or infection. Symptoms of ear mites include:
Dark, reddish-brown discharge
Dark specks that looks like coffee grounds
Odor from the ear
Wounds, inflammation, and infections in the ear from your pet scratching
Ear mites can move to other parts of your dog's body if the infestation grows out of control
Ear mite infection is most commonly caused by Otodectes cynotis, parasites that live out their life cycle in your pet’s ear canal, feeding off skin debris, wax and oils. They lay their eggs in the ear, which hatch every 3 weeks, and grow to be reproducing adults. They are spread by direct contact with infected animals.
Your veterinarian will make a diagnosis of ear mites by looking in your dog's ears with an otoscope to visualize the mites or by taking a sample of ear discharge and examining it under a microscope. Your veterinarian will also look for signs of other infection such as bacterial or fungal infection that could be causing symptoms or coincide with ear mites.
For more information, check out our guide to Ear Mites in Dogs.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ear Mites?
There are several options for treating ear mites, including:
Over the counter remedies
Prescription medication is the most effective and is available from your veterinarian. Before administering medications, the dog's ears will need a thorough cleaning to remove discharge and as many mites as possible.
There are several one-time use medications that are useful for treating ear mites and some that can be used monthly to control and prevent mites if your pet will be repeatedly exposed to mites and other parasites. Usually, the medication is topical, although some oral and injectable medications are also used for mite control.
Any secondary yeast or bacterial infections will also need to be treated with antifungal or antibiotic medications. All pets in the home should be treated to ensure they do not contract mites from each other.
Some over the counter medications, including shampoos, cleaners and home remedies, may also help with ear mite infections, although they are not usually as effective as the prescription medications. If infestation persists after using home remedies and over the counter medication, consult your veterinarian to obtain prescription meds.
In addition to medication, you should also clean your your dog's ears and can treat ears with mineral oil to soothe the irritation. Clean all your dog’s bedding to prevent reinfestation.
How Are Ear Mites Similar in Dogs and Cats?
Ear mites in cats and dogs in North America are often caused by the same organism and have similar symptoms.
They can be passed between cats and dogs or acquired from feral animals
They result in itchy, irritated ears from the organism living in the ear canal
Both cats and dogs are susceptible to secondary fungal and bacterial infections as a result of ear mite infection
How Are Ear Mites Different in Dogs and Cats?
Humans do not usually get ear mites, and if they do they are just passing through, so to speak. A furry host is preferred. There are some differences between ear mite infestation between cats and dogs, including:
Cats are more susceptible and can be harder to treat than dogs
There is some difference in the usage of medication between cats and dogs, with certain medications being more appropriate for cats than for dogs
A family home with both a pet cat and a dog experience their pets both getting ear mites when their indoor/outdoor cat brings ear mites home from her night time ventures. At first, the infestation goes unnoticed and the infestation has time to develop and spread, so their dog also becomes infected. Both pets are scratching at their ears, and the cat is particularly affected with a smelly discharge exuding from her ears.
Both pets are taken to the veterinarian, who prescribes different topical medications: one for cats, and another effective for dogs, as well as antibiotics for the cat experiencing a secondary bacterial infection. At the vet, an initial cleaning is done of both pets’ ears, and the initial dosage of medication administered. The pet owner continues to clean both pet's ears and administer antibiotics to the cat. Shortly afterward, the dog’s infection clears up but the cat is still experiencing symptoms. The cat requires follow up treatment and repeated cleanings, and applications of medication and antibiotics to clear up the condition, which takes several weeks. Eventually both pets are free from mites.