There are a few parasites that everyone seems to know their names but not many are aware of what exactly they are. Ear mites are an external (outside the body) parasite that feeds off the wax and oil inside the ear canal of pets. Cats are the most commonly affected by ear mites. But ferrets, rabbits and dogs can also be infected by ear mites. Some humans can develop a rash from biting ear mites but for the most part ear mites prefer to feed off of pets. It is more likely that humans transfer mites from one pet to another. For the most part, ear mites cannot be seen without the aid of a microscope. The biggest sign that your pet could have ear mites is their ear canals have a dry, black ear discharge that sort of resembles coffee grounds. If there is a high infestation of ear mites, you may be able to see little white flecks throughout the “coffee grounds” and those little white flecks are the ear mites. When the dry, black discharge is viewed under a microscope, the adult ear mite has a small rounded body with eight legs. The ear mite lays eggs which can also be seen under a microscope. The following photo shows an adult mite (arrow pointing at it) and an egg (inside the diamond).
Besides the dark discharge in the animal’s ear, symptoms include itching and scratching at the ears. Ear mites will spread quickly from one animal to another with just a brief amount of physical contact. If one pet in a home has ear mites, it is crucial that all pets in the home are treated for ear mites at the same time. It is very important that ear mites are treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, your pet can develop skin infections from scratching, aural hematoma (the ear pinna fills with blood – very painful), and in extreme cases cause deafness. To treat ear mites, if at all possible, it is best to clean away as much debris from the ear canal first. Then apply a prescription treatment to the pet(s) – having a discussion with the veterinarian will allow for the best treatment for you and your pets. Especially, if you have a rabbit or ferret – many products that are fine for dogs and cats can be very harmful to a rabbit or ferret. Don’t forget that it is important to clean all the areas where your pet lives and sleeps. Ear mites can live in the environment for a little and without cleaning the house, your pet will just reinfect itself. If you are concerned that your pet may have ear mites, please call our office today at 717-477-8938.