Otodectes cynotis, most commonly called ear mites, are a common and relatively mild external parasite infection. Ear mites are parasites that live on the skin’s surface, especially on the skin lining of the ear canal and are very contagious.
The typical external signs of ear mites are quite obvious: the cat’s outer ear is likely to be inflamed, and the animal will hold its ears flat against its head, scratch at them and shaking its head frequently—as if trying to dislodge a bothersome object.
The diagnosis of ear mites will be confirmed by your veterinarian when they examine your cat’s ear canals with a special magnifying instrument called an otoscope. If the cat is unwilling to allow this instrument near its sensitive ears, the veterinarian will use a cotton swab to gently collect a sample of ear debris. Ear mites or eggs may be found during the examination or may also be found by examining your cat’s earwax under a microscope.
Cats can be treated on an outpatient basis with medication designed to eradicate the mites. Treatment generally begins with a thorough cleaning of the cat’s ears to remove any wax or debris that may shield the mites from topical medications.
As this infection is very contagious, all animals in the same household should be treated and the environment cleaned very thoroughly.
It is important to follow the treatment through to its completion. Your cat will start feeling better once treatment begins, and as a result, you might think that the problem is over when it isn’t.
Continue to apply your cat’s medications according to the vet’s directions until the treatment program is complete, or the ear mites could quickly repopulate in your cat’s ear.