Kitten And Cat Ear Mites And Complications

Otodectes cynotis is an equal-opportunity parasite that is more than happy to infect dogs or cats. You know them by their common name, ear mites.

It is important to recognize that ear mite infestation in cats is a very different syndrome than the condition in dogs.

Ear mites in dogs tends to be a condition of puppies; while more young cats are affected than mature ones, more mature cats have ear mites than mature dogs.

What is the significance of that statistic?  Adult dogs rarely have ear mites, so a diagnosis of ear mites in a mature dog is suspect, but not unheard of.

Kittens and adult cats alike tend to have complicating factors when they have ear mites. The most common presenting complaint is “itchy ears”. When we look into the ears with the otoscope we see a discharge, often dark and voluminous. If there are a lot of mites we may be able to see them with the magnification built into the otoscope. If they are not visible that way we can take a sample of the discharge and look for mites on a microscope. When evaluating itchy cat ears we must also take another step: Cytology.

Cytology is the process of looking at cells under a microscope. Usually these cells will have been stained by a three-step process and the level of magnification on the microscope is extremely high, called “oil immersion.”

When performing cytology of ears the most common cells we look at are one-celled infectious organisms, usually yeast and/or bacteria. Bacteria come in two common shapes: cocci, which are round bacteria and bacilli, which are rod-shaped.

The vast majority of cats with ear mites will have, at least, infection with yeast to complicate the parasitism. However, it is not unusual for there to be ear mites, yeast infection and cocci bacterial infection simultaneously. Infection with
bacilli
does occur in cats but much less commonly than with cocci.

What does that mean for your kitty? Let’s paint several scenarios:

  1. If treatment is performed with a pure ear-mite-killing medication it is not going to address the yeast and/or bacterial infection components. Therefore, when the treatment regimen is finished your feline friend will be little or no better off than he was. Scenario one is common in cases of cats treated with over-the-counter (OTC) “medications” for ear mites.
  2. If the medication is ear-mite-killing and contains an antiinflammatory ingredient, such as a corticosteroid, your pet’s ears will likely feel better and may even look better, but don’t take that as a sign that the problem is gone, as no ingredient is present to kill the yeast and/or bacteria.
  3. Commonly we use a combination medication that kills ear mites and contains an ingredient that has some yeast-killing power and a third ingredient that has some bacteria-killing power. Feline ears treated with this product will have one of two outcomes:

a. the ears clear completely of mites, yeast and bacterial infection, or,

b. the ears experience elimination of mites and reduction of yeast and bacterial infection but require followup treatment with specific medication for a complete cure of infectious organisms.

As with dogs, it is imperative to remember that ear mites do not live exclusively in the ear canals. Failure to recognize this important fact of the mites’ nature will result in reinfestation. Ear mites also live on the tips of the ears, at both ends of the tail and sometimes other areas of the body.

Extra-auricular ear mites may be killed with Revolution heartworm preventive and most topical flea control medication such as Frontline Plus and Advantage.

For tips on prevention of future ear problems please visit the MyPetsDoctor.com Article on that topic.

Pets need not suffer with ongoing and recurring ear problems. If you are willing to perform the needed tasks for your pet nearly every acute and chronic ear problem can be eliminated.

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