Our client said, “Dr. Randolph, while we are here with Jimbo, would you look at his ears? I think he has ear mites again, like last time.”
I was puzzled, because I didn’t remember diagnosing ear mites at Jimbo’s last visit. And, Jimbo didn’t fit the profile of pets who get ear mites.
“Ah! Here it is,” I said. “His last visit was 5 months ago, but he had a yeast infection of his ears, not an ear mite infestation.”
“Oh!” our concerned client said. I don’t know why I thought it was ear mites that he had.”
It is a common source of confusion. I have previously called ear mites the most overdiagnosed condition in the history of animalkind.
What is the profile of pets who get ear mites? Think young. Puppies and kittens. Those who live in substandard (filthy) conditions are more likely to be infested. While parasitologists don’t know all of the factors, it is believed that as dogs’ and cats’ immune systems mature, living conditions for the mites are less favorable.
However, we also know that adult cats are far more likely to be infested than adult dogs. The belief is that cats are simply better hosts than dogs.
Please pay careful attention to your veterinarian’s oral and written report of his examination findings. Care, treatment and prevention of ear mites is different from yeast otitis, which is different from bacterial infection of the ears. If treatment is to be successful, everyone must be on the same page. If you have questions, follow these guidelines to get the information you need.
Speaking of hosts, there is more than one report of human beings intentionally infesting themselves with ear mites, just to see if it is possible. There are anecdotes of humans experiencing itchiness on the trunks of their bodies after handling pets with ear mites. These scientifically curious people simply wanted to know whether humans can be hosts to Otodectes cyanotis.
My favorite report was from a veterinarian who chronicled his experience in our national group’s publication, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He gave a full accounting, right down to the tendency for the mites to be nocturnal, increasing their activity during the wee hours of the morning.
Apparently, humans are pretty poor hosts, as he was able to clear his self-induced infestation with a simple rinsing of his ear canals with water. This doctor even re-infested himself in an effort to determine whether his immune system would reject a second exposure. However, the second batch thrived as well as the first. He finally gave up when his loss of sleep became excessive.
So, even if your pet does have ear mites, you won’t have to worry about getting them yourself.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.