Ear mites can be hard to find but are highly contagious. Learn what you should do if your furry companion has ear mites.

What are ear mites?

The ear mite Otodectes cynotis is a surface mite that lives on cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets. It is usually found in the ear canal but it can also live on the skin surface. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on animals. Ear mites are highly contagious, and animals become infested by direct contact with another infested animal. The mite is barely visible to the naked eye and may be seen as a white speck moving against a dark background.

What is the life cycle of the ear mite?

It takes approximately 3 weeks for a mite to develop from egg to adult, going through a total of 5 stages. Adult ear mites live about 2 months, during which time they continually reproduce. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on the host animal, although mites can survive for a limited time in the environment.

What are the clinical signs of ear mites?

Ear mites are the most common cause of ear disease and infection. They are the second most common ectoparasite (external parasite) found on pets; the most common is the flea. Infestations are a very common problem in puppies and kittens, although pets of any age can be affected.

Clinical signs of infestation vary in severity from one pet to another and include combinations of:
  • Ear irritation causing scratching at the ears or head shaking
  • A dark waxy or crusty discharge from the ear
  • Areas of hair loss resulting from self-trauma – scratching or excessive grooming
  • A crusted rash around or in the ear
  • An aural hematoma – a large blood blister on the ear, caused by rupture of small blood vessels between the skin and cartilage – caused by scratching at the ears

Skin lesions most frequently affect the ear and surrounding skin but occasionally other areas of the body may be affected.

See more information about ear mites and how to treat them here »

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