Ear mites are small parasites (called Otodectes cyanotis) that can infest the ear canals of both dogs and cats, causing severe itching which leads to self-trauma. In most cases, this is due to an allergic reaction to the mites. Affected ears usually have brown or black, crusty debris in the ear canals. Sometimes the skin around the ears is crusty, red and scaly. The mites are easily passed on from one pet to another through contact, and though they most commonly affect puppies and kittens, they can affect any age group. The mites do not infest humans, but can bite us.
A diagnosis is usually made by examination of the ear discharge under a microscope. Sometimes during an ear exam with an otoscope, the parasite can be seen moving around in the ear canal. Treatment of an ear mite infestation involves applying medication either into the ear canals or administration of medication by injection. All infested animals and in-contact animals need to be treated. A thorough cleanup of the pet's environment is also needed. For example, wash pet beds or blankets in hot, soapy water. It is important to discuss the most up-to-date treatment options with your veterinarian rather than relying on over-the-counter remedies. A follow-up examination will be booked with your veterinary health care team to make sure that the treatment has completely cleared the parasites.