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Ear Mites in Pets

Ear Mites in Pets | Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Ear Mites in Pets | Author: Dr. Cliff Redford, Veterinarian

Is your cat or dog scratching the side of their head uncontrollably or pawing at their ears? Some might walk around with one ear tilted down and the other one up. Puppies and kittens are particularly susceptible to ear mites that can wreak havoc on their hearing and overall well-being. So, you will want to take this issue seriously.

What Are Ear Mites?

The scientific name for ear mites is Otodectes Cyanotis. These microscopic parasites are barely visible to the eye and look like small white specks against a dark background. They live inside the ear canals of cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets, causing tiny bleeds on the surface as they scratch, chew and bite at the skin. Once they get to a rich, juicy source of blood, they will set up colonies, propagate, lay eggs and enjoy life while tormenting your pet and causing him or her a lot of pain.

Ear mites are extremely contagious and can spread quickly between ears. Infected pets can shed them on grass and dirt from where they can infect others.

Diagnosing and Treating Ear Mite Infections

Visible displays of irritation may be the first sign that something is awry. Take a look inside the ear canal. If you notice dry flaky black debris inside, it may indicate an ear mite infection. Some pets will present with a dark waxy discharge, a rash around or inside the ear, and even blisters.

You need to contact us for a proper diagnosis right away because of the high risk of spread. The test is painless and involves a simple ear swab which we will examine under a microscope. If your pet has ear mites then they will show up on the slide, crawling and moving around.

Treating an Ear Mite Infection

Treatment for ear mite infections requires insecticides that kill adult and larvae ear mites. The medication is often administered topically, but severe infections may require an injection. Presently, we do not have a treatment that will kill eggs and pupae. Your pet might therefore require multiple doses and follow-ups so we can monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

Ear Mites and Humans

Ear mites from pets can end up on furniture and bedding, and easily find their way into human hosts. In rare circumstances, they can cause an itchy rash in susceptible people. Eradicating the source of the infection in pets will also take care of the spread within the household.

Parasite Control & Prevention

Most dogs and cats will contract some form of parasite infection within their lifetime. Almost half the kittens and puppies we see at the clinic have some, regardless of their breeder or where they come from, and ear mites are a common one. Pet wellness checkups allow us to screen for them as a preventative measure. We recommend you bring young cats and dogs under 8 years old to visit us at least once a year. But we’d like to see your older animals twice a year. In many cases, you can coordinate these appointments with your pet’s vaccination schedule. However, try not to ignore them even if they don’t coincide. Parasite prevention and control is key for keeping your pet strong and healthy for years to come. And the staff at Wellington Veterinary Hospital have the expertise to help you manage this.


Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham Ontario. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.

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Wellington is an amazing place! The staff are so welcoming and go out of their way to ensure your pet is comfortable - so much so that our puppy is actually excited when she goes to the vet!

Our little foster had to have her leg amputated and the whole team was so helpful and knowledgeable when explaining her medications, as well as how to best take care of her while she recovers.

We are now just under 3 weeks post op and she is running around like nothing ever happened :)

Carley Raffiek

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