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Vet Talks: Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Vet Talks 2 min read
Search our blog Vet Talks: Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Ear mites usually produce a characteristic, abundant, dry, black ear discharge.

In our practice, ear mites are prevalent in feral and outdoor cats, but uncommon in dogs. Often, clients will call for an appointment for their dog or cat’s ear problem stating it may be a mite infection, when in fact, it is a much more common bacterial or yeast infection. Ear mite infections and bacterial/yeast infections of the ear can show many of the same symptoms such as head shaking, scratching at the ears, and rubbing the face.


Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis, are tiny mites resembling microscopic ticks. It usually produces a characteristic, abundant, dry, black ear discharge. The mite is detected by examining a sample of ear wax under a microscope with mineral oil. The live mites will be seen clearly, often still alive and moving. Cytologic ear swabs are taken in conjunction to rule out bacterial or yeast infections in the ears causing the same symptoms, with or without mites. When we diagnose mites under the microscope we often have clients come to see them under the microscope as the critters are very active and interesting to observe. It makes sense after seeing how miserable your pet can become.

Vet Talks: Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs


Life Cycle

Ear mites live on the surface of the ear canal skin. Eggs are laid and hatch after 4 days. When the larva hatches from the egg, it feeds on ear wax and skin oils for about a week, then develops and reproduces in the ear. The adult mite lives approximately two months. The life cycle – the time it takes for an egg to develop into an adult mite ready for parenthood – requires three weeks.

Ear mites are highly contagious and are easily spread between cats and less likely dogs. Because it is so contagious, treatment for mites must include all the pets in the household. Typically, the patient is an outdoor cat. Humans are extremely unlikely to experience any symptoms when ear mites infected their pet.


Ear mites cause inflammation and can generate very irritating ear infections. Skin disease can also result from ear mite infection from scratching so hard.

Eradicating ear mites may be multi-modal, depending on what your veterinarian decides is the best treatment for your cat or dog. These treatments include topical and/or oral medications. Prevention includes regular exams with your veterinarian and routine ear cleaning at home. NHV Echo Gold can help to keep the ears clean and reduce inflammation. If the discharge is excessive or the ear is uncomfortable and/or very itchy, your veterinarian needs to take a look at it, as severe infections can cause the eardrum to rupture. Instilling anything into an ear with a ruptured eardrum can be very damaging.

Keeping your pet on a healthy, complete diet as well as immune support can prevent an infection. NHV products such as ES Clear and BK Detox, Pet Omega 3 are very helpful in supporting optimal immune health.

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for over 20 years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: November 30, 2018

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