Ear mites are a small, almost microscopic parasite belonging to the Arachnida family, like ticks and mange mites.
There are two main species, the Neotodres and the Otodectes. The neotodres mostly affect cats, while the Otodectes affects cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets. On a very rare occasion, they have affected humans.
Since Otodectes cynotis are the most common and can affect a wide variety of animals, we will focus on them. They are transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal. Once they are on your pet, they begin to feed on skin cells, blood and earwax. Next, they begin to lay eggs. Once laid, the eggs require four days of incubation time. Once the egg has hatched the larva feed for one week before changing into a protonymph. After the protonymph stage is deutonymph, and the life cycle gets interesting. The deutonymph, which is gender-neutral, mates with an adult male otodectes. If the deutonymph changes into a female, she lays her eggs, feeds and finds another mate. If the deutonymph changes into a male, it finds a female to mate with. This entire life cycle is completed in three weeks on a single host. A single female can lay five eggs a day. That’s 140 eggs per month! It’s a good thing they only live for 2 months.
If your pet has contracted ear mites, you will notice red, inflamed ears, they may be itchy, or irritated. You may also see dark, crusty debris, similar to coffee grounds. Due to the irritation and itchiness of the ears, you may notice lots of head shaking. It can lead to an aural hematoma if the shaking becomes excessive.
Treatment for ear mites is fairly easy if the pet is compliant. It involves regular cleaning of the ears and medications. Since ear mites are highly contagious, treatment is necessary for all animals in the house. The whole process may take up to 4 weeks to treat completely. Severe infections may take longer. Fortunately, ear mites cannot live in the environment very long, so treatment of your home is unnecessary.
If you think your pet has ear mites, please bring them in to be tested and treated. Ear mites may be small, but they can cause a lot of pain.
If you have any questions, give us a call at 604.463.7100 for more information.
Written by: Alouette Animal Hospital