Ear mites gone wild!

By Patty Khuly, DVM on Jan. 28, 2009
Ear mites gone wild!

Got mites? I certainly hope you don’t...but if you’re like some of my clients you may be convinced your cat just can’t get rid of her ear mite infection (though it’s been years now). Or maybe he lives mostly outside and he is chronically exposed and constantly infected, in which case you should really be doing something about it.

Whatever the case...there’s help. 

In fact, ear mites don’t have to be a problem for you...ever. Really. 

Here’s the skinny on these critters: Ear mites are tiny arachnoid-looking creatures that enjoy the warm, moist environment provided by the average ear. Though they’re more specific to cats, dogs can get them, too. Humans, even, have been known to catch a bug or two, though transmission takes some serious exposure (like playing with your ears right after rifling through a pile of ear mites).

If you’re curious on the human infection thing, there’s an actual account in JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association), circa 1993, where an intrepid (if somewhat masochistic) veterinarian purposely infected himself with ear mites. Apart from demonstrating to the world how kooky some veterinarians can be, his claim to scientific fame was that--get this--ear mite infections are really really itchy. Genius!

Indeed, if this veterinarian’s findings are any guide, cats with ear mite infections experience a crackly crunching sound in their ears...and they’re plagued with extreme itchiness, too, enough to yield the telltale signs of an infestation: claw marks about the ear and head from their vigorous scratching. 

Looking at one up close is enough to induce delusional parasitosis, right?

Though usually easily diagnosed by swabbing out the ear and checking the characteristically brown-black, crusty material under a microscope for signs of seemingly extraterrestrial life, it’s not always that easy in some early cases...or when owners have already initiated a battery of OTC treatments. 

If there’s one thing that makes me crazy it’s the sale of veterinary products (like parasitacides) at supermarkets and feed stores for conditions that are easily misdiagnosed by laypersons. Sure, they can work, but ear mite treatment is soooo much easier when...

1. You know for sure that’s what you’re treating (as opposed to another kind of ear infection), and...

2. You use the right stuff.

Acarexx and MilbeMite are two readily available preparations for the topical (in ear) treatment of ear mites. After two doses, two weeks apart, over 90% of my patients are cured (the remaining 10% get an extra treatment in another couple of weeks). No twice daily ear drops for indefinite periods of time. No pyrethrins toxicity as with some OTC products. 

Need something to prevent future infections? Revolution and Advantage-Multi are both labeled for the treatment and control of ear mites. That means that both products will kill ear mites as well as prevent future infections. In kittens, I’ll use Revolution over the stronger Acarexx and MilbeMite in an off label manner: 3 doses, each two weeks apart. (The Revolution gets applied on the back of the neck, not IN the ears.)

See how easy it is? And you didn’t even have to put ear mites in your own ears to reap the benefits of this veterinary information. 


Patty Khuly, DVM


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