Monday, July 11, 2011

Ear Mites!

Crystal, a girl of the backstreets, was a pretty cat.  Several months ago she had a liaison with Horatio.  Her owner wasn’t aware of the clandestine relationship.  Really, there was nothing to tell. Two months later Crystal started scratching her ears.  There was dark- brown, cruddy exudate in them.  When I looked there were tiny white bugs crawling around in her ears.  Ear mites!  I heard of a veterinarian that put some ear mites in his own ears just to experience what a cat goes through with these pests.  They nearly drove him nuts as they crawled around.  These mites spend much of their life crawling around on a cat’s body where ear treatment doesn’t work.  Therefore, treatment in the ears must have a prolonged effect to kill the mites when they periodically visit the ear canals.  We see a lot of cats with mites, treat them, and send home drops to be administered when the cat starts to scratching again.  This is about once a month for indoor-outdoor cats where exposure to feral cats causing re-infestation can occur.  Strictly indoor cats are usually free of mites after two treatments.  But, all cats in the house must be treated.  If not, any untreated cat will be a source of re=infestation of all the others.
Another condition in cats that is clinically similar to ear mite infestation is due to a polyp growing in the ear chambers.  This can be confused with infection or mites and requires surgery for a cure.
Ear problems are very common in dogs.  But mites are rare.  I have only seen one case of ear mites and that was in a pup.  Yeast infections in the ears of dogs are very frequently encountered.  They cause dark brown to black exudate to form in the ears that is similar to that seen with cats that have ear mites.  However, treatment is very different for mites and yeast infections.  If yeast infection of dogs is not treated properly it can result in rupture of the ear drum leading to middle ear infection which is a serious, difficult problem to treat.