Those Awful Mites
It's a problem both cats and dogs experience, and these are the warning signs:
- Excessive and persistent scratching around the ears;
- Head shaking;
- Restless behavior;
- The ears are painful to the touch and the pet may cry out in pain;
- Brown material present in the ears;
- A foul-smelling odor.
The villain is ear mites, tiny parasites that live on the surface of the skin lining in the ear canal. They pierce the skin surface to feed, causing inflammation and discomfort. If left untreated, bacterial infections and loss of hearing may result.
Puppies can acquire an ear mite infection from their mother. Ear mites can be transmitted from one household pet to another. If ear mites are present in a multiple-pet household or a kennel, it is likely that if one animal is treated, the mites will move to another resident. The best preventive measure is to treat all residents for mites.
Dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear mite infections over short (opened) ear dogs. Air movement is restricted, promoting infection and bacterial growth. When a dog shakes its head excessively, blood vessels may rupture and soft swellings form on the ear flap. This condition is called hematoma and immediate treatment is needed to avoid pain to the dog and possible ear deformity.
If you have an infected pet, follow your veterinarian's advice. Give your pet the entire course of the prescribed ointment or lotion. If you stop a few days short because the problem seems to have gone away, parasites and bacteria may still be present and multiplying, prolonging the infection.
In some instances, bacteria (a secondary infection to mites) may develop resistance to a certain medication. It's a good idea to make follow-up visits to your veterinarian to be sure the infection is cleared up.
Ear mite infestation is often found where flea infestation, ringworm, and viral infections are present. Stress in multiple-animal environments, such as kennels, is associated with this disease. Maintaining strict sanitation procedures and avoiding overcrowded conditions are essential.
Checking a pet's ears as part of the grooming routine helps identify ear infections. Remember, a certain amount of wax is normal. A word of caution: When you clean your pet's ears, use a cotton ball or clean washcloth. Avoid using a cotton-tipped swab, which can poke debris into the eardrum and may damage the inner ear.
A final thought: The ears of dogs and cats are extremely sensitive and responsible for both hearing and balance. If any of the warning signs of ear mites or other ear problems are present, a prompt trip to your veterinarian is in order.