How to Remedy Ear Mites in Pets

Updated on June 22, 2019
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.

Learn facts about ear mites and how to get rid of an infestation.
Learn facts about ear mites and how to get rid of an infestation. | Source

How to Tell If Your Dog or Cat Has Ear Mites

Ear mites dwell in the ears of animals, and some mite species are specific to certain animals. If you have pets in your house and notice that they are scratching their ears often, they may have an infestation. Ear mites can infect one or both ears of your pet. This article will teach you how to remedy this situation and will discuss whether or not ear mites are transmissible to humans.

Are You Dealing With a Mite Infestation?

  • Learn what species exist and how to identify them.
  • Understand how they spread.
  • Learn the symptoms of having ear mites.
  • Learn how ear mites are treated medically.
  • Discover potential home remedies for the problem.

Mites are characterized by their small size and their eight legs. The scientific name, Otodectes cynotis (the most common species of mite), describes the mite genus and species. Oto means "ear," dectes means "biter," and cynotis means "of the dog." Otodectes cynotis translates to "ear biter of the dog," which is how these mites behave—they live under the surface of the skin.

Another mite species that can cause skin infections is called demodex. They infect areas of the head and the ears, however, they do not infect areas inside the ear canal like the Otodectes or Notoedres species.

Which Animals Get Ear Mites?

Species
Animals Affected
Otodectes cynotis
Cats, dogs, ferrets, and foxes
Notoedres cati
Cats
Psoroptes cuniculi
Cattle, sheep, and goats

How Do They Spread?

Mites can spread easily, and animals already infested with ear mites can spread them to others via short physical contact. Cats and ferrets are the animals most commonly affected by ear mites; though it is less common, dogs can also acquire an infestation.

An ear mite can live for around four weeks. After laying eggs, they hatch within three to four days. A female mite is able to reproduce only after three weeks of its lifecycle. Because mite eggs hatch quickly, these infestations can spread fast.

Ear mites cause an inflammatory reaction on the skin, which presents somewhat similarly to yeast and bacterial infections. This makes infestations a bit hard to detect. They are also very small and can hardly be seen by the human eye.

The species of mites that are found on animals can't infest humans; we are generally immune to them. That's not to say that we can't be affected at all—they may still cause an unsightly rash (luckily, not inside our ears).

Although we cannot contract mites from our pets, humans can still transmit mites to other species. That means that parasites from an affected animal can reside on our skin and hang on for a while until they find another host animal.

What Are the Symptoms of Ear Mites?

Dogs
Cats
Excessive rubbing and scratching of the ears
Excessive rubbing and scratching of the ears
Aggressive head shaking
Head shaking
Brown or black, waxy secretion in the ears
Brown or black, waxy secretion in the ears
Repulsive odor
Repulsive odor
Inflammation in the affected area
Inflammation in the affected area
Coffee ground-like discharge which obstructs the ear canal
Coffee ground-like discharge which obstructs the ear canal
Dermatitis and hair loss
Scabs or scratches near the ear

What Treatments Work Best?

There are more than a few alternatives to treat your pet's ear mite infestation. A checkup with a veterinarian is recommended so that they can advise the best approach depending on the scenario. Do not depend on over-the-counter medications. These are less effective than those that are prescribed by veterinarians. Newer medications for treating ear mites in pets generally require only one application.

Some common medications for treating ear mite symptoms are:

  • Antifungals: There are a variety of antifungal drugs available. In this case, topical antifungals can be used. Fungus can grow when there is excessive moisture in an area like the ear canal. The secretions from mites can attract fungus, and an antifungal may, therefore, be necessary.
  • Anti-inflammatories: As previously mentioned, mites can cause inflammation, which leads to rashes. These rashes cause itchiness in the affected area. Anti-inflammatory drugs are supplied in both topical and oral forms. If oral medication is prescribed, some factors need to be considered, such as the age of the patient, whether or not the patient has allergies, is pregnant, etc.
  • Anti-bacterials: Like fungus, bacteria thrive in moisture-rich areas. Bacteria can also worsen the mite infestation by introducing other types of infections. Anti-bacterial drugs are available in both topical and oral forms. The same contraindications with anti-inflammatory drugs also apply.
  • Anti-mite treatments: There are several anti-mite options available. Some of the newer ones need only a single application to wipe out the whole infestation. This is what actually kills the mites and their eggs. The other medications only help by reducing the risks associated with an infestation.

Photo of an ear mite taken at 100x magnification through a microscope (Otodectes cyanotis).
Photo of an ear mite taken at 100x magnification through a microscope (Otodectes cyanotis). | Source

Products That Are Used to Treat Ear Mites in Pets

Product
How It Is Used
Milbemite or Acarexx
Applied to the affected area in cats as advised.
Advantage Multi or Revolution
A single dose may resolve the infestation, but these topicals should be applied monthly as a regular preventative.
Tresaderm
Requires repeated treatment but can also calm inflammation and treat yeast or secondary bacterial infections.
Ivermectin
An injectable treatment that is contraindicated for some breeds.

Can Humans Get Mites?

Now that we all know that ear mites are very contagious among cats and dogs, how about us, the pet owners? Are ear mites transmissible to humans?

People who are always in close contact with animals, like vets, may acquire ear mites temporarily and may experience some irritation, but will not become infested.

While it's possible for insects and even mites to live and reproduce inside the human ear, these are not the same species that are found on pets. As with all ear infestations, it's always a good approach to teach the patient about which creature infested their ear after it has been removed. Discussing it before the removal has been shown to cause anxiety in most patients.

Ear mite infestations in humans is termed otoacariasis. It is very rare, according to Dr. Ian Storpre, New York Neck and Head Institute's otology director at Lenox Hill Hospital. The condition is accompanied by ear tissue swelling and debris that can be found inside the ear canal.

Storper said that seeing a cockroach inside a patient's ear is more common than finding ear mites. Insects find it difficult to crawl backwards, which explains why they are most commonly found dead after they crawl inside a human's ear. If they could survive in those conditions, a person would likely experience severe pain and a loud buzzing noise inside their ear.

Precautions

It is highly recommended that you consult with a medical professional about ear infections before considering or attempting to use a home remedy.

Humans are not at risk of developing ear mite infestations from their pets.
Humans are not at risk of developing ear mite infestations from their pets. | Source

Home Remedies for Ear Mite Infestations in Humans

There are home remedies for ear mites in humans that have stood the test of time, and some are even being rediscovered for their potency and effectiveness. These remedies should not be used on animals.

Garlic

Garlic has long been hailed as a very effective treatment for a variety of conditions, and scientists are only beginning to unlock its full potential. Almost every known culture has used garlic as medicine for one thing or another. In the case of an ear mite infection, garlic can serve as a very effective and natural antibacterial agent.

  • Directions: Soak a few cloves in olive oil for 24 hours. Use the oil to clean the ear by using cotton buds.

Olive Oil

Combined with garlic, olive oil is a potent antibiotic. Olive oil can also be used by itself to clean the affected ear. A clean ear is not a sound dwelling place for ear mites since they thrive on dead skin.

  • Directions: Drop a few drops into the ear, then clean with cotton buds.

Almond Oil and Vitamin E

You might not find these to be immediately available in your kitchen or medicine kit, but you can easily buy them from the nearest health store. Both almond oil and vitamin E improve the condition of inflamed skin and may relieve itching in the affected area.

  • Directions: Mix vitamin E and almond oil at room temperature. Put a few drops in the affected ear three times a week.

Corn Oil

Corn oil has many uses in the kitchen, and it is toxic to mites.

  • Directions: Using a cotton bud soaked in corn oil, clean the ears. Make sure that you reach all the crevices. Do this daily for three to four weeks.

Hair Shampoo

Cleaning your hair with shampoo is a preventative procedure. Long hair can gather bacteria which can get into the ears and worsen the condition. Also, mites can spread from facial hair to the ears.

  • Directions: Wash your hair (both head and facial) with shampoo before going to bed.

Green Tea

Green tea is another ancient remedy that is getting a second look from scientists and medical professionals due to its unsung benefits. Green tea is a potent but safe antiseptic.

  • Directions: Brew the tea and let it cool down to room temperature, then use a cotton swab to clean the affected ear.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is known to be a very powerful cleaning agent because of its acidic component.

  • Directions: Use a cotton swab to apply white vinegar to the affected area.

Yellow Dock Root Extract

This remedy is somewhat obscure, and only the most dedicated herbalists know the anti-mite potency of this root.

  • Directions: Mix nine drops of the extract with one teaspoon of water. Use a dropper to apply the mixture into the affected ear.

You can treat ear mites using medically proven medications as well as time-proven home remedies. Still, you should always consult with a doctor when you feel discomfort in your ears (whether it's caused by ear mites or not).

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Sree Vani

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    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 

      15 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Sree Vani:

      I am happy to hear that ear mites from pets are generally not climbing in and inhabiting people's ears. Your natural remedies list seems like a plausible first line of treatment for me. Thank you for posting this good information.

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