Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

Animals Affected

Cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens.


Ear mites are parasitic organisms that infest pets.  They may cause intense irritation and itching in the ears, accompanied by production of large amounts of ear wax.

Ear mites are a leading cause of ear problems in kittens and cats.  They can infest dogs and puppies as well, but are a less frequent cause of problems in this species.

Ear mites are contagious.  New treatment methods have made controlling and eliminating ear mites relatively straightforward.


The symptoms of ear mites are related to the intense itching an inflammation that the parasites trigger in the ears.

  • Pets with ear mites often scratch their ears with their feet, shake their heads, or rub their ears on the ground.
  • Ears of infested pets may be red and swollen.
  • Large amounts of dark wax may be present in the ears of infested pets.
  • Cats with ear mites may have bloody lacerations behind their ears from vigorous scratching.
  • Some pets with ear mites show no symptoms.

Risk Factors and Prevention

  • Cats and kittens appear to suffer from ear mite infestations more frequently than dogs and puppies.
  • Juvenile animals are more likely than adults to develop infestations.
  • Newly adopted pets, especially pets from shelters, may be infested with ear mites.
  • Pets that have contact with infested individuals may contract ear mites.
  • Pets that go outside have much higher rates of ear mite infestation than pets that are kept indoors.
  • Pets that receive preventative medications such as Advantage Multi® or Revolution® are very unlikely to contract ear mites.


Ear mite infestation leads to severe discomfort and irritation.  Cats in particular may injure their ears with excessive scratching.

Ear mites are contagious and can spread to multiple pets in the household.

Pets with ear mites may develop ear infections. Chronic, untreated ear mite infestations may lead to permanent damage and scarring of the ears.


Ear mites are definitively diagnosed through microscopic observation of the organisms in debris harvested from the ears.  In some instances, ear mites are diagnosed solely upon symptoms and physical examination.


Currently available treatment options make management and elimination of ear mites relatively straightforward.  Acarexx® is a medication that is gently massaged into the ears of pets.  Advantage Multi® and Revolution® are be applied to the skin on the back of the neck.  All three of these products have excellent safety profiles.

Many pets will be cured with a single dose of the above medications.  Some pets require repeated dosing.  If multiple pets live in the house, all of them should be treated simultaneously, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of infestation.

Pets with substantial ear wax may benefit from gentle ear cleansing.  Ear cleansing always should be performed under the supervision of a veterinarian.


As stated above, in some cases repeated treatments are necessary to eliminate ear mites completely. After treatment, a follow-up veterinary examination may be recommended to ensure that the mites have been removed and that no residual inflammation is present in the ears.


Ear mites are very common in kittens and cats.  In dogs and puppies, ear infections are a more common cause of ear problems.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.