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Tiny parasites known as ear mites can be harmful to your cat's ears. The ear mite is a member of the spider family and is completely invisible to the naked eye. It's oval in shape, white in color and will spend its entire life cycle in your cat's ears. The mites live on the skin surface inside the ear feeding on tissue fluid. Untreated ear mites can lead to bacterial infections, loss of hearing, and torn and bleeding ear tissues resulting from excessive scratching.

Detecting ear mites is not so easy because they are so small. Watch your cat for signs: frequent and persistent scratching of the ear, inside the ear you see a brown substance that looks like debris or dirt, and head-shaking. The combination of these three symptoms almost certainly indicates ear mites. Take your cat to the vet immediately for positive identification. The veterinarian will remove some of the discharge with a cotton-tipped applicator and examine it under the microscope for proof that the problem is caused by ear mites.Treatment includes having your vet clean the cat's ears to remove the brown discharge and a portion of the parasite colony. Medication will then need to be applied to kill the remaining ear mites. The medicine is an oil-based liquid, which the vet will apply by drops into the ears and work in by massaging the outside of the ear. You will need to continue the treatment at home for 7 to 10 days.

Your vet will show you the correct procedure for applying the type of medication that is prescribed. In most instances that means applying drops into each ear and massaging the ear to distribute the fluid. Usually, medication is applied once a day. Most important DO NOT allow the applicator to touch the cats ears. You want to avoid contaminating the applicator and reinfecting your cat at the next medication.

Follow your vet's instructions to the letter. Even though the cat's ears may look better there still might be mite eggs about to hatch that must be destroyed. Otherwise, the problem will recur as soon as the eggs hatch. Please see your vet at the end of the treatment to determine the success of the program. You may need additional treatments.

If you have a multi-pet household and one animal has ear mites, have each one checked by the vet. Because these parasites can physically crawl from one animal to another, it is likely that if you treat only one cat the existing mites will simply move on to another available host.

Even though these mites are very tiny microscopic organisms they can do serious damage to your cat's hearing. If you suspect a ear mite infection, call your vet right away. Your pet's hearing is too important to take chances with. Although mites are not easy to get rid of, with prompt attention and proper treatment, the outlook is very good.