Ouch! that hurts! Otodectic Mange in cats

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Dr A Sangran
Dr KT Kavitha
If your feline friend has been itching or pawing her ears a lot lately, is irritated, and you see her ears being red and inflamed, then these can be signs of otodectic mange or itchy ears in cats. Read on and find out how you can help your pet and get proper treatment for her!
 
Otodectic mange is one of the most common ear problems in cats and is caused by a mite, Otodectescynotis, commonly known as ear mite. These mites infest the ear, causing inflammation of the ear canal. The entire life cycle of the mite completes in 3 weeks in the ear canal itself and it eats away the skin cells and even earwax of your feline buddy. They cause irritation through mechanical damage and increased production of ear wax.
 
Ear mites are highly contagious, spread by direct contact between cats or other pets. Cats typically pick up ear mites from contact with infested animals, such as other cats, dogs, rabbits and rodents. Mother cats may pass on the problem to their kittens. Cats can also get the mites from contaminated surfaces like bedding, grooming tools, and environments like boarding facilities.
 
Signs that scream attention
Signs can vary in severity depending on the level of infestation. They can affect one or both ears, and the presence of mites often causes inflammation, intense itching, scratching the ear, head shaking, drooping of the ear, and accumulation of excessive discharge within the ear.
 
Waxy or crusty discharge that looks like coffee grounds may be evident on the exterior and interior surfaces of your pet’s ears. Cats respond with vigorous ear shaking and scratching that may cause lesions and abrasions on the skin. In severe cases, secondary bacterial and fungal infection may complicate the disease. With some cats, hair loss on the back of the ears will also be noticed.
 
Timely diagnosis & treatment does good
Diagnosis is based on the clinical signs, physical examination and microscopic examination of ear swab, and medical history of your pet. Additional diagnosis should be carried out to rule out other underlying diseases, like secondary bacterial or yeast ear infections.
 
The basic element of the treatment is thorough cleansing of your pet’s ears with an appropriate cleaning solution. Further course of line of treatment will be decided by your veterinarian depending on the severity of the problem. Additionally, treating all other at-risk pets in the household will reduce the risk of recurrence and prevent the spread of mites. Hygiene and healthy diet – two pillars that support wellness
 
Cats can contract ear mites from other cats and dogs as well as infested environments. Hence, the best way to prevent the recurrence is to keep your pet away from infested animals. Take care to maintain a hygienic environment – regularly wash the bedding and litter box in hot water with detergent, and vacuum the house thoroughly. Enhance your pet’s immune system y feeding her a healthy and balanced diet. You can also ask your vet to recommend some multivitamins or supplements for your pet’s overall health and wellbeing.
(Dr A Sangaran and Dr KT Kavitha are from the Department of Veterinary Parasitology, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai)