Mites in Cats – Symptoms, Treatment and Contagion
The parasites, both external and internal, are a major enemy of the well-being and health of our pets in general. But if we stop to think about the nuisance of having small beings reproducing in our ears or skin, we can understand the importance of knowing as much as possible about the mites in cats as well as the symptoms, treatment and contagion of this problem.
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To do this, YourCatCareguide offers this content that serves as a general guide to prevent this infestation so uncomfortable or treat the problem when it is already present in your kitten.
The most common mite: Otodectes cynotis
This mite (a species of small spider that seems to have the gift of ubiquity to adapt to all possible environments), lives in the ears of dogs and cats, but may appear along with pulicosis, the most common external parasite in cats. Its life cycle is about 3 weeks:
- The eggs hatch after about 4 days in the ear canal.
- The larva that leaves feeds and begins to go through several nymphal stages.
- Finally, 21 days after hatching, we have an adult ready to breed and perpetuate the infestation.
They live about 8 weeks, but are very well used for intense reproduction.
Its color is whitish and females are twice the size of males, never exceeding 0.5 mm. However, we can not label these beings as microscopic, because if the cat cooperates it is possible to observe them with some ease through the use of an otoscope.
Although their habitat is the ear canal, serious infestations may extend to a deeper area of the cat ‘s head and nose , and in some cases it is possible to detect some mites lost in other areas of the body, which is difficult because of its small size. They usually appear, above all, in the upper part of the tail , which happens due to the fact that the cats sleep nested.
The mite feeds on the outer surface of the skin of the ear canal (does not dig galleries) and its saliva causes irritation and itching, causing the hypersecretion of the glands of the same.
Sintomas de Otodectes cynotis
Otodectes cynotis is a major cause of otitis externa in cats, especially in young animals. The symptoms are easily recognized and it is not necessary to have a massive infestation to notice that your cat has this problem. In addition, there may be cases of hypersensitivity in these parasites (as with fleas). The most frequent and characteristic are:
- Dark brown or yellowish dry discharge , like coffee grounds. Under normal conditions, the inside of the cat’s ears should be pink and without mucus of any kind. However, if you let time pass and you do not treat the problem, a secondary contamination with bacteria or fungi may occur, varying with the appearance and color of the secretion.
- Intense itching and frequent head jerking . The lesions caused by itching soon appear, being common in the back of the ears, cheeks and even in the neck (as when humans suffer from otitis and notice a itching sensation in the throat). Erythema and crusting may also occur from scratching the cheeks and upper eye area.
- Ear bruises . Sometimes itching causes the itching to break the capillaries and the auricular cartilage, causing blood to build up. The ear gets a typical bruise. If left untreated, it may form a clot that causes a “wrinkled ear”.
- Fibrosis and stenosis of the auditory canal . If we do not treat the chronicity of the infestation, it can cause thickening of the walls and, consequently, a reduction of canal light that may be irreversible, like any otitis.
These symptoms do not always appear and, as mentioned, there is not always a correlation between the degree of parasitization and the intensity of the symptoms.
Diagnosis of mites in cats
Because it is one of the most frequent parasites in cats, the veterinarian will perform an examination of the ear canal at each visit, being able to see with the naked eye if there is sufficient time and if the cat is calm. They often introduce the otoscope without light as soon as it is inside, to catch the intruder by surprise without having time to hide in the secretions.
However, if secretions are present and no mites are detected, the doctor will take samples with a hyssop and can observe both hexapod (3 pairs) and adult (4 pairs) eggs in the microscope . Sometimes a drop of oil is used to lubricate the very dry secretions and facilitate the removal of arthropods from their hiding place.
Even if there are no secretions that are intense or do not manifest at first glance, if you continue to notice diseases compatible with the problem in your cat, the veterinarian will insist on looking for isolated specimens that may be causing a hypersensitivity reaction.
Because they are not seen the first time, it does not mean that they are not present and therefore it is very important to explore the ear at each visit, especially in the first months of our cat’s life.
Treatment of Otodectes cynotis
In addition to the acaricidal treatments , cleansing the secretions with a suitable cleanser is very important for at least twice a week in the beginning. These cleansers are usually oily so they help to eliminate the parasites mechanically (drowning), an extra aid to the antiparasitic that we must apply in our cat.
A small inconvenience is the accidental entry into the eye of some drop of these oils and cleaning products, so we recommend that you do it carefully, as well as the appearance of Horner’s syndrome as a result of a cleaning. However, this is rare and the benefits of cleaning outweigh the drawbacks.
Most used acaricides
- Topical Selamectin (Pipette): As mites feed on blood and lymph, any product that passes into the cat’s blood will be absorbed by them. Selamectin applied to the skin of the neck is absorbed by the blood capillaries and reaches optimum concentrations in a few hours or at most two days. Mites die while feeding. One dose may be sufficient, but it is recommended to repeat after 3 weeks (the recommended time of the mite cycle).
- Ivermectin Optics: There is gel with ivermectin, created to combine the oily power of a cleanser with the acaricidal power of ivermectin. It is applied every 7 days for several weeks, but its effectiveness depends on how docile the cat is and the depth at which you can introduce the cannula. All products can cause reactions in both animals and humans, but ivermectin, because it is one of the most used and studied, may contain more known hypersensitivity data. Although it is very safe and effective, we must be alert to any possible side effects (depression, intense salivation, eye problems, pupil size difference …)
If there is a secondary fungal or bacterial infection , it should be treated with specific products. There are optical suspensions that combine antifungal and antibiotics. Sometimes we think they have acaricidal power but that’s not the case. Its effect against mites is only the ability to drown them but is a treatment sometimes short, and some may survive. In that case, the use of the selamectin pipette is necessary, combined with the treatment of the infection.
Contagion of Otodectes cynotis
The intimate and direct contact is via contagion. We all wonder how it is possible that our kitten, with only 2 months, has mites. Probably his mother already had the problem and, as a child, transmitted to the whole litter. During this time there is close contact between kittens and mother, with continuous cleaning included and mites, as well as lice in children, do not take long to reach the ears of all cats.
Although they can survive out of the ear canal for up to 10 days, the infection through fomites (objects like blankets, etc.) is very unlikely, although not discarded. However, it would have to be an environment with a great lack of hygiene and a severe infestation.
We usually associate these parasitoses with street cats, but it is quite common to find cats that originate from excellent creatures with a great deal of parasites in their ears and for this reason we should never rule out this problem. They often suffer for years, being confused with the typical wax secretions of furry cats: Persian, exotic …
Can mites on cats be spread to dogs?
If there is a good proximity between the dog and the cat and if they spend the day together, playing, sleeping and nesting, you should examine the ears of all your animals . Not forgetting the ferrets!
Can humans also get cat mites?
An erythematous lesion may appear on the arms by right contact, but again it would have to be a very dirty environment and an extreme degree infestation. It is not ruled out in cases of overcrowding of cats or when a person is hypersensitive to Otodectes cynotis and having the misfortune to come in contact with some lost mite.
Other mites in cats
Briefly, we point out other common mites that may affect our cats, less frequent in proportion but equally important:
- Demodex cati and Demodex cati : Demodex cati is the one indicated previously, whereas Demodex cati can arise from the earwax in cats, although in comparison to Demodex Canis in dogs is not very frequent. It usually causes mild otitis, but with enough yellowish wax, even in healthy cats (it is responsible for feline otodemodicosis). It responds well to the treatments described above, but its excessive proliferation or affecting the whole body may be associated with a drop in defenses or immunosuppression that must be corrected.
- Notoedres cati : This mite causes the so-called “cat head scab or notohedral scab” and is comparable to Sarcoptes scabieiin dogs regarding the life cycle and action. It is infected by direct contact and the lesions are initially specifically located on the head and neck, and the intense itching on the muzzle is the most striking. Secondary lesions are investable. It is very common in colony cats and the treatment for these cases may be the application of ivermectin in food every week for several weeks. The problem is never knowing whether the cat has ingested it or taken several doses. For affected home cats, treatment against the other mites mentioned also serve (selamectin, for example). We recommend that you consult this other article from YourCatCareguide that talks about scabies in cats .
- Cheyletiella : Walking dander or a hair mite that can be easily observed in dogs, cats and rabbits. The mouthpiece of this mite allows it to attach itself to feed on the tissues’ liquids. There are those who compare them to a “riding saddle” when they are studied in detail. the symptoms are “dandruff” and itching and the treatments are the same as the rest. In dogs, fipronil can be used.
This article is purely informative, in YourCatCareguide.com.br we do not have the capacity to prescribe veterinary treatments nor to make any type of diagnosis. We suggest you bring your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or malaise.
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