Are ear mites contagious

Are ear mites contagious to humans or other animals?

The presence of ear mites in the ear canal of cats and dogs causes irritation and intense itching. These pesky parasites are also called ear canker mites or otodectic mites. They are very small and are barely invisible to the human eye. Ear mites thrive by feeding off skin oils and ear wax. Coffee ground-like ear wax is often a prominent symptom in affected pets. Keep reading to find out if these pesky ear parasites are contagious to you and your pets.

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What are ear mites?

The most commonly seen ear mite species in pets is Otodectes cynotis. This species is responsible for 90% of ear mite infections in felines.

Ear mites are very contagious. They can easily travel from ear passages of affected cats or dogs to any other pets in close contact even if only for a brief period. The main route of infestation is from the dam (mother) to the offspring. Other routes of spread include contaminated combs, brushes, bedding, or other grooming accessories.

Are ear mites contagious to humans?

Humans are not definitive (preferred) hosts of ear mites. But there are cases of ear mite infestation in people. Although quite rare, some of these cases are traced back to ear mite-infested pets in the family. To survive, mites need a host. They are unable to last long on environmental surfaces.

Close contact with a pet that is harboring ear mites, such as sharing a bed with your cat or allowing your dog on the furniture, increases the risk of being infected. Ear mites from your pet’s ears can travel to your bedding or furniture and attach to other pets or you.

Take note, however, that you can also get ear mites by playing with anyone’s pet that has ear mites or by sitting on a couch or sleeping on a hotel bed where ear mites are present.

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Humans

Just like in dogs, the presence of these pesky parasites in the ears of people can be very uncomfortable. Tell-tale signs of ear mites in humans include:

  • Persistent ear itchiness
  • Redness around the ear area
  • Black or brown-colored ear wax
  • Irritation in the ears
  • Tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, or humming sound in the ear)
  • Sense of increased ear pressure

Symptoms tend to differ between persons. You could exhibit all of these signs or only a few. If left untreated, ear mite infestation in humans can cause damage to the ear canal leading to loss of hearing.
Some people develop a temporary itchy rash when there are pets infested with ear mites in the household. But these cases are very rare.

If you develop any of these symptoms, have your ears checked by your doctor right away. The sooner you get professional medical attention, the sooner appropriate medication can be administered to kill ear mites and their eggs. Also, you should make an appointment with your vet to have your pet checked for ear mites.

How to Prevent Ear Mite Infestation in Humans

  • Keep a close eye on your pets. Be alert for any signs indicating the presence of ear mites in their ear passages so you can seek professional help immediately.
  • Dark-colored ear discharge from your pet’s ears is a red flag that should be brought to the attention of your vet. If there’s an ear mite infestation, your pet’s ears will be cleaned by your vet and the appropriate medication will be prescribed to address the infection. These may include antiparasitic treatments and a round of antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present.
  • Work with your vet in creating a preventive health program that will include measures to protect your dog or cat (and others in your household) from future infestations.
  • If you have a multi-pet household, your vet may recommend treating all pets even if only one pet is showing signs of infection.
  • An infected pet should be kept separated from other family pets.
  • Avoid sharing a bed or furniture with your pet.
  • Sanitize and wash any items (such as their bedding and chew toys) that your pet uses regularly.

My cat has ear mites. Are they contagious to my other pets?

Ear mites are highly contagious, and animals become infested by direct contact with another infested animal. Infestations can occur in animals of any age, but cases are more common in young cats and dogs.

Transmission from the affected mother to the newborn often occurs soon after birth. Aside from cats and dogs, ear mites can also infest rabbits, ferrets, and other pets in the household.

The signs of ear mite infestation in pets are similar to that of humans. In severe cases, skin lesions may spread to other parts of the body, such as the neck. At first, pet owners might think that their pets have bacterial or yeast infections in the ear, but a thorough checkup and microscopic exam by a vet can reveal ear mites in the ear canals. Occasionally, ear mites may cause an itchy, papular, crusting skin eruption, especially on the neck, rump, or tail. This condition is called otodectic acariasis.

Ear Mites in Ferrets

In ferrets, the symptoms include ear scratching and shaking their heads, but many are asymptomatic. Other symptoms that may be present include inflammation of the external ear and dark brown ear wax (but it’s normal for ferrets to have dark-colored ear wax). Secondary otitis media or interna with neurologic deficits, most commonly head tilt, is uncommonly seen secondary to ear mite infestation in ferrets.

How to Prevent Pets from Getting Ear Mites

  • Keep your cat or dog away from other animals that are harboring ear mites.
  • Wash your pet’s toys and bedding in hot water regularly.
  • Wash your bedding and furniture cover in a tumble dryer to get rid of the mites.
  • Ask your vet about preventative medication or monthly check-ups and ear cleaning if your pet has a history of ear mite infestation.

Read more:

Common Ear Problems in Cats

How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

Symptoms and Treatment of Mites in Dogs

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