You notice your pet ceaselessly scratching his ear, and you immediately think, “ear infection.” You could be right, but if you spot anything resembling coffee grounds in his ear, the sinister source of that stuff — and the scratching — is likely Otodectes cynotis, or ear mites.
Ear mites are common and very contagious, so pets can easily pick them up from other furry friends. While they can affect any pet, these microscopic pests are most common in cats and kittens. They feed on superficial skin cells, leaving behind that black, crusty discharge, and their movement causes an intensely itchy feeling.
Diagnosis is easy: Ear mites are plainly visible under a microscope, so your veterinarian will likely examine a small sample from your pet’s ear. To treat your pet, your vet will first clean the ears, flushing out the mites and their waste, and then apply a topical medication directly into the ear. Your pet may need a couple of doses, but these medications are generally very effective.
Because ear mites are so contagious, if one pet in your household has them, all your pets should be treated (as well as any outside pets your furry friend may have seen recently). The good news is, they don’t affect people, so at least two-legged family members can rest safe and sound!