Wednesday, 16 January 2008

How the Mite-y are fallen!

Many people are aware of the usual creepy-crawlies that infest our furry friends - fleas, worms, ticks and lice. But there is another common visitor who rarely gets a mention.

Ear mites! These are invisible to the human eye, but cause huge discomfort to the poor cat who has been invaded by them.

Take black and white Buster and tabby George (photos above). When George came into our care recently, we noticed almost straight away that he was scratching at his ears with his back feet. He'd even caused a little bit of bleeding around the edges of one ear. Closer examination showed crusty black deposits around the top of his ear canals, a typical symptom. Buster on the other hand, did not display any scratching symptoms, but every time his head was stroked or touched he shook his head violently, and often fell over or lost his balance as a consequence. Closer examination of his ears showed no signs of the crusty black deposits.

Both cats were taken to our vets at the first opportunity. Examination is quick and diagnosis can take place immediately. Our vet looked into each cat's ears with an auroscope and immediately saw a hive of activity as tens of little tiny mites scurried round the ear canals. The vet checked to make sure there was no infection and to make sure that the ear drum was not perforated, and then dispensed a bottle of drops for each lad.

The drops are to be administered daily for a week which kills off all the adult mites. Then there is the option of a week's break, and then the drops are administered for a second time, again for a week. This second dose kills off all the mites that were still in eggs during the first dosage. In most cases this three week course (a week on, a week off, another week on) will be enough to eradicate the pests, but of course once their courses of treatment are finished, we will keep an eye on George and Buster to make sure that none of the original symptoms recommence. If they do, we will once again ask the vet to check their ears.

Ear mites are easily passed from one cat to another and are a lot more common than people think, but they are easy and relatively cheap to treat. Left unattended the cat will scratch and shake his head in increasing amounts of pain. Years ago whilst collecting some cats from the vets we noticed a gorgeous ginger lad recovering from an operation. The vets told us that he had all but scratched his ears off due to the mites, and had had to have them re-stitched back on. The poor lad. All for a bottle of drops!