One day, out of the blue, you notice your cat scratching his ears incessantly and shaking his head. You immediately check the inside of his ears and notice some dark brown granular deposits that resemble coffee grounds. These tiny dots you see could be ear mites.
Ear mites are very common parasitic infestations in cats and can spread quickly to other animals. These tiny critters live on the surface of the skin and feed off skin oils and ear wax, causing huge amounts of itching and discomfort. Without the appropriate treatment intervention, your cat will scratch at the itchy bugs until it causes skin irritation and ruptures.
Fortunately, there are home remedies available that might effectively eradicate this nuisance. One such popular treatment, which most cat owners swear by, is Vaseline. Yes – the same petroleum jelly you use to treat dry skin and irritations. While it may effectively manage your cat’s ear infestation, a lot of fur parents are concerned about its safety, especially if ingested by cats.
In this article, we will take a look at how this popular ear mite remedy might help your cat, as well as the risks associated with its use.
But first, let us talk about ear mites
Also known as Otodectes cynotis, these tiny parasites are fairly common not only among cats, but also dogs, ferrets, and rabbits. Ear mites are highly contagious and resemble miniature crabs or spiders which you can barely see with the naked eye. They live in your pet’s ear canal and survive by piercing the ear’s surface and sucking out blood, leaving a brown or reddish waste substance on the skin.
Ear mites can infect any skin area on your pet such as the head or neck, but the oil and wax present in the ear canal provide their ideal breeding ground. Typically, an adult can live for up to two months and can reproduce quickly. The eggs only need four days to hatch, and an additional three weeks to grow into adult mites capable of reproduction.
How your cat gets ear mites
Intimate contact with an infected animal is the most common way to spread ear mites. If one of your pets has the infestation, the mites can easily be picked up from cages, crates, beds, and other play areas. When your cat vigorously shakes and scratches his ears, crusts containing eggs and live mites can fall off in the area around him, and can then be picked by the other pets.
Fortunately, adult mites do not live very long, so if you intervene early, the bugs will not have time to multiply or find new hosts to reproduce on. Bathing your cat regularly, as well as disinfecting the play areas, can prevent re-infestation. It is also critical to treat not just the infected cat but all the pets living under your roof to ensure that the mites do not take up residence on another animal.
Symptoms of ear mite infection
A cat infested with ear mites might show various symptoms. One common behavior you may notice first is constant head-shaking, as if he is trying to shake off water after a bath. Sometimes he might tilt his head at an odd angle, as if trying to get rid of something from his ear. At this point, you should start suspecting an ear mite infestation.
The next step is to check for any inflammation present on the ear flaps. As your cat intensely scratches or paws the infected area, the blood vessels in the skin can rupture and cause the pooling of blood under the skin’s surface. As a result, you will begin to notice swelling, puffiness, or inflammation of the ears, also medically known as hematoma.
Other possible symptoms associated with ear mite infestation include:
- Hair loss around the infected ears
- Strong odor and discharge coming from the ear canal
- Appearance of scabs and other skin problems near the ears
- Increased ear wax production
- Irritation on the affected ears
Keep in mind that some skin problems, like allergies and infections, could have similar symptoms to ear mite infection. So, if you suspect your pet has ear mites, it is best to have it checked by a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Do not start any treatment unless you are sure of what your feline is suffering from.
Once you have confirmed the presence of these parasites in your cat’s ears, you can take the necessary steps to prevent further infestation. Never delay treatment as this can lead to severe complications such as dermatitis or even permanent loss of hearing and balance.
Is Vaseline effective against ear mites?
As a fur parent, it can be frustrating to see your cat in pain and having trouble sleeping due to the itchy infestation. Fortunately, home remedies like Vaseline are available to get rid of these pesky critters.
Vaseline is a popular brand name of petroleum jelly, a topical ointment used to heal or relieve skin discomforts in humans. Petroleum jelly is made of mineral oils and waxes formulated for dry skin, irritation, itchiness, and cracked lips or eyelids. The product is also commonly used to heal burns and minor cuts.
Due to its healing and moisturising properties, Vaseline has also become a popular home remedy for skin-related issues in household pets, and many cat owners find this product an effective relief for ear mite infestations.
To use petroleum jelly, apply it externally to the affected skin areas. The thick substance can effectively suffocate adult mites while cleaning and moisturizing the irritated ear flaps. Vaseline can also help remove the excess ear wax from your pet’s ear canal, thus removing the mites’ food source.
Is Vaseline safe for cats?
Vaseline is generally safe to use on your cat’s skin and should not cause any adverse side effects. Its moisturizing properties aid in relieving itchiness as well as the skin inflammation caused by ear mites. To use, simply dab a small amount on the infected area. Your cat should immediately feel relief from pain and itchiness.
Vaseline should only be used externally, so make sure that your pet will not be able to lick it. Although petroleum jelly is said to be safe to be swallowed in small amounts, it may not be safe for your cat when ingested in larger amounts.
Other home remedies for ear mites
If for any reason you do not like using Vaseline or you simply do not have the product available at home, there are other remedies you can use that produce the same results. What is good about these options is that they are cheap and can be found in most households.
So, if you want a natural way to heal your cat’s ear mites infection, check whether any of the following are available in your kitchen or medicine cabinet:
1. Yellow dock root extract
Yellow dock root extract is a common herb used to treat inflammation and swelling, especially of the respiratory tract. It is also an effective treatment for bacterial infections. Using this herb for a cat’s ear mites will not only heal the swollen ear flaps but also manage any skin infection caused by frequent scratching.
To use yellow dock root extract, simply mix nine drops of the extract with a tablespoon of water. Using a dropper, apply a sufficient amount of the mixture to your cat’s ear while gently massaging it into the inflamed skin. Apply the mixture once every three days and continue the treatment for up to six weeks to keep the pesky mites off the skin permanently.
2. Aloe vera
This common household plant is your go-to first aid for almost any skin-related issues. Thankfully, it is not only effective for human skin but also for your cat’s delicate skin. To fight off mites and bacterial infections, apply a small amount of the gel on your cat’s ear two to three times daily.
3. Olive oil and garlic mixture
Garlic has long been known for its healing properties against bacterial infections. When used with olive oil, the combination can be an effective weapon to beat ear mite infestations. To make the mixture, crush a few cloves of garlic and mix the paste with warmed olive oil. You can use this antiseptic mixture by applying five drops to the affected ear.
For best results, apply the oil and garlic mixture after shampooing your cat. Use the mixture once a day for up to one month to fully remove the infection.
Almost all types of oil work well to suffocate and kill ear mites. Apply a few drops of oil to your pet’s ear, and a bit later you should see the pests floating out on the skin. However, never use tea tree oil, since this is known to be toxic to cats and might worsen the infection.
Honey has long been known for its antibacterial properties and can do wonders when used to treat your cat’s ear wounds. Just dab a small amount of honey on the area two to three times a day to improve your cat’s skin condition.
6. Green tea
Green tea is a popular antiseptic that can effectively remove the brown granules from the skin, leaving your cat’s ear flaps clean. Using this tea as a cleanser is quick and easy. Just steep the tea in a cup of hot water for three to four minutes and let it cool. Use the liquid to rinse the cat’s inner ear to get rid of the debris.
7. White vinegar
Vinegar is widely appreciated for its versatility. It is not only used to enhance the flavor of culinary dishes, but is also commonly used as a cleaning agent in the kitchen. Thanks to its acidic properties, white vinegar can also be used to effectively kill the mites lurking in your pet’s ears.
Mix one part vinegar with two parts water and rub the mixture onto the ear surface. Then wipe the inner ear using small cotton balls to ensure you do not leave any debris behind.
Vets’ recommendation for ear mites
If you are doubtful about the natural solutions, check with your vet for the appropriate over-the-counter options available. Most vets recommend treatments containing ivermectin, which are available in pet supply stores. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for proper administration. It is advised to continue the treatment for the prescribed period to prevent the pesky mites from returning.
Ear mites are fairly common among cats. These critters reside in your cat’s ears, sucking their blood and feeding on skin oils and ear wax. Without proper treatment, the infestation can lead to intense itchiness and inflammation of the ears, making your pet’s life miserable. Thankfully, home remedies like Vaseline are available as cheap and fast solutions to get rid of the parasites.
Vaseline is totally safe for cats, as long as it is administered correctly. If you think you are not seeing results, call your vet to discuss other treatment options available for your cat.
Image: istockphoto.com / Lubo Ivanko