Q: My 4-month-old kitten has been scratching at her ears (to the point of) bleeding at times. I have tried to clean her ears with rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs, but she continues to dig at her ears and the condition returns. She almost won't let me touch them because they seem to be so sore. Should I use a different ear-cleaning product? Is she always going to have this ear problem or is there an effective medication that I can use? Mrs. R. Wiltzer,
A: Sore ears in a cat or dog could be due to ear mites--tiny, white mites that invade the lining of the ear canal and cause intense irritation. Animals affected by these mites will constantly scratch or rub at their ears and shake their heads. The ear mite, called Otodectes cynotis , can live in the ear canal and reproduce within a month's time. The mite can also be found on other parts of the body, especially the head, back, and tail. This mite is contagious to other cats or dogs and is generally spread by close contact.
Have your kitten examined and treated by your veterinarian. There are other causes for sore ears, such as feline scabies mites or even foreign bodies in the canal like a foxtail. Your veterinarian will want to examine the ear canal and clean the ears thoroughly. A skin scraping may be necessary to rule out other causes. Your kitten will also need to be bathed or treated with a spray or powder to eliminate any other mites that may be present. You will also get proper medication to treat the ears on a regular basis. The treatment may take 2 to 3 weeks, so a re-examination may be necessary.