Ferrets - Ear Mites

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

What are ear mites in ferrets?

An ear mite, called Otodectes cynotis, is a common problem for ferrets and can affect a ferret of any age and sex. Your ferret may acquire ear mites from other affected ferrets, dogs, or cats at home, or at the breeder, pet store, or animal shelter that you got it from.

Ferrets naturally produce a thick brown wax called cerumen in their ears. Therefore, not all wax buildup is caused by ear mites. These mites are sometimes visible to the naked eye if you look carefully, but usually require a medical microscope to fully identify them. Your ferret’s ears should be cleaned regularly if dirty. A moist Q-tip can be used to clean the wax buildup.

What are the signs of ear mites on my ferret?

Early in the infestation, your ferret may not show any signs of ear mites, but the ear may become intensely irritated in time. You may notice that your ferret is shaking his head or scratching himself. You may see hair loss and small scratches or wounds on the skin due to your ferret scratching the area. You may also see a thick, reddish-brown, or almost black material that has built up in the ear canal. As noted above, not all wax buildup is caused by mites, so a veterinary exam is recommended to assess the cause of the wax buildup.

"You may see hair loss and small scratches or wounds on the skin..."

To identify and properly treat ear mites, bring your ferret to your veterinarian at least once a year for regular examinations. Your veterinarian will examine the ears and crusts for evidence of ear mites and other external parasites.

How will my veterinarian treat my ferret’s ear mites?

While there are no ferret-specific drugs for managing ear mites in ferrets, your veterinarian will use products designed for dogs and cats (their use in ferrets is described as off-label). Topical cat medications, such as Ivermectin™ and Revolution™, may help. These medications should ONLY be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.

Also, it is very important to clean and treat the environment (including the cage and bedding), especially where your ferret resides and visits. Treatment must be long enough to kill the mite(s) from the last egg(s) hatched. Because ear mites can affect dogs and cats, these pets also need to be treated.

IMPORTANT: Consult with a veterinarian familiar with ferrets regarding the proper topical and environmental treatments. Certain products should not be used on ferrets.

DO NOT use flea collars, organophosphates, straight permethrin sprays, or permethrin spot-on on your pet ferret.

Do I have to worry about ear mites affecting me or my family members?

No. Ferret ear mites will not infect people.

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