Ear mites in dogs

Ear mites are tiny parasites that are highly contagious. Dogs usually become infested by direct contact with another infested animal. They can also be picked up from the home, garden and environment. Any dog can catch ear mites, but puppies are more susceptible. Ear mites can be treated relatively easily.

The ear mite, scientific name Otodectes cynotis, is a surface mite that lives on dogs and cats. Ear mites can cause intense ear irritation and discomfort. These tiny parasites are not visible to the naked eye, so the diagnosis needs to be confirmed by a vet.


What are ear mites in dogs?

Ear mites are a common parasite in dogs, although more likely to occur in cats.

They are similar to ticks but much smaller in size.

Ear mites can be seen under a microscope, since they are barely visible to the naked eye.

They are usually found in the ear canal but can also live on the skin surface.

Ear mites are extremely contagious, hopping from dog to dog or even from cat to dog.

They can survive in the environment for months so your dog can catch them from your home, garden, or environment.

Most ear infections in dogs are not caused by ear mites but are often mistaken to be.


What are the symptoms of ear mites in dogs?

You might see some or all of the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Itchy ears
  • Rubbing face/head
  • Ear wax (which is often dark brown)
  • Unpleasant smell from the ears
  • Red, painful, swollen ears

A dog with ear mites can have the same symptoms as a dog with an ear infection. That’s why it’s important to speak with a vet for help with diagnosis and treatment.


Are some dogs more likely to have ear mites?

Any breed or age of dog can develop ear mites.

Puppies younger than three months are commonly seen with this infectious disease. This is due to the lack of:

  • Immunity
  • Contact with topical treatments which treat a wide range of parasites (such as certain flea treatments)

Can humans catch ear mites from dogs?

In extremely rare cases, dog owners may develop skin rashes.

The ear mites that infect dogs are different from the parasite affecting humans.


How are ear mites diagnosed in dogs?

The diagnosis of an ear mite infection is made by detection of the mite. The following methods can be used:

  • Otoscope exam (a medical device which is used to look into the ears)
  • Microscopic examination of discharge from the ear
  • Skin scrapes will, sometimes, reveal the mite

Vet treatment

How are ear mites in dogs treated?

Treatment for ear mites in dogs involves both cleaning the ear and giving medication to treat the problem.


Ear mite treatment

  • A tablet or spot-on will be prescribed by a vet to kill the ear mite.
  • Treatment may need to be repeated to successfully eliminate all of the mites.
  • If you have other dogs or cats in your household, you will need to treat them for ear mites as well.


Ear cleaner

  • Cleaning the ears will help remove excess wax and debris from your dog’s ears.
  • Make sure to follow the professional recommendations on how frequently you need to clean your dog’s ears.


Medicated ear drops

  • Your vet may prescribe ear drops to treat inflammation, pain, and infection.
  • Follow the instructions and finish the course of treatment, even if your dog’s ears seem better part way through.


Treat your home

  • Ear mites can survive in the environment for months, so you will need to spray your home and wash bedding and grooming equipment in hot water (ideally at 90॰C).
  • Household flea spray is effective against ear mites in the home, but never use it directly on an animal. This is a product that should be purchased with professional advice.

Home treatment

Home treatment for ear mites in dogs

There is no homemade treatment that is completely safe and effective.

There are many products on the market that claim to kill ear mites, but those available without a prescription are usually less effective than a licensed product from a vet.

Ear drops will not kill the eggs of ear mites. Once the ear drops are finished, the eggs will hatch and reinfest your dog within a week or two.

If you suspect your dog has ear mites, we recommend seeking professional advice.


How to prevent ear mites in dogs?

It is difficult to prevent your dog from coming into contact with this parasite. These mites will attach themselves to everything from grass to moving objects.

If your dog has been treated for mites, ensure their living area is thoroughly cleaned to prevent future reinfections.

Prevent reinfection by regularly treating your dog for surface parasites. Many of the products we use to kill fleas also kill ear mites.


Ear mites vs ear wax in dogs

It’s normal for dogs to have a small amount of earwax. However, excessive ear wax can be a sign of ear mites or other ear conditions.

Consult a professional if you notice excessive:

  • Wax build-up
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Unpleasant odour
  • Itchiness
  • Head shaking


Ear mites vs ear infection in dogs

There are a number of reasons why your dog might have sore ears. How can you determine if the problem is ear mites or an ear infection?

Ear infections are common in dogs and can have many different causes. These include:

  • Yeast or bacterial infection
  • Secondary to an allergic skin disease

It’s best to consult with a vet and rule out other potential causes.

When to worry

When do you need to call the vet about your dog’s ears?

If your dog shows any of the following signs, call your local vet:

  • Pain when touching or when scratching their ears
  • Failure to improve despite treatment
  • Puffy ears

Call us now at Joii and speak to us vets if your dog has one or more of the following:

  • Itchy ears
  • Rubbing face/head
  • Ear wax (which is often dark brown)
  • Unpleasant smell from the ears
  • Red ears


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