All dogs scratch their ears from time to time. However, if you’ve noticed your dog spending more time than usual with their paw in their ear, ear mites might be the culprit.
Never heard of ear mites? Not sure what symptoms to watch for or how to treat this condition in your beloved pet?
This guide breaks down everything you need to know about ear mites in dogs, from signs they’re present to how to get rid of them.
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are parasites that affect dogs and cats. They live on the skin in the ear canal and feed on skin oils and ear wax.
These tiny, infectious organisms look like little white dots. However, they’re so small that most people can’t see them without the help of a microscope.
Ear mites don’t live for very long — about two months. They multiply rapidly though and eggs usually take just four days to hatch. Within about three weeks, these freshly hatched eggs will have developed into adults that are ready to breed.
What Are Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs?
The most common symptom of ear mites in dogs is itching. Your dog will likely scratch at their ears with their paws or shake their head more often than usual.
In addition to watching for signs of itching, you should also look closely at your dog’s ears to check for other issues.
Redness, inflammation, and increased wax buildup all indicate mites or another type of infection is present. You might also notice dry, black discharge in your dog’s ears or a strange odor.
To make matters worse, your dog could also develop secondary infections from frequent scratching. If this happens, you may notice small bumps or scratches around their ears, neck, or tail.
Are Ear Mites Contagious to Other Pets?
Yes. If your dog has ear mites, there’s a good chance they’ll spread those mites to your other dogs, cats, etc.
Because ear mites are so contagious, most vets recommend treating all pets simultaneously, even if only one pet is showing symptoms.
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Causes of Ear Mites
Ear mites are easily spread through close contact.
For example, if one dog has ear mites and shares a bed or sleeping area with another dog, that dog will likely get infected as well. The infection can also spread when an infected dog (or another infected pet) plays with an uninfected dog.
How Are Ear Mites Diagnosed?
Most vets diagnose ear mites by taking a simple ear swab. They then place the swab under a microscope to look for mites and mite eggs.
When they notice signs of ear mites, some dog parents might be tempted to skip the vet and treat the infection independently.
If you’re drawn to going down this road, pause! You must remember that ear mite symptoms are similar to symptoms of other conditions, including bacterial and yeast infections.
Attempting to treat your dog’s infection on your own is risky. You might end up spending a lot of time and money on the incorrect treatment. You could also exacerbate your dog’s discomfort or cause complications.
It’s more efficient — and potentially more affordable — to see a vet as soon as you see indications of ear mites. The vet will diagnose your dog’s condition, prescribe appropriate medications, and deliver an effective treatment protocol.
How to Treat Ear Mites
The treatment process for ear mites in dogs involves multiple steps.
First, the vet will likely clean your dog’s ear canals to eliminate debris and buildup.
Cleaning the ears increases your dog’s comfort and ensures the medication gets absorbed properly. Your vet may also show you how to clean your dog’s ears yourself.
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After cleaning the ears, the next step is medication. The list of medications might include a topical product applied to the inside of the ear or a topical product applied to the dog’s skin. You may also administer an oral pill or a series of injections.
Vets make medication decisions based on each pet’s situation. Some medications are single-use products, whereas others must be used for a week or longer.
That’s another reason why seeing a vet is essential so you can get customized care for your dog.
If you have other pets at home, ask the vet how to treat them, even if they’re not showing symptoms. Remember that ear mites spread quickly, so all your pets will likely need treatment.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs
Prevention is almost always easier than treatment, including when it comes to ear mites. Proper ear mite prevention includes the following:
- Keeping dogs away from other animals that have ear mites
- Regularly washing your dog’s bedding and toys with hot water
- Regularly running freshly washed bedding through the dryer
- Regularly vacuuming areas where your dog spends a lot of time
- Regular prophylactic parasite control
You can also consult your vet about preventative medications that reduce your dog’s risk of developing an ear mite infection.
Do Ear Mites Affect People?
The parasites that cause ear mites differ from those that cause infections in humans. Because of this, it’s unlikely that ear mites will move from a dog (or another pet) to a human.
In rare cases, humans with sensitive skin will develop rashes when their pets are infected. These rashes are usually mild and clear up fairly quickly, though.
Do You Suspect Your Dog Has Ear Mites?
Ear mites and ear parasites in a dog are certainly irritating. They’re not impossible to eliminate, though, especially if you act quickly.
Follow the guidelines discussed above to address your dog’s ear mites and help them start feeling better soon. Now you’re up to date on all information on ear mites in your dog!
Still got questions? Then book a video consultation with one of our qualified veterinarians to get advice on eat mites and any next appropriate steps.