Despite their diminutive size, ear mites in dogs can cause big problems. Looking a little like a spider, these tiny terrors have eight legs and live on or just under the surface of a dog’s skin.
Although common, ear mites are a serious problem. Not only do ear mites cause severe itching and discomfort, but if left untreated, they can permanently damage a dog’s eardrum.
All about ear mites in dogs
Several types of mites can live in a dog’s ears. The most common Otodectes cynotis live primarily in the outer ear canal and feed on the outer layer of skin and wax.
Highly contagious, each mite has a three-week life cycle. Luckily they cannot live long without a host (unlike fleas). What’s more, mites are not zoonotic (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans) even though you may feel itchy reading this!
While a relatively mild parasite infection, ear mites can cause complications if a dog is sensitive to them. Both skin and ear infections are a common problem in dogs that are infested with ear mites.
Not only that, intense scratching and head shaking caused by the ear mites can rupture blood vessels inside your dog’s ear flap. As a result, blood seeps from the vessel into the subcutaneous space between the inner ear’s skin, creating a fluid build-up.
Consequently, the ear flap swells and becomes very painful. Unfortunately, surgery is often the only option because permanent deformity to a dog’s ear can occur if left untreated.
Where do they come from?
Despite looking like creatures from another planet, ear mites are commonly transmitted by contact with other animals.
Dogs, cats, and ferrets are all potential ear mite hosts. As a result, if you have a mixed pet household, then all pets should be checked.
In fact, shared bedding, littermates, group play, and doggy daycare are all possible causes of an ear mite infection.
How can I tell if my dog has ear mites?
Symptoms of ear mites; Generally, a dog that has ear mites will show one or more of these signs:
- Constant scratching or rubbing of ears
- Waxy brown or black deposit in the ear
- Head shaking
- Strong and unpleasant odor in the ear
- Discharge that resembles coffee grounds
- Obstruction in the ear canal
- Scratches of grazes on back of ears
What should I do if I think my dog has ear mites?
Despite ear mites being one of the common causes of ear infections, your veterinarian will need to confirm it. As other issues cause similar symptoms, a vet’s diagnosis is important.
The presence of ear mites can be confirmed quickly and simply by taking a swab of the ear and looking at it under a microscope. Although ear mites are tiny, you may also be able to see them with your naked eye!
Although there are many over-the-counter ear mite treatments, they are not effective on any other ear infection type. And any infection mustn’t be left long before treatment.
How to treat ear mites
Unless your dog’s ear has been damaged, your dog can be treated at home for ear mites. Your vet will prescribe products that may go in the ear or onto the ear flap’s skin.
What’s more, if your dog’s ears are infected, or there is a discharge, then gentle cleaning of the ear flap and in the ear is also needed. An ear cleaner usually achieves this in liquid form. Also, antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to clear any potential infection.
As ear mites are highly contagious and spread quickly, if you are in a multi-pet household, then your other pets will need to be treated as well. Fortunately, ear mites do not survive long without a host. So once your dog is treated, then a thorough cleaning of your dog’s environment should prevent a return.
Anywhere your dog likes to spend time or sleep, like bedding, toys, and preferred sleeping places like sofas, should be washed thoroughly.
While you can prevent your dog from being re-infested by washing his bedding, sadly, you cannot kill the mites on your dog by washing his ears alone.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to manage the effects of the mites. Ear mites won’t go away without a helping hand, so always get your dog treated.
How can I get rid of ear mites permanently?
Regrettably, unless your dog lives the rest of his life without contact with other animals, it’s not possible to guarantee that an infestation won’t reoccur.
Because ear mites in dogs can be transmitted by casual contact with other animals, something as simple as a chase around with a favorite playmate could result in an infestation.
Also, if you have a cat that goes outside, it increases the risk of your dog being infected because ear mites are most common in our feline friends.
Management of ear mites
Keeping both your dog’s ears and bedding clean will help with the management of ear mites. Additionally, any prescribed treatment needs to be completed.
After a month, reschedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a check-up to ensure that the infestation has been completely eradicated.
Despite many over-the-counter ear mite treatments, diagnosis is vital. While ear mites in dogs are a
common cause of itching and head shaking, some other potentially more serious conditions have similar symptoms.
Your dog’s hearing is vital, even if it is selective at times. So get your vet to check for ear mites to be on the safe side.