There are several types of mites that can live in your dog's ear, but the most common are otodectes cynotis-tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a dog's ear canal. An individual mite has a three-week life cycle, and is barely detectable by the naked eye. Causing irritation and inflammation, ear mites can infect the external and internal canal, and lead to more serious skin or ear infections if left untreated. Infection usually produces a characteristic dark discharge; in some cases, the ear canal can become entirely obstructed by this coffee ground-like debris.
What Causes Ear Mites in Dogs?
Highly contagious, ear mites are most common in outdoor cats, who can infect their canine companions. They are most often passed from pet to pet in casual contact at home or outside. Humans are generally immune to ear mites.
What Are the General Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs?
- Excessive scratching and rubbing of ears
- Head shaking
- Black or brown waxy secretion
- Strong odor
- Obstruction of ear canal with coffee ground-like discharge
What Are Some Complications of Ear Mites in Dogs?
In addition to the development of skin infections, ear mites can cause blood vessels inside a dog's ear flap to rupture as result of his intense scratching and head shaking. This will cause the ear flap to appear swollen and is painful to the pet. An ear-flap hematoma, as it's known, often requires surgery to correct.
Are Certain Dogs Prone to Ear Mites?
Ear mites can affect dogs of all ages.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Ear Mites?
It is important to bring your dog to a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis. Your veterinarian will take a sample of ear discharge and evaluate it microscopically to confirm the presence of ear mites. Avoid self-diagnosis, since certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mites.
How Are Ear Mites Treated?
- Ear mites can be treated with products your veterinarian will prescribe that are applied directly in the ear or parasite medications that are applied right to the skin.
- If the ears have infections or build-up of debris, gentle cleaning may be required with cotton and a canine ear cleaner. (This may require sedation, depending on the dog's temperament and the severity of build-up.)
- Your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or an antibiotic to resolve infections.
- A dog will start to feel relief soon after treatment begins, but please complete the full cycle of treatment and remember that all animals in a household need to be treated to ensure full eradication.
How Can I Prevent Ear Mites?
A routine ear cleaning once a month can inhibit the presence of ear mites. If your pet has recently recovered from ear mites, be sure to thoroughly clean his bedding and check your other pets for infection
The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk.
If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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