There are many pests that can plague our homes: termites, ants, mosquitos, dust bunnies, freeloaders. When we have fur-babies, there are even more pests to watch for like, fleas and ticks. One remarkably common type of pest, though less understood, is ear mites. While they are more commonly seen in cats, ear mites in dogs can ravage our pup’s ear canals and cause quite a bit of trouble.
What are Ear Mites in Dogs?
Mites are little eight-legged parasites. They are arachnids, similar to ticks, though much smaller, that feed on the natural buildup in a dog’s external ear canal, such as wax and oils. An individual mite lives for about three weeks, but an ear mite infection can last indefinitely if it goes untreated. An untreated condition can cause serious health complications over time.
Types & Causes
There are different types, but the most common type is Otodectes cynotis mites. A mite infestation is also called mange, and this particular mite causes severe ear irritation.
Otodectes cynotis mites are highly contagious! Dogs usually catch this infection from outdoor cats or from socializing with other dogs who are infected.
Dog Breeds Predisposed to Ear Mites
All dogs are susceptible to this infestation, although some have a hypersensitivity that can result in a more severe reaction. Itching is the number one symptom and in more severe cases, or hypersensitivity, dogs will be more prone to injure themselves trying to satisfy a gnawing, insatiable itch.
All dogs are susceptible to this infestation, although some have a hypersensitivity that can result in a more severe reaction. Itching is the number one symptom and in more severe cases, caused by hypersensitivity, dogs will be more prone to injure themselves trying to satisfy a gnawing, insatiable itch.
- Intense itching in and around the ears
- Hair loss in and around the ears
- Frequent head-shaking
- Redness, inflammation, and sometimes swelling in the external ear canal
- Scratches in and around the ears
- Bleeding and bruising from shaking & scratching, which can cause some blood pooling
- Debris buildup in ear that looks like red-brown crust buildup or coffee-grounds
- Odor coming from the ears
Complications can occur from the constant itching and scratching a dog will do to try and escape the irritation. This can cause bruising, bleeding, and swelling. When blood pools between the skin and the cartilage of the ear, it can cause an aural hematoma, which is only treated with surgery.
The most common complication from ear mites in dogs is an ear infection. Once this occurs, both the mites and the infection will need to be treated.
Heavy infestations will eventually infect other parts of the body. This extended infection that leaves hair patchy and keeps dogs scratching is typically what people imagine or associate with mange.
How are Ear Mites Diagnosed?
When deciding whether to take our pup to the vet, look for discolored discharge, smelly ears, a buildup that looks like coffee-grounds, and scratches from itching. Once mites are suspected, it’s important to get Fido checked by a vet. Many mite infestations can look very similar to some bacterial infections. The vet will most likely take an ear swab sample to determine the presence of ear mites. If this is a multi-furbaby family, the vet may ask to see the other household canines and cats to ensure everyone is mite-free. We don’t want everyone constantly reinfecting each other, right?
Care and Treatment
First, the ears will need to be cleared of debris and buildup. If the infection has caused severe inflammation or our pup has a temperament that isn’t conducive to cleaning the ear out, the vet may choose to provide a light sedative. Most veterinarians will prescribe a topical that can be applied to the skin along the external ear canal.
If an ear infection has developed or inflammation is particularly severe, the vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Relief is often quick, but to ensure the area heals entirely, and so we fully eradicate these pests and don’t end up with a relapse, be sure to run the full course of treatment.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs
Wax and oils in the ear canal are naturally occurring. It’s part of the protective ecosystem in a dog’s ear. However, if left unchecked, it can also be the perfect feast and breeding ground for ear mites in dogs. Keeping the external ear canal clean and free of debris is the best way to take regular preventative action. Clean bedding is also an important way to prevent re-infection.
Ear mites are very contagious and can be passed on just by socializing with infected dogs. We can make sure any visiting dogs, foster furbabies, and pet-sitting take place with uninfected dogs. When at the dog park or puppy play-dates, we should keep an eye out for dogs that seem to shake their heads often or interrupt playtime to itch at their ears ferociously.
The average cost of vet care for ear mites is $250, ranging up to $1000 in some regions. The Vet Organics natural remedy for ear infections, EcoEars Dog Ear Cleaner, is only $21.95 plus S&H. It’s specially formulated to be hard on infections, including those caused by ear mites in dogs, but it’s gentle enough to be used as a preventative ear cleaner. This is one doggy medicine cabinet staple every home should stock. Try it for yourself!