Ear Mites in Dogs – How to Prevent, Recognize and Treat Your Dog

A tell tale sign of ear mites in dogs is if your dog keeps shaking his head, scratching, and rubbing his ears on hard surfaces. An infection from ear mites is referred to as ‘ear mange’ and is really unpleasant for dogs and if not treated it could lead to advanced health complications.

In this article, we share what ear mites are, how to recognize them, protect your dogs and also how an infection can be treated.

What are ear mites in dogs?

Ear mites are arachnids of the arthropod family. They’re really small and can almost not be seen with the naked eye. You may also hear them being referred to as “mud mites” or “Otodectes Cynotis”. They enjoy humid environments and this makes the ears of long-haired animal breeds comfortable for them.

Microscopic view of ear mites
Photo Credit: dvm.megan

Ear mites are parasites that feed on body secretions and dead skin, which can be found in ear wax, hence their interest in the ears. When they attack, they reside in the ears, auricle, and the external auditory canal of the host animal and feed on ear wax and dead skin. 

The mites themselves have a short life span of about three weeks, however, once they’re in the ears, they continue to multiply really fast. A single female mite can lay up to 20 eggs that hatch after three weeks and join in feeding on the ear.

Ear mite infestation in dogs is not common, they are more spotted in cats, however, dogs with long ears and young animals that go into water often are also likely to be victims of an ear mite attack.

How to recognize ear mites in dogs

Ear mites are really small parasites, so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. The best that you can do is to notice small specks of white moving around, this makes them very difficult to spot, they are only properly seen under a microscope. Ear mites can be recognized at a regular check-up at a vet’s place or by anyone where the dog displays certain symptoms.

At the earliest stages of the infection, your dog might not be aware of it. Research has shown that the host only recognizes a problem when the infection has spread significantly. At this point, the ear mites have multiplied and their presence in the dog’s ear has become disturbing as they create an itching effect as they feed on wax and skin in the ear. The infected dog would try to alleviate the itch by scratching its ear, shaking its head and ears, and rubbing its head against the wall. A dog that acts this way most likely has an ear mite infestation and needs to be treated before the symptoms worsen.

How to prevent ear mites in dogs

Ear mites enter unnoticed and multiply really fast before a dog starts exhibiting symptoms of an infestation. Thus, the best way to handle ear mite infestations is to prevent the infection or end it very early.

Photo Credit: you_yorkie

Home Remedies for preventing ear mites in dogs

From home, you can take certain precautionary steps to prevent ear mite infestations in your dog’s ears.

Regular, careful cleaning of your dog’s ears is essential for preventing ear mites. Use a damp cloth or pH-neutral wet wipes to clean outward areas. You should leave the deep cleaning to the vet so as not to damage your dog’s sensitive eardrums.

Dogs that have long hair and long hanging ears or spend lots of time in the water are more likely to be attacked by ear mites. Ensure that their ears are kept dry and that the outer auricle is free of any specks of dirt.

Where available, Chamomile tea helps resolve slight irritation. For this, apply some drops of the substance on a cotton ball and use it to clean the outer area of the auricle.

For dogs that have lots of hair at the base of the auricle towards the inner ear, ensure it is kept short, to remove any room for mites to reside while you clean.

Medical options for preventing ear mites in dogs

Special ointments, lotions, and drops can be purchased at a pet store or some pharmacies for cleaning heavy soiling. They help loosen stubborn dirt that you couldn’t reach while cleaning, then the dog would shake them out of its ears. Apply them as recommended by the medical professional and avoid substances that contain alcohol.

A regular general examination for your dog with a vet would detect an ear mite infection as early as even before your dog notices them in its ear. Also, taking a vet doctor’s advice on cleaning activities you should take to protect your dog specifically would go a long way in preventing ear mite infections in your dogs.

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

Where a dog is infested with mites, the mites would feed on ear wax and dead skin in its ears. This would cause an intense itching sensation in its ears and it would show symptoms by severely scratching and shaking its ears and head, rubbing its head against hard surfaces, and uncoordinated head movements.

Photo Credit: greenpetaus

When these early symptoms are not attended to and the infestation continues, the physical symptoms also increase:

  • The skin shows abrasions, crusts, increased flaking, red spots, or bleeding
  • The dog is restless, looks sick, and squeaks 
  • The amount of ear wax increases 
  • The animal often tilts its head 
  • He shows balance disorders when walking
  • The ear is kinked or drooping
  • The affected ears show a brown-black contamination 
  • Hair on the ears falls off and bald spots appear 

Where the mites are still not eliminated, the health complications advance to more serious problems like an otitis media that is difficult to treat, damage to the eardrum, persistent numbness, deafness, ear infections, and so-called blood ears.

Treatment for ear mites in dogs

A vet examining dog's ears

Home Remedies for treating ear mites in dogs

Treating your dog with home remedies like antiseptic tea rinse and oil treatments can help kill mites. These treatments are usually required to be applied daily for about a month, they help soothe the ears, suffocate parasites and remove debris from the ears.

You are able to purchase ear drops for treating ear mites to treat a puppy or an adult dog, but consulting with a veterinarian is generally always a good idea.

Medical treatment for treating ear mites in dogs

A veterinarian running a regular examination for a dog would check the ears for traces of parasites or bacterial infection using an otoscope. He can also examine a sample from the ear under a microscope to detect mites or their eggs.

Where the infection is confirmed, the doctor clinically cleans the ear and examines it for any possible damage. Where there is no damage requiring special treatment, the vet would administer special ear drops to kill the mites and reduce the itchiness. The ear drop is applied more than once to ensure that all eggs and traces are removed. The frequency with which the drop is applied depends on how severe the infection was and also the ear drop used.

Also have a re-examination about three weeks after treatment to ensure the infection is completely gone.

The dog’s towy, blanket and bed should be sprayed with anti-mite sprays to prevent re-infection. Other animals in your household should also be checked for mites because mites could have dropped from the affected dog.

FAQs About Ear Mites Infestations

Ear mites are really small arachnids that mostly reside and multiply in the ears of animals to feed on ear wax and dead skin. Where an infestation is not taken care of, it would lead to more serious health issues.

Ear mites occur when an ear mite makes contact with a dog. It then feeds and multiplies to become a problem. Dogs get them from other pets or environments with mites.

A regular checkup with a vet would detect an ear mite infection. Also, where your dog exhibits behavior like shaking and scratching its head and ear or shows signs of advanced infection like having dirty ears or hair in the ears falling out, it’s possibly ear mange.

Apply ear mite medication to its ears, the treatment for ear mites is usually handled by a vet. The doctor would administer a special drop or lotion for killing the mites and stopping the itching effect the mites cause.

Final Thoughts on Ear Mites

Though dogs are not the most common victims of ear mite attacks, an infection has the potential to cause critical health issues for your furry friend. If you observe the precautions highlighted in this article, you would stop an ear mite infection long before it becomes a health issue for your dog. If your pet is already infested, get it treated early so the infection doesn’t get lots worse.