What are Ear Mites in Dogs and How Do You Treat Them?

If your dog is excessively itching and scratching, ear mites could be to blame. Ear mites in dogs are not only disgusting for humans to deal with, but they can also be irritating and contagious for dogs and even other animals. The longer you wait to treat these tiny parasites, the more they could spread. So, it’s important that you act fast!

What are Ear Mites in Dogs?

Ear mites, also known as Otodectes cynotis, are bugs that live in your dog’s ear canals. Their Latin name literally translates to “ear beggar of the dog” which should tell you all you need to know about these pesky creatures. They’re arachnids that look visually similar to ticks, only much tinier. In fact, they’re so tiny that they typically can’t be seen by the naked eye.

These critters feed on the wax, oils, debris, and other fluids inside your dog’s ears. They don’t directly bite on your dog’s skin, but instead, they scratch at it to retrieve their meals. This can easily irritate your dog’s ear canal, even if only a few mites are present. What’s even worse is that these parasites will continuously bite your dog’s ears until you get rid of them.

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

The most obvious sign of ear mites is itching. Excessive itching could mean a lot of different things, which is why it’s always important to check your dog’s ears frequently and clean them when needed.

Symptoms of ear mites in dogs includes:

  • Itching and scratching, specifically near the ears.
  • Crumbly dark reddish-brown discharge that resembles dried blood.
  • Cuts, inflammation, infections, and other wounds in the ears.
  • Wounds and irritation in other areas of the body in extreme cases.

Unfortunately, these mites are almost too tiny to be seen. So, if your dog has them, it won’t be entirely obvious. The best thing to do if your dog is showing one or more of these symptoms is to schedule a checkup with your vet. It might seem like a pain, but it will help you catch the mites before the symptoms worsen. If mites end up not being the cause of the excessive itching, you can try an itch relief shampoo to help soothe your dog’s skin.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites?

Ear mites are most commonly passed from one animal to another. Therefore, if you have more than one pet in your household, it’s likely that one will transfer the mites to another if they have them. They can also get them from other dogs they play with at the park, daycare, or any other place where they interact with other animals.

A mite life cycle is about three weeks, which means they can duplicate quickly. Eggs hatch approximately four days after they’re laid. All the life stages beyond the egg will feed on your dog’s skin, which means the irritation won’t stop until you treat it. While dogs are often the most likely to get ear mites, other animals like cats, ferrets, and rabbits can also easily get them.

Treatment for Ear Mites

Before your dog can receive treatment, your vet will need to inspect their ear canals. They’ll look for symptoms like discharge and irritation. While you might not be able to clearly see the mites yourself, a vet can look in your dog’s ear with an otoscope, which will help them easily determine whether or not your dog is infested with mites.

Vets will need to then perform a thorough ear cleaning to remove the mites. In extreme cases, your dog’s ears might be too sore or irritated to let the vet do this, so your dog might have to be sedated. If your dog also developed bacterial or fungal infections due to the mites, your vet will also have to treat those as well.

If your dog’s symptoms are minor, there is a chance you can treat your dog’s ear mites from home. And even if you had them treated by the vet, your vet will likely still recommend some products for you to use afterwards. For at-home treatments, vets will recommend products that have been approved for treating ear mites in dogs. Selamectin and moxidectin/imidacloprid are examples of products that are commonly used to remove parasites like mites. These treatments might take a while to become fully effective, but your dog’s itching should soon decrease and eventually go away.

Additionally, you should also treat your yard with pesticide if your dog has ear mites. After all, if your dog has them, they can easily spread, and it’s even possible that they first got them outside in your yard. You can simply use the same type of product you would use to remove fleas. You should also clean anything that your dog touched often, such as the carpet and their bed.

Preventing Ear Mites

Sadly, it’s not possible to prevent ear mites in dogs completely. There aren’t any ear mite preventative products like there are for fleas, ticks, and heartworm. However, it’s still possible to decrease the risk.

The best way to prevent ear mites or any other ear problems is to clean your dog’s ears monthly. You can ask your vet for specific product recommendations, but an occasional cleaning can help prevent parasites and infections from forming in your dog’s ears. If your dog has floppy ears, it’s especially important to check them regularly to make sure there aren’t any unusual sores or smells.

Finally, the best way to prevent ear mites is to catch them before they can reproduce. This means taking your dog to the vet as soon as they start itching. In many cases, itching could be a minor concern, but if you’re worried that your dog will develop mites, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep a close eye on your dog’s behaviors at all times so if you ever notice anything out of the ordinary, you’ll be able to seek help right away.

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