Ear mites infection is one of the most common and a highly contagious ear disease in dogs. It is caused by Otodectes cynotis, an external parasitic mite. It is also referred as Otodectes cynotis infection.
These mites are white in color, microscopic, eight legged, crab like parasites. They live their entire three week life cycle on the host (dog), feeding on oils and wax secreted within the ear.
When a dog is infected, it will scratch and shake its head, sometimes intense scratching can lead to wounds and even Hematoma of the ear (Rupture of the blood vessels in the ear). A typical Otodectes cynotis presence will cause severe itchiness, irritation, inflammation in the ear canal, a distinctive odor and one can clearly see black ground coffee like debris.
Depending on the severity of the infection, it can spread to the surrounding areas of the ear, back of the ear, neck and rarely the tail. If left untreated, it can progress into serious skin and ear condition, complete obstruction of the ear canal.
Otodectes cynotis mites have a global presence, they are present everywhere. These mites thrive in pet cluttered environments, areas which lack basic sanitation and hygiene, catteries.
Otodectic Mange is so common that a dog will get infected at-least once in its lifetime. Puppies and younger dogs with growing immunity, older dogs, dogs with secondary diseases and immunoconmpromised dogs are at high risk of getting infected.
Transmission can happen between dogs, from a mother to her puppies and between species of different animals. There are no reported cases of humans getting infected by feline ear mites.
Otodectic Mange infection is caused by Otodectes cynotis mites.
Common symptoms include:
› Inflammation of the ear
› Alopecia (Hair loss)
› Scratching of ears
› Pruritus (itchiness)
› Skin lesions (around the ear)
› Increased earwax
› Wax (Black and brown)
› Coffee ground like debris (in the ear canal)
› Strong odor
› Head shaking
› Hematoma of the ear (rupture of blood vessels)
The symptoms associated with ear mites can mimic other known conditions like yeast infection, Otitis Media, Otitis Interna and Otitis externa. So a proper diagnosis needs to be made to differentiate this mite infection from others.
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the parasite. They are:
› Physical examination – this involves a complete ear (otoscopic) examination, looking for black, waxy debris and mites infestation
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Cytology tests – Examining a sample taken from the ear looking for the presence of ear mites
› Bacterial culture test
› Skin biopsy and scrapings
Treatment consists of:
› A thorough cleaning of the ear
› Antibacterial medications
› Antibiotic medications
› Drugs to treat secondary illnesses and diseases
› Anti-inflammatory medications
› Prescription ear drops, topical ointments
› Environmental Decontamination (can spread to other pets in the household)
Ear mite infection cannot be prevented. This is very common and a cat will get this condition at-least once in its lifetime. Keeping your pet away from possible sources of infection and using environmental disinfectants greatly reduces the changes of getting infected.
Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days up-to a month. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your dog. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your dogs away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your dog.
› Do NOT allow your dog to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the dog is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.