Itching. Scratching. Excessive head shaking, and dark, waxy “flakes”.
Ear mites are highly contagious parasites that feed on the wax and oils in a dog’s ear canal. There are several types of mites that can live in a dog’s ear, with the most common being Otodectes cynotis.
A lone mite lives for a span of three weeks, and is barely visible to the naked eye. Despite their “invisibility” to your human eye, your very affected dog will surely take notice. Mites cause irritation and inflammation in dogs, infecting the external and internal canal and even causing a more serious skin or ear infection—if left untreated.
Dogs affected by ear mites will typically scratch their ears and shake their heads excessively. Sometimes, the shaking and scratching is so intense that a hematoma forms—a blood pool in the ear from breakage of a blood vessel. Dogs may even scratch their ears to the point of damage to their ear canals or ear drums.
Ear mites are a type of mange common to young dogs, although it can be found in dogs of any age. It is known for being highly contagious, passing from the parent to the newborn, and even between animals of different species. The mite, when left untreated, can even spread to other parts of the body.
So what can you do if you suspect your dog has ear mites? Read on for the most common signs and symptoms of ear mites in dogs, and what you can do to scratch the itch your dog can’t wait to be rid of.
What are the signs and symptoms of ear mites in dogs?
Although intense scratching and shaking of the head is an obvious sign of ear mites, it’s important to note that this infection can also be confused with other bacterial infections.
Dogs affected by ear mites will most likely exhibit the following:
› Excessively itching the ears, head, and/or neck
› Generalized itching all over the body
› Intense shaking of the head
› Thick, red-brown or black crust in the outer ear
› Bumps resembling coffee grounds in the ear canal
› Scratches, or abrasions, on the back of the ears
› Crusting and/or scales on the neck, behind, and tail
What causes ear mites in dogs?
Ear mites are highly contagious, and most commonly start in outdoor cats. Ear mites are usually transmitted between animals in casual contact in the home, or outside. Humans are mostly immune to ear mites.
What are the complications of dog ear mites?
In addition to canine skin infections, ear mites can cause blood vessels in a dog’s ear flap to rupture from excessive scratching or head shaking. This can cause the ear flap to appear swollen and bring more pain to the pet.
What should you do if your dog has ear mites?
If you suspect your dog has ear mites based on the symptoms above, take your dog to the vet to confirm. Although you may be tempted to diagnose, and then treat this infection yourself, a health professional should be the one to diagnose your dog as bacterial infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mites.
You will need to supply your veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog’s health and the onset of symptoms, including whether your dog has had regular contact with other animals. Your vet will then perform a complete physical on your dog, pulling standard lab tests to ensure he does not have any other diseases.
Your vet will also perform a thorough dermatologic exam, scraping the skin to analyze in a laboratory.
How are ear mites in dogs treated?
If your dog does, in fact, have ear mites, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe topical medications to apply directly to the ear, or skin. If the ears are infected or congested with a buildup of debris, you may also need to clean your dog’s ear with cotton and an ear cleanser for dogs.
Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics. Though your dog will most likely start to feel relief after the treatment begins, it is necessary to complete the full course of treatment. Also, due to the contagious nature of ear mites, know that all animals in the household must be treated in order to fully eradicate the mites.