Ear mites are tiny, white parasites that affect most household pets and are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. They have eight legs and live on or just under the surface of the skin. They colonise your pet’s ear, where they feed on cellular debris (dead cell waste), ear wax, oils, and lymph fluid from beneath the skin. Just three or four adult mites in the ear can cause considerable discomfort.

  1. Causes of ear mites in dogs
  2. Ear mites cycle
  3. Symptoms of ear mites in dogs
  4. How to diagnose ear mites in a dog?
  5. What is the treatment of ear mites in dogs?
  6. Prevention of ear mites in dogs
  7. How to clean a dog’s ears at home

Otodectes Cynotis is a type of parasite that mostly affects cats, who in turn pass it onto dogs that live in the same home. Since ear mites are highly contagious, they are frequently passed on from the mother to her pups, and between cats and dogs.

Ear mites have a life cycle of three weeks in which they pass through multiple stages: eggs, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult.

  • During the first week, the adult mites lay eggs inside the ear canal of the host.
  • It takes the eggs four days to incubate and hatch into six-legged larvae.
  • Once larvae are formed, they feed on the dog’s ear for the next 10 days, and then convert into eight-legged protonymphs.
  • Protonymphs mould into the deutonymph stage, who then attach themselves to a mature male ear mite using suckers on the rear legs.
  • Deutonymphs become mature enough, turn into female mite which leads to fertilization and the female laying eggs.
  • The cycle then repeats itself until detection and treatment for the infestation.

Pawing the ears, shaking the head repeatedly or a foul odour or discharge from the ears are all signs of an ear infection in a dog. Presence of these symptoms can tell you if your dog has ear mites:

  • Frequently and repeatedly shaking the head as the mites cause intense itching.
  • Extreme scratching at ears.
  • Thick clumps in the ear canal that look like coffee grounds.
  • Formation of red-brown or black crusts on the ear flap (pinna).
  • Presence of abrasion marks at the back of the ears because of scratching, and rubbing the head against the floor or furniture.
  • Hearing loss (in extreme cases).

In some dogs, vigorous scratching and head shaking can cause an aural hematoma, where the pinna (outer part of the ear) swells with blood.

Sometimes, ear mites travel to other parts of the dog's body resulting in sores which may resemble allergic flea bites. This condition is called otodectic mange.

Because live mites may not be visible to the naked eye, take your dog to a vet for a proper diagnosis.

  • Ear mites are too tiny to be visible to the naked eye. 
  • You must take your dog to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • If your dog presents any of the symptoms of ear mites, your vet may perform a complete physical exam and a thorough dermatologic (skin) and otic (ear) exam. 
  • Your vet may use an otoscope (a magnifying instrument used to look inside the ear) to look for mites in your dog’s ear canals. 
  • Your vet may also take skin scrapings for laboratory examination or ear swabs to identify mites under the microscope.
  • You can also check for ear mites at home. Other than noticing the symptoms of your dogs, you can take out a chunk of debris from the outer ear canal and place it somewhere on a dark background. If there are any live mites, they may appear as white, moving specks about the size of a pinhead.

Timely diagnosis and eradication is necessary to keep your dog healthy and free from ear mites:

  • You must seek professional advice for the treatment of ear mites in dogs.
  • Ear mites can be treated without hospitalizing your dog. After consulting your vet, over-the-counter ear mite medication should be given once daily for 10 to 30 days, depending on the severity of the infestation. 
  • Topical spot-on treatment and medicated ear drops can be prescribed by your vet. 
  • The vet may prescribe products containing selamectin and pyrethrins which have demonstrated efficacy against Otodectes Cynotis in dogs and cats.

Sometimes your dog’s ear could be so sore that they won't let you or the vet touch them. In that case, the veterinarian may need to sedate your dog before treating it. 

Ear mites can not always be prevented as they are highly contagious. There are two simple routines to minimise the impact of ear mites on your pet:

  • Regular monthly ear cleaning of your pet
  • A trip to the vet if you're observing unusual scratching or discomfort.

Keep the surroundings clean by washing the pet’s bedding in hot water and then run them through a dryer until completely dry. Vacuum the areas where your dog spends a lot of time thoroughly.

Maintaining good hygiene among your pets is essential to keep them healthy and infection-free. Here are some routine practices you should adhere to at home:

  • After every bath, clean your dog’s ears to ensure that it doesn’t get exposed to ear mites.
  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or any other homemade oil to clean your dog’s ears as it can harm the ear canal or the eardrums.
  • Ask your vet for a medicated ear cleaner for your dog.
  • Open your dog’s ear flap and squeeze the ear-cleaning solution to fill your dog’s ear canal.
  • Close the ear flap and massage gently at the base of the ear for about 30 seconds.
  • You may hear a squishing sound as the product breaks down the debris.
  • Do not use a cotton-tipped applicator (Q-tip) as it can damage the ear canal or push debris further into the ear canal.
  • Now let your dog shake his head as it helps the remaining ear cleaning solution and debris from the ear canal to move out.
  • Once your dog has finished shaking, take gauze and gently wipe out the ear canal, going no deeper than the depth of one knuckle.
  • If your dog appears to be in pain during the cleaning process, stop immediately and take him/her to the veterinarian.


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