What Do I Do If My Dog Has Ear Mites?
Ear mites are tiny insects that look like crabs with six wriggly legs. The scientific name for ear mites is Otodectes cynotis – a big name for a really small bug. These mites can live their entire lives in the ears of our dogs, enjoying the warmth and darkness of the ear canal. They feed off skin debris, mate, and have babies, all within a 3-week period right there in that tiny space. Sometimes they crawl out of the ear and roam around the skin on the face and neck. Wherever they crawl, they cause itching and irritation.
How do you know if your dog has ear mites?
Dogs with ear mites scratch a lot! They’ll scratch with their rear legs, or rub the sides of their faces on a sofa, or a tree, or a rug to relieve the itching. They scratch so much that they often cause abrasions or hot spots on their necks and faces.
You may also notice a black, crusty discharge in your dog’s ear canals. The discharge may have a foul odor, especially if a secondary bacterial infection moves in to complicate the ear mite infestation.
How do dogs get ear mites?
Ear mites are spread by direct contact with another infected animal. They spread rapidly through a household where dogs and cats live together, but ear mites are so contagious that your dog easily pick them up while playing with another canine at the dog park.
How are ear mites diagnosed?
Ear mites are so tiny that you probably won’t see them with the naked eye, but sometimes you may see tiny white flakes on the surface of the skin inside the ear flap. Unlike dandruff, these white flakes wriggle around.
Most often, you won’t see them at all unless your veterinarian shows you one under the microscope. Your dog’s doctor will take a sample of the ear canal contents with a cotton swab, prepare a slide, and view the sample under a microscope. Under magnification, ear mites look a lot like crabs. They are fairly scary looking, so most pet owners are eager to rid their pet of this pest.
How are they treated?
First, your veterinarian will clean your dog’s ears to remove the black debris and provide open access for medication to reach way down the canal where the mites live. In addition to ear drops that are applied to the ear canal, there are topical preparations applied to the skin that will kill ear mites. Whatever product you use, repeated treatment is essential to break the ear mite life cycle.
If your dog has a secondary bacterial infection, or if the ear canal is irritated, your veterinarian will prescribe additional medication. This could be additional ear drops, oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.
Since ear mites spread so easily, your veterinarian will ask you to treat all pets in your household. It would also be wise to warn your friends at the dog park or neighborhood that your dog has ear mites, so that they can be on the lookout for symptoms in their own pets.
Ear mites don’t have to be a serious problem – they can be easily treated. So don’t delay if you see your dog scratching his ears. There is no need for this tiny bug to bug your pet!