If your dog is scratching her ears, it could be an ear infection, which is a common ailment in dogs. But could ear mites be the cause?
Ear mites are rare for indoor dogs, but if left untreated, they cause real pain and can even lead to deafness.
Read on to find out how to treat ear mites in dogs and learn tips to keep your dog healthy and ear mite free.
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are tiny parasites that feed on the wax and oily debris in a pet’s ears. About the size of a grain of salt, ear mites look like tiny white dots to the naked eye.
Ear mites are spread by physical contact between animals and are more common in cats. Dogs and cats share the same type of ear mite, which means they can transmit the parasite between one another. If one pet gets ear mites in your household, treat all pets for them.
Common Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs
The most common sign of ear mites is itchy ears. However, most dogs scratch at their ears because of bacterial or yeast infections rather than mites.
Ear mites are the likely culprit if the material in your dog’s ear looks like coffee grounds (dry, dark, chunky). Ear mites are a specific organism, but other types of mites can cause dogs to scratch as well. For example, Demodex or sarcoptic mites, known as mange, affect the entire body including itchy ears.
Diagnosing Ear Mites in Dogs
Your veterinarian can determine the cause of your pet’s ear irritation and prescribe dog ear medicine accordingly.
To test for mites, your veterinarian will take a swab sample from inside your pet’s ear and look at it under a microscope.
Mites are much larger than most of the other material on the swab and are easy to see with magnification.
How to Treat Ear Mites in Dogs
Luckily, ear mites in dogs are easy to treat. Many of the same medications used to prevent fleas and ticks also kill ear mites.
If your dog is already on a monthly prevention, your veterinarian may recommend a different product for treatment. Depending on your preference, your veterinarian can prescribe ear mite treatment for dogs in oral, topical or in-ear medication formulated to kill the ear mites.
Talk to your veterinarian about specific parasite concerns in your region and which product(s) he or she recommends for your pet. And even if just one household pet is diagnosed with ear mites, get all your pets treated. Otherwise, the infestation can keep going back and forth between the animals. Recheck with your veterinarian one to two weeks after treatment to make sure the mites are gone and the ear healed normally.
If ear mites in dogs are left untreated or incompletely treated, they can go on to cause serious problems including hearing loss.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs
Dog ear care is key to preventing ear mites. Clean your pet’s ears regularly with a dog ear care cleanser.
Because mites are spread through physical contact, avoid socializing your pup with unknown animals.
Many of the medications you routinely give your pet for prevention of fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites and heartworms also kill mites. For example, Revolution topical solution is approved to kill ear mites and prevent serious infestations.
Visit your veterinarian the moment you see your dog showing first signs of ear irritation. It is easier to treat the issue before it becomes a major problem, and early treatment will prevent your dog from experiencing the discomfort of ear mites.
Also, clean all bedding, carpets and other upholstery if your pet has ear mites. Unlike fleas and ticks, the egg and larval stages of ear mites live on your pet, meaning less contamination. However, it is not worth a reinfection, so take the extra precautions.
Can Humans Get Ear Mites?
Ear mite infections in humans are rare, but they can happen. Ear mites in dogs can transfer to a human and may cause a rash wherever they live outside of the ear. If you have itchy or painful skin or ears and your pet is diagnosed with ear mites, see your doctor immediately.
By: Dr. Hanie Elfenbein
Featured Image: via iStock.com/bymuratdeniz