Ear Mites in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Puppy scratching at ear because of dog ear mites

If your dog scratches his ears often, he may have more than just itchy ears. Ear mites in dogs are a common cause of itchy ears.

It’s important to get him checked out by your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

What are Ear Mites in Dogs?

Ear mites are nearly invisible parasitic insects, similar to ticks. They can live on a dog’s skin, but they’re more likely to make their home in the ear canals, where they can feed on the ear wax and oils.

Dog ear mites are highly contagious, so if you have multiple pets in your home, it’s likely that they will all end up with mites.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites?

As with other insects, dog ear mites are found outdoors. They need a host to survive, though, so they’re eager to find a dog, cat, rabbit or other animal to infect.

Your dog can pick up mites right in your backyard, but they often get them from other animals with mites. They can also live for a short time in pet bedding, carpeting and other fabrics, so once they’re in your home, they can be difficult to eradicate.

Can Humans Get Ear Mites from Dogs?

it’s possible for humans to get ear mites from dogs, but it’s rare. Taking appropriate measures to treat and prevent ear mites reduces the risk.

What are Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs?

Scratching at the ears is the most common—and earliest—sign of ear mites. You may notice other symptoms as well, such as:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at ears
  • Dark brown/black dry discharge from the ear(s) that can resemble coffee grounds
  • Dry, crusty skin or other lesions on or around the ears

These symptoms can also accompany other types of infections, so it’s important to see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

To diagnose your dog with ear mites, your veterinarian will check the ear canal for signs of mites with an otoscope. They may also take a sample of the discharge to examine under a microscope and/or test for other infections.

Ear Mite Treatment for Dogs

If your dog does have ear mites, your veterinarian will flush out your dog’s ears to remove them. You may also need to apply a topical anti-parasitic medication every day. Single-dose medications are also available through your veterinarian.

For multi-pet households, it’s imperative that you treat all animals in the home as if they also have mites (because they probably do). Let your veterinarian know if you have cats or other animals besides dogs, because they will require a separate medication specially formulated for them.

Wash all pet bedding and vacuum carpets and other areas where your pets spend time to help eliminate ear mites from your home.

How Do You Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs?

Preventing ear mites in dogs is a tedious job. You won’t have much control over their presence outdoors. Inside, you can help prevent them by washing pet bedding and vacuuming carpeted areas often.

Ask your veterinarian how to clean your dog’s ears to help prevent the waxy buildup ear mites thrive on.

Certain flea medications can also help prevent ear mites. Ask your veterinarian about those options as well.

Ear mites in dogs are unpleasant, both for you and your pup, but with thorough cleaning and a trip to your veterinarian, you can eliminate them.

Get more expert pet care tips on our Pet Expertise page.

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