Ear mites may seem like more of an irritation issue. However, it is very important to treat them so that they do not result in a problematic health concern.
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis, are tiny, infectious parasites than resemble ticks and live in the ears of affected dogs. Barely seen by the naked eye, ear mites appear to be small white dots.
It takes about three weeks for an ear mite to develop into an adult. These little pests can live their entire lives inside a dog's ear. And once afflicted, thousands of tiny mites scurry inside the ear canal. Keep in mind that your dog's ear canal is extremely sensitive. As the little buggers creep and crawl inside the ear, they eat cerumen, or earwax. As this happens, the tender ear canal becomes more and more irritated.
A veterinarian can easily detect dog ear mites by examining a sample of earwax from an afflicted dog under a microscope. You can detect dog ear mite infections at home by looking for dry, black ear discharge resembling coffee grounds in your dog's ear. (Sorry, coffee drinkers...) This dark discharge is composed of earwax, blood, biochemicals, and the ear mites themselves.
If not treated, the black discharge can actually close off the ear canal. Both the irritation and the blockage of air flow can further damage the ear and cause a fungal or bacterial infection.
Ear mites are very contagious. They can easily pass from one host to the next by physical contact. So, most likely if your dog has ear mites, she caught the infection from another animal with whom she had been socializing. Due to the ease of transmission, if you have multiple pets, they all should be treated for ear mites, even if only one displays the discharge and/or symptoms.
Mites in Dog Ears Symptoms
A dog will display certain symptoms that will clue you in to the problem of ear mites. The primary symptoms are:
- Constant scratching behind or inside the ears.
- Frequent head shaking.
- Dark, coffee ground-like discharge.
- Ear canal inflammation.
- An unusual head tilt or loss of balance.
- Vomiting or a refusal to eat.
- In extreme cases, sores behind the ears due to excessive scratching.
How to Get Rid of Dog Ear Mites
If you notice your pet displaying any of these symptoms, please take her to your local veterinarian's office immediately. After examination and a positive diagnosis of ear mites, most veterinarians will first clean and flush the ears thoroughly with moist, soapy water to dispose of the discharge inside of the ears. Every bit of the discharge must be removed from the ear canal before any medication will work. In severe cases, an anesthetic may be necessary to allow for a complete cleaning. Then, the vet will apply medicinal drops into the ear canals or by means of an injection. Please do not attempt to treat your dog's ears with over-the-counter ear mite medication prior to a visit with your veterinarian. Many well-meaning dog owners use these products for weeks, even months, without positive results. A simple and quick visit to your vet will alleviate the pain and discomfort your pet feels due to the presence of ear mites. It may even save you a couple of bucks in the long run, as well.
Dog Ear Mite Preventatives
Treat your dog with a flea medication monthly. Many flea treatments, such as Frontline Plus, will kill mites.
After you have treated your dog for ear mites, wash everything that she has come in contact with in hot, soapy water. Adult ear mites are extremely mobile and can actually live for a while off of a dog. So, treat everything from your dog's toys to her bedding, perhaps even yours, to make sure all ear mites have been eliminated from the environment.
Ear Mites Conclusion
Found in more cats that dogs, ear mites are nasty parasites that damage your pet's ear canals. Ear mites will not go away by themselves. Without proper care and medication, the ear mite infestation will continue to grow and can potentially cause permanent damage to your dog, such as skin disease, seizures, and deafness.
Although humans cannot contract ear mites, the mites can bite people; so if only for your own sake, please seek treatment for your pet.