Ear mites, the most common being otodectes cynotis mites, are parasites which infect a dogs ear. This different from fleas which are usually found anywhere in the bodies of animals. The ear mites live and feed off of the oils and waxes in the dog’s ear canal. Typically, cases of ear mite infections are mild, but dogs with a hypersensitivity to infection are likely to experience a more severe reaction. When left untreated, the infection can spread internally and externally around the ear area causing further skin and ear problems. The mites typically live for around 3 weeks each, and the infection is relatively simple to control.
The most common cause of ear mite infection is through contact with other animals. Strangely, people are immune to such infections. Families who own cats are at increased risk of their pets becoming infected with ear mites, as cats seem more prone to the condition than their canine counterparts.
Symptoms of ear mites in dogs
Look out for intense itching and scratching at the ear area, as well as a coffee ground like substance in the ear, as these are giveaway signs of infection. You should also look out for signs such as frequent shaking of the head (this symptom often leads to the development of hematomas), crusts around the outer ear area, ear inflammation, strong odor and secretion of dark-colored wax from the ear.
Hematomas which develop from your dog’s constant head shaking and scratching may required surgery to fix, which makes identifying and treating the problem before this can happen important.
If ear mites are suspected in your dog, the vet will typically look into the ear canal with an otoscope, take swabs inside the ear, and take skin scrapings. The otoscope can reveal the presence of mites visually. If there is still confusion, your vet may carry out other tests including blood tests to rule out other diseases which produce similar symptoms.
If your dog cannot undergo an otoscope examination, yet there is still enough evidence to suggest ear mites, your vet may diagnose your dog based on their reaction to treatment.
Cleaning will be required to clear the build-up of substances inside the ear. This may be carried out with a simple canine ear cleaner and cotton swabs.
For the actual treatment, your vet will suggest a course of parasite-fighting medication. This medication will often be topical, and you will be asked to place it into the dog’s ears. Your vet will also likely suggest a flea-treatment in case of ectopic mites. In some cases your dog may be prescribed antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs such as Mometamax.
Note: If you have other pets, you may be asked to treat them too, even if infection is not suspected.
To prevent ear mite infections, you should avoid allowing your dog contact with animals suspected to be infected. You may want to consider administering preventative medication to your dog to help prevent your dog from getting ear mites.