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Ear Mites in Dogs

Ear mites cause itchiness in dogs’ ears.

Ear mites are tiny creatures that invade a dog's ears, creating extreme inflammation, itchiness, and debris.

The Life Cycle of an Ear Mite

Ear mites, or Otodectes cynotis are barely visible with the naked eye; it's much easier to see them under a microscope, where they resemble ticks.

Ear mites invade an animal's ear canal and lay eggs. The eggs hatch, and the mites eat ear wax and skin in the ear canal. The cycle continues on and on, with new eggs hatching all the time.

Are Ear Mites Contagious to Other Pets?

Ear mites are extremely contagious between animals when they contact each other. Mites sometimes migrate onto the pet's head and rear feet when they scratch their ears, so they can be spread through contact with those ears as well.

Ear mites are much more common in cats than in dogs. Many people assume their dog has ear mites if they're scratching their ears when, in reality, they have an infection or some other condition. Inappropriate treatment with over-the-counter ear mite medications do nothing to treat the infection, which worsens over time. Visit the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis if your dog is scratching his ears.

Are Ear Mites Contagious to Humans?

Humans are almost never affected by ear mites. However, it is possible for a person to develop a mild skin rash on their hands, arms, or legs if they are exposed to them.

Signs of Ear Mites in Dogs

Dogs with ear mites could show some or all of the signs listed here.

  • Head-shaking, which occurs due to the itchiness and discomfort in the ears.
  • Scratching at the ears with rear feet.
  • Debris in the ears which usually looks similar to coffee grounds.
  • Hair loss around the ears.
  • Licking incessantly at rear feet in conjunction with lots of time spent scratching the ears.
  • Dogs may develop an ear hematoma from head-shaking or scratching the ear violently due to extreme itchiness. If that occurs, the ear flap will appear swollen, and this may be mild or severe.

Treatment of Canine Ear Mites

Ear mites in dogs can be treated a few different ways. Below are the common ear mite treatments that are currently available.

  • Older products and over-the-counter ear mite products generally work by applying a medication into the ear canals for at least one month. This is because these products usually don't kill the mite eggs, so treatment must be continued for the entire life cycle time of a mite, to kill all larvae and adults as they hatch. It's important to have a veterinarian inspect the dog's ear, ensuring that the ear drum is intact, before beginning any topical ear medications because some medications are dangerous if there is an ear drum rupture.
  • Tresaderm is a prescription ear product that kills ear mites and eggs as well as treating some of the secondary infections and inflammation that can occur with ear mite infestation. The course of treatment for this product is usually ten days.
  • Ivermectin injections are sometimes used if a dog won't allow his ears to be treated directly. Injections are given every week or two until the ear mite infestation is gone. There are potential side effects to this treatment, including life-threatening reactions in some dogs, especially collies and collie-related breeds. This treatment is off-label, which means that its use is not FDA-approved for ear mites.
  • Single use topical treatments are now available for ear mite treatment in dogs. Generally, your veterinarian will clean your dog's ears well and then apply a prescription topical treatment such as Revolution or Advantage Multi. Further ear cleanings and topical medications may be necessary to treat any secondary inflammation or infection.

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