Microscopic in size, ear mites are a common parasite found in cats, dogs, rabbits and cattle. Ear mites are most commonly found in cats but are highly contagious in nature (they can be passed on through casual contact) and are quite happy to set up home in your dog’s ears, feeding off the wax secretions in the ear canal.
Ear mites don’t pose a huge risk to human members of the household, however, it’s one of many reasons it’s a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after patting your pets.
How do you know if your dog has ear mites?
Ear mites present in a similar fashion to ear infections (and left untreated, can cause ear infections in dogs). Symptoms of ear mites in dogs include:
- Scratching and head-shaking - Excessively scratching and/or rubbing their ears or shaking their head (as if to shake something out of their ears)
- Pain - Obvious signs of pain in their ear/s, for example whimpering or flinching when you go near their ear
- Crust - Crusting within the ear/s
- Smell - A strong odour coming from the ear/s
- Brown wax - A black or brown waxy secretion – also often described as a discharge that resembles coffee grounds in the ear canal. You may also be able to spot tiny white spots in this discharge – these are the mites. You will not see them if they’ve gone further into the ear canal, or you may simply miss them due to their tiny size!
- Wax - Excessive wax production
- Inflammation - Redness and swelling in the ears
How can you get rid of ear mites in dogs
Pop in to see your vet first and foremost - even if your treatment method of choice does not require a prescription. Your vet can confirm your pet has mites and can check for an ear infection, which will also need to be treated (and often develop secondarily to ear mites). The visit may involve a thorough clean of the ear and possibly medicated drops if there is evidence of infection.
For the mites themselves, there are three possible treatment methods, namely:
- Topical treatments – these include over the counter products as well as prescription medications
- Oral products
- Injectable agents – these are generally regarded as a last resort.
Also ensure you’re cleaning your dog’s ears properly. Watch our video where Dr Katrina Warren gives you a step-by-step guide on how to clean your dog's ears.