How to Treat Ear Mites in Dogs

By Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM

Otodectes cynotis mites (Any type of arachnid, excluding ticks), or ear mites, are a common parasitic infection that can affect your dog. Symptoms can include scratching at the ears, black, flaky discharge in the ear canals, a foul odor from the ears, and shaking of the ears.  If a veterinarian determines that your dog has ear mites, here are the next steps you should take to ensure a quick recovery.

  • Medication: A commercial ear cleaner that is specifically formulated for dogs and contains the ingredient pyrethrin (e.g., Eradimite Ear Mite Treatment), along with a full-body flea or tick treatment product should be used to eradicate mites.

What to Expect at the Vet’s Office

If your dog exhibits the common symptoms of ear mites, your vet will perform a complete physical exam and a thorough dermatologic exam. During the dermatologic exam, your vet may take skin scrapings for laboratory analysis, take ear swabs and place them in mineral oil to identify the mites, or use an otoscope (A type of instrument used to look inside the ear) to look for mites in your dog’s ear canals. 

Ear mites can be treated on an outpatient basis with specific medications. Your veterinarian will instruct you to clean your dog’s ears thoroughly with a commercial ear cleaner. Look for products that are specifically formulated for dogs and contain the ingredient pyrethrin.  This parasiticide should be used for 7-10 days to eradicate mites and eggs. Be sure to repeat the treatment approximately 2 weeks later.

Ear mites can also live in other spots on your dog’s body, including the feet and tail. Therefore, it is important to apply a flea treatment all over your dog’s body to eliminate ectopic mites, as well.

One month after the beginning of the treatment, your veterinarian will schedule a follow-up appointment to swab your dog’s ears and perform a physical exam to determine whether or not the mites have been eradicated.

What to Expect At Home

After beginning treatment, your dog should start to feel relief, and the excessive scratching and ear discharge should begin to subside after a few days.

Ear mites are highly contagious and can be easily transmitted to other dogs or pets, including cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, and ferrets. They are transmitted through social interaction, such as sleeping or playing together. For this reason, all animals in the same household should be treated for ear mites. The environment should also be cleaned.

Mites do not survive long away from an animal’s body, so a thorough cleaning should be sufficient to prevent recurring infestation.

After the conclusion of treatment, continue to check your dog’s ears regularly for signs of ear mites. Look for a thick red-brown or black crust in the outer ear, coffee ground like bumps in the ear canal, or abrasions and scratches on the back of the ears.

Ear mites are not considered to be a zoonotic disease (one that can be transmitted from animals to humans), so you don’t have to worry about the infestation spreading to any people in the household.

Questions to Ask Your Vet

Since ear mites are so contagious, all pets in a household with ear mites should be treated. Keep in mind that treatments are species specific – flea product that are formulated for dogs, for example, can be deadly to cats. Consult your veterinarian about appropriate treatments specific to each pet.

Possible Complications to Watch For

If your dog has an immune hypersensitivity (a reaction to a certain pathogen that is out of the ordinary) reaction to ear mites, it can result in intense irritation of the external ear. In this case, your vet will prescribe more aggressive measures to treat the infestation.

If left untreated, ear mites can severely damage the ear canals and eardrum and result in permanent hearing loss.

Image: mykeyruna /Shutterstock


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