Ear Mites in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Have you noticed your dog scratching and shaking their head more than usual? The culprit might be an almost invisible insect causing irritation and making your dear pet friend extremely uncomfortable. Dog ear mites are unfortunately a common thing in the canine world. Find out what to do when they choose your dog as their host.
Dog with ear mites at the vet's
Dog with ear mites at the vet's
Dog with ear mites at the vet's

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are insects similar to ticks that live inside the ear canal but can also be found on the skin. Barely visible to the naked eye, they can only survive for a very limited time without a host to live on, which makes them extremely eager to find a welcoming dog. This means that ear mites are extremely contagious, hopping from dog to dog or even from cat to dog in no time.

What are the symptoms of ear mites in dogs?

Ear mites are irritable little creatures, so one of the first symptoms of dog ear mites will be an intense itch. You will notice your pup shaking their head or rubbing their ear against the carpet.

The symptoms of ear mites in dogs typically include:

  • Ear scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Dark discharge from the affected ear
  • Skin lesions around the ear

However, these symptoms are common for many parasitic infections, so the best thing to do before starting any sort of treatment is to book an appointment with your vet to rule out other possible conditions. 

What causes ear mites in dogs?

Dogs will usually pick up ear mites from another pet. It can be another dog or cat, and mites can pass very quickly between animals. They can only live in the environment for a limited time and with such a small window of time at their disposal, they’re quick find an unsuspecting dog to claim as their host.

Mites hop around from host to host, so if you are lucky enough to have multiple pets in the family, it’s very likely that once one of them gets ear mites, the rest will follow shortly.

How are ear mites in dogs diagnosed?

The vet will use an otoscope to check your dog’s ear canal for any signs of mites. A microscopic examination of the ear discharge can also be recommended. Sometimes, due to intense itching and scratching your dog’s ears can become very sore which makes it difficult for them to stay still during the examination. If that’s the case, your dog may need to be sedated for the diagnostic and initial treatment.

Vet checking dog with ear mites

Ear mite treatment for dogs

The vet will start by cleaning the dog’s ears to remove the mites. Treatment typically includes daily topical anti-parasitic medications which need to be applied regularly for a few weeks. But single dose medications can also be recommended – your vet will prescribe the best ear mite treatment for your dog. Your pup’s ears will also have to be thoroughly cleaned to remove the resulting debris and the stubborn mites still hanging on.

And bear in mind that if there are ear mites still living in the house, they can be picked up again which means the process will have to be started from scratch. To avoid this, don’t forget to clean your dog’s bedding and carpets thoroughly.

How long does it take to get rid of ear mites in dogs?

The life cycle of an ear mite usually lasts three weeks. Since the medication kills mature mites but leaves eggs intact, it may take a few weeks for your dog to be rid of the microscopic insects. But with patience, the symptoms will soon subside as the medication starts to take effect.

Can humans get ear dog mites?

Although it’s not completely impossible, humans will rarely catch ear mites from dogs.

Can ear mites in dogs be prevented?

The prevention job can be difficult. These almost-invisible insects will attach themselves to everything from grass to materials like loose dog hair and carpets. While you will have little control over what the dog encounters on their outdoors trips, their indoor environment is easier to keep mite-free. Just make sure to clean their living area thoroughly, especially if your dog has been treated for mites.

Certain monthly flea treatments can help prevent dog ear mites as well, so check with your vet for the best prevention strategy.

If you’re wondering how to clean your dog’s ear, check out our easy-to-follow guide. Or find out if it’s possible for you to catch the parasites your canine friend is suffering from in our Keeping You and Your Dog Healthy article.