Ear Mites in Dogs

Ear mites in dogs are a very contagious parasite of the ear canal. They can be passed to cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and other household pets.

Symptoms of Ear Mite Infestation

The most common symptom of ear mite infestation is excessively scratching the ears and rapid head shaking. The more severe the infection, the more your dog will scratch his ears and shake his head. In very advanced cases, the ear canals may become inflamed and bleed, and your dog may develop open sores in and around his ears. This can cause a black build up inside the ear. The residue of dried blood looks like coffee grounds.

Ear mites are common, but without treatment, they can damage the ear canals and eardrum, and cause permanent hearing loss. Mites can also spread to other parts of your dog's body. They often spread to the tail, because when your dog curls up to go to sleep, he'll generally place the tip of his tail close to his ears.

Diagnosing Dog Ear Mites

Your vet will diagnose an ear mite infestation by examining the ears visually. He may swab your dog's ear and study the sample under a microscope. Ear mite infestation is usually easy to diagnose, and treatment is straightforward, since your vet doesn't need to know the specific species of the mite involved.

Treating Ear Mites

Ear mites in dogs are treated with ear drops. The drops used should contain an insectide. Pyrethrin is the most commonly used insecticide in ear mite preparations. Drops that do not contain an insecticide are ineffective, and will not control the problem.

Some medications used to treat ear mite infestation include:

  • Ivermectin
  • Selamectin
  • Fipronil
  • Milbemycin

Depending on the medication your vet chooses and the severity of the infestation, your dog may need to be treated for as long as four weeks. If your dog's ear mites have spread to other parts of his body, these areas should be treated as well. Your vet can recommend a spray, dip or shampoo that contains a suitable insecticide, perhaps one of the ones listed above.

Preventing Ear Mite Infestation

You can help prevent ear mites by drying your dog's ears carefully after bathing. Check for debris inside the ear and visit the vet if anything seems out of place. If your dog develops ear mites, be sure to follow his instructions carefully. Ear mites are difficult to eliminate, and even one missed dose of the medicated ear drops can cause the infestation to regain strength.

Ear mites in dogs aren't contagious to humans. However, they are contagious to a wide range of other animals, like cats, rabbits, hamsters, mice, ferrets and other common household pets. Because ear mites are so contagious, all pets in the home should receive simultaneous treatment, to eliminate the risk of reinfestation. Fortunately, ear mites don't live very long away from their host, so you won't have to worry about treating your house or yard.