Ear mites in dogs

Ear mites in dogs

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are tiny animals that live in the ear canals of animals, including cats and dogs. The same species of mites can spread from cats to dogs and vice versa. When puppies and kittens are infected, it is usually by the ear mite Otodectes cynotis. The veterinarian will seldom bother to investigate which exact species of ear mite that is living in your dog’s ear, since all known ear mites that affects dogs can be killed using the same treatment. In some dogs, the ear mites live on other places of the dog’s body than the ear and this is important to keep in mind since a lot of dog owners believe that ear mites can live in the ears only.

Ear mite symptoms in dogs

When a dog suffers from an ear mite infection, the itching sensation will cause it to scratch itself around its ears, and it can also start shaking its head. The more severe the infestation, the more scratching and shaking. In dogs suffering from really bad ear mite infestations the ear canals can begin to bleed, and the dog owner will be able to see either fresh or dried blood inside the ear canal of the dog. If you look into your dogs ears an notice a build-up of something that looks like coffee grounds, it is dried blood and your dog is most likely infected with ear mites. (Bacterial and yeast infections can however cause similar symptoms, so it is best to let the vet take a look.) Ear mites are a major nuisance to the dog but not dangerous during the early stages. Severe ear mite infections that are left untreated can however cause serious problems for the dog, such as severely damage ear canals and eardrums which leads to a permanent loss of hearing.

Ear mites can live on other parts of the dog’s body than the ears, such as the tail and feet. It is important to known that some dogs will not scratch these areas even if they are infested with ear mites. A lack of scratching should therefore not be interpreted as definite lack of infestation outside the ears. 

Ear mite treatment for dogs

A wide range of ear mite medication is today available for dogs. What they have in common is that they contain some type of insecticide that will kill ear mites while causing as little discomfort for the dog as possible. One of the most commonly used active ingredients in ear mite treatment for dogs is Pyrethrin. Selamectin, Fipronil (found in Frontline), and Selamectin (found in Revolution) is also used by some veterinarians. During recent years, Milbemycin (found in Interceptor) and Acarexx (a special form of Ivermectin) have been approved in the United States for use on cats with ear mites.    

You dog might have to be treated 2-4 weeks before all the ear mites are gone for good.  

It is important to remember that ear mites can live all over the dog’s body, not only in the ears. Ear mites are for instance quite common on tail and feet, and all areas infected with ear mites must be treated simultaneously. (When puppies are sleeping, they often curl up with their tail close to the ears and this makes it very easy for ear mites to migrate back and forth.) Ideally, all pets in your household and their playmates should be treated simultaneously since ear mites are very easily transmitted among pets.

You do not have to go overboard when it comes to cleaning your house and garden, since ear mites have a hard time surviving off the host animal.

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