Ear mites in dogs: What to do and how to help itchy skin

If your dog is shaking and scratching their head and ears, this could be a sign that your dog has an ear mite infestation. These pesky parasites cause incessant itching and while they don’t actually bite your dog’s skin, the secondary damage they cause by scratching can be severe.

How do you know if your dog has ear mites? What can pet parents do to help their itchy dogs and prevent ear mite infestations?

What are ear mites?

Ear mites, Otodectes cynotis, are parasites that live on cats, dogs, and other furry mammals. These tiny pests are usually found in the ear canal but can also live on the skin surface, and feed on skin oils and ear wax.

It takes approximately three weeks for a mite to develop from an egg to an adult. While living on their host, adult ear mites live about two months, during which time they continually reproduce. They can live in the surrounding environment, but only for a limited amount of time (a few weeks).

Ear mites are highly contagious and can cause quite a bit of discomfort and irritation for your dog, so addressing and preventing ear mites is essential to your pet’s health and happiness.

What do ear mites look like?

Ear mites are barely visible to the naked eye at only 1-2 millimeters in length. Members of the arachnid family, they look like light colored ticks with short legs. You may be able to spot ear mites by taking a sample of debris from your dog’s ears and putting it on a dark, brightly lit surface and using a magnifying glass. To properly diagnose an ear mite infestation, veterinarians can easily see them using a microscope or otoscope.

How do dogs get ear mites?

Animals become infested with ear mites by direct contact with another infested animal. Kittens are the most frequent target of ear mites, but infections in dogs are also common. Kittens, puppies, and pets with compromised immune systems are often at higher risk for developing ear mite infestations compared to adult pets with mature and healthy immune systems.

When one puppy or dog is infested, the mites can get onto bedding or transfer directly from dog to dog through play and socializing. As dogs like to play together, the mites find it easy to make their move to a new host. Puppies also tend to spend more time in close contact with their littermates, making the spread of ear mites more likely.

Symptoms of ear mites

Because seeing actual mites is so difficult, it’s important for pet parents to be able to identify signs of an ear mite infestation. Ear mites do not bite pets’ skin, but the secondary damage caused by scratching can be serious. Pet parents will often notice that a dog with ear mites exhibits the following symptoms:



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