If you notice your dog scratching their ears more often than normal, then this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Could it be fleas? Ticks? Lice? These common pests are certainly worth dreading, but if your dog is scratching only at their ears, then this might mean another, more annoying pest has infested your home—the ear mite.
Let’s take a look at what ear mites are, what symptoms your dog might show if they have them, and how to treat ear mites in dogs. By the end, you’ll be better equipped to provide your canine friend with relief.
What Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are common parasites that typically live inside the ears of animals, as their name implies, though they can spread out to other areas on your dog’s body if left unchecked. They eat the dead skin cells and wax in your dog’s ears for food, and their bites can cause irritation and inflammation. In fact, up to half of all ear infections in dogs are caused by ear mite bites.
It may be difficult for you to spot if your dog has ear mites from just looking at them. These arachnids are so tiny that you can only see them clearly under a microscope. To the naked human eye, they will look like tiny, pale white dots moving around your dog’s ears.
They are extremely contagious and can spread from dog to dog in a matter of seconds. Your dog may get ear mites by spending time with other animals who also have ear mites, especially if they share bedding or are kept in close quarters with other dogs (such as in a boarding facility, shelter, or breeder’s place).
If your dog spends a great deal of time outdoors, they may also bring ear mites back inside without even knowing. Kittens, puppies, and other pets with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop an ear mite infection than your healthier pets.
Life Cycle of the Ear Mite
Mite eggs can typically be found deep inside your dog’s ear canal. They will hatch within just a few days of being laid, and the larvae will grow to a full adult mite in less than a month, starting the cycle all over again.
An ear mite colony can develop in a relatively short amount of time and even spread across your dog’s head, face, and even the tip of their tail. As such, it’s important that you recognize the symptoms of an infestation as soon as possible.
Ear Mites in Dogs Symptoms
Excessive scratching or rubbing at their ears is often a sign of an ear mite infestation in dogs. Of course, this could also be a sign of other ear problems, such as yeast or bacterial ear infections, so keep an eye out for other symptoms, such as:
- Frequently shaking their head or rubbing their faces along the ground.
- Thick red-brown or black crust in the outer ear.
- Grubby clumps inside the ear canal that appear similar to coffee grounds.
- Abrasions and/or visible scratches on the back side of their ears.
- Waxy discharge coming out of their ear(s) that produces a bad smell.
- Red or swollen inner ear.
- Rashes or other skin disorders only on the skin around their ears (this reaction typically occurs if your dog is hypersensitive to ear mites).
- Pain around their ears.
- Hair loss around the ear area.
- Hearing loss and/or loss of balance (in especially severe cases).
Not all dogs will show symptoms in the beginning, and you may not even know they have ear mites until the infestation grows to concerning levels.
You should also keep in mind that these symptoms are common with other ear conditions as well. Most veterinarians find that owners who have tried to treat their dogs for ear mites, fleas, or ticks are actually aggravating a bacterial or fungal ear infection instead.
Don’t assume that your dog has ear mites just because they itch at their ears often. It’s always important to receive a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian before wasting your time and money applying the wrong treatments, making your pet’s other conditions worse.
How to Get Rid of Ear Mites in Dogs
Ear mite treatment for dogs typically come in two varieties—home remedies and medicinal treatments.
You should never use home remedies for ear mites in dogs if they have sores in their ears or if their eardrums have burst. These remedies often contain ingredients that can irritate these conditions. It’s best to consult your veterinarian about any home remedy for ear mites beforehand, so you know which ones will be safe for your dog.
Keep in mind that both over-the-counter and home remedies only kill or clear out adult mites. They may not even affect the eggs at all, so you need to be diligent. Apply these treatments every day or as prescribed for at least a month, or until your veterinarian tells you to stop.
You should never stop these treatments just because your dog seems to be fine. Any hidden mite eggs may hatch and start the process all over again.
Antiseptic Tea Rinse
One natural solution for removing ear mites is to wash the dog’s ears with an antiseptic tea rinse. Green tea is typically the best for this method.
- You will first soak your tea leaves in hot water for as long as it normally takes you to make a cup of tea.
- Once the tea has steeped, let it cool down to room temperature.
- Flush your dog’s ear with the tea at least once a day, for one month straight.
Oil treatments can be a bit risky, since many of them contain garlic. This herb is poisonous for dogs, but it’s also excellent at flushing out ear mites. Just be careful when applying this treatment and you’ll get rid of the mites in no time!
- Crush a few garlic cloves, and then soak them in oil overnight.
- Remove the garlic from the oil before applying.
Apple cider vinegar kills all bacteria in your dog’s ear, on top of any mites lurking within, making it one of the best home remedies. However, if your dog has sores in their ears, this remedy may actually hurt them, so proceed with caution.
- Mix one-part apple cider vinegar with one-part water.
- Put the mixture in a syringe or soak it into a cotton ball.
- Wash out your dog’s ear with the vinegar-water mixture.
Coconut oil is one of the more popular home remedies, since it can help cure many different health issues in dogs, including ear mites.
- Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan along with two cloves of fresh garlic.
- Let the mixture cool, and then add the liquid inside a syringe.
- Place two to three drops into your dog’s ear. The amount your dog need will depend on their size.
Calendula is another popular home remedy that can treat all sorts of ailments. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find, so you might just want to buy a pre-made solution you can use to clean out the mites. If you do find calendula, follow these simple steps:
- Soak the leaves in olive oil for four days.
- Strain the solution to remove these leaves.
- Wash out your dog’s ears with the solution.
Mullein is another natural plant that has great anti-bacterial properties and can help flush out ear mites!
- Soak the leaves in olive oil for two to three weeks. Add one to two cloves of garlic in as well, if you have them on hand.
- Strain the liquid out and wash your dog’s ears out with it.
Oregano oil is great at removing ear mites and can be found in most kitchens.
- Add one drop of oregano oil to 1/2-ounce pure aloe vera juice.
- Wash your dog’s ear out with the mixture either via syringe or soaked-up cotton ball.
Olive oil on its own is a perfectly valid treatment option, too!
- Drip a little into your dog’s ears every other night for three to six weeks to prevent irritation.
Before you use any treatment on your dog’s ears, make sure you take out any wax or debris you find clogging them up. Next, thoroughly clean the ears with a cleaner formulated for dogs. Not only can this remove some of the mites feasting, it will also clear out a more direct path for the treatments to work.
Medication is by far the most effective and safest way for you to get rid of ear mites.
Your veterinarian may prescribe your dog certain medications specifically designed to kill mites, though these medications may also eliminate secondary bacterial and yeast infections, or target fleas and ticks as well.
For example, Eradimite Ear Mite Treatment and Otomite are good over-the-counter topical medications that solely treat ear mite infestations. Meanwhile, medications like Advantage Multi and Revolution can also treat heartworm, fleas, and some intestinal worms.
See also: the best flea treatments for dogs
Keeping Your Home Mite-Free
Mites can spread almost as fast as wildfire, all across your home. It’s important that you treat every pet you own, even if they do not appear to show any symptoms. Better to be safe than sorry, after all. You should also thoroughly clean all the bedding, linens, furniture, and flooring your dog may have touched.
If your dog often rolls around carpeted areas, you need to vacuum those areas very thoroughly. Using anti-allergy vacuums that have true HEPA filters can be a huge help, as they can trap up to 99.97 percent of all airborne particles, as well as any adult mites crawling around your floor. Try to vacuum these areas at least once a week to keep your floors clear of mites and to significantly improve your indoor air quality. Any other large surfaces or furniture your pet has shed on should also be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to the best of your ability.
You should also make sure to wash all your pets’ bedding, towels, linens, and other soft items (like plush toys) in hot water. This will kill off any ear mites and their eggs stuck to the surface. For good measure, you should also dry them very well in the sun or in a very hot dryer.
Loose pet hair may also carry the parasites, so it’s best to frequently bathe all your pets for up to one month to remove any stubborn mites still clinging on.
Try to keep your dog’s ears clean during treatments and to regularly check on them for any possible signs of infection. Other than clearing them out with some type of ear cleanser, you should also clip the hair on the inside of your dog’s ear and around the opening to their ear canal. This will give the mites fewer places to hide.
When to See Your Vet
If you ever suspect that your dog has ear mites, you need to see your veterinarian as soon as you can. If left to scratch too much at their ears, your dog may accidentally damage themselves and cause secondary infections.
Regular dog ear care will help to keep your dog’s ears clear, as well as reduce the likelihood of the infection coming back or any other illnesses or conditions suddenly cropping up. You may also notice symptoms faster through these regular check-ups, leading to early detection and treatment that will hopefully make your dog feel more comfortable.
You should check your dog’s ears at least once a month – around the time you apply any monthly preventative medications you use to prevent fleas and intestinal parasites, just to be thorough.
Ear mites can be extremely irritating for both you and your dog. As always, it’s important to discuss your dog’s treatment options with your veterinarian, so they can go back to living a healthy, happy life. With professional advice and a few home treatments, they’ll feel better soon.