A watercolor painting of a dog with signs of mites in its ears.

What are Ear Mites in Dogs?

What is it?

Ear mites are a common parasite that affects dogs’ ears. Small, spider-like creatures feed on the wax and oils in a dog’s ear canal, causing irritation and inflammation. Ear mites can be spread through direct contact with an infected animal, and they can be especially problematic for dogs with weakened immune systems.

How is it Treated?

Ear mites in dogs are typically treated with medicated ear drops or a topical solution that is applied directly to the ear canal. The medication is designed to kill the mites and soothe any inflammation or irritation caused by their presence. It is essential to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully and complete the entire course of treatment to it

Breed Predispositions

Cocker Spaniel Basset Hound Beagle Dachshund Golden Retriever Labrador Retriever Persian Himalayan cats


Karen had grown increasingly worried about her lovable Beagle, Buster, who had been persistently scratching at his ears and shaking his head for the past few days. Initially, she thought it might be a minor irritation that would resolve on its own, but when she observed a dark discharge and an unpleasant odor coming from Buster’s ears, she knew it was time to consult her veterinarian. After a thorough examination, the vet confirmed that Buster was suffering from an ear mite infestation, a condition Karen hadn’t encountered before.

Ear mites in dogs, scientifically referred to as Otodectes cynotis, are minuscule yet highly contagious parasites that predominantly infest the ear canal. However, they can also reside on the skin’s surface. These mites sustain themselves by feeding on the oils and wax in a pet’s ear canal. This parasitic infestation, or otodectic mange, triggers significant dog discomfort, usually manifested by severe itching. This ear problem is more frequently observed in puppies and pets that spend much time outdoors.

The mites are easily transmitted among animals, often leading to ear inflammation. For example, the Companion Pet Parasite Council reported that a cat can host up to 1,000 mites in its ears. Dogs, in contrast, typically harbor far fewer mites than cats. However, this infestation can escalate to severe skin or ear infections if not addressed promptly and appropriately.

What Causes Dog Ear Mites?

Ear mites are diminutive parasites that target dogs’ ears and inhabit other body parts. The prevalent species that dogs are susceptible to is Otodectes cynotis. These tiny mites are highly contagious and increase rapidly when animals have close contact, such as in multi-pet households or kennels.

The transmission of this ear mite infection usually transpires through direct contact with another infested animal. Dogs can pick up ear mites from social interactions with other animals, such as cats, ferrets, and rabbits, which already host these parasites. Once the mites have crawled from one host to another, they commence breeding, leading to an infestation characterized by a buildup of ear debris and wax.

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An alternate avenue for dogs to acquire ear mites is from their surroundings. This is a less frequent occurrence, but these mites can subsist for short periods outside a host, such as in bedding or furniture. Thus, if a mite-infested pet has been in these areas, the mites can transfer to a dog.

Contrary to common misconceptions, ear mite infections are not related to the cleanliness or hygiene of a pet. Dogs that are well looked after can still contract ear mites if they come into contact with an infected animal or environment. However, puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems might be more vulnerable to these infections, as their bodies are less capable of combating the mites. In addition, untreated infestations can result in complications like yeast infections or other secondary infections, emphasizing the importance of timely interventions like ear drops for mite control.

Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

Ear mites are highly contagious parasites that can quickly spread among dogs through close contact. If left unchecked, these mites can precipitate secondary bacterial infections like otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear. The following indicators could suggest these pesky creatures have infested your dog:

  • Intense itching, often signified by a dog’s symptoms of frequent and excessive ear scratching or rubbing their ears against other surfaces. This action is usually driven by the discomfort of itchy ears caused by mites.
  • Involuntary head shaking due to ear irritation and an attempt to dislodge the mites.
  • A dark, coffee-ground-like discharge noticeable within the ears. This is a common sign of an ear mite infestation.
  • Redness and inflammation within the ear canal, often a response to the mite’s presence and the dog’s scratching.
  • An unpleasant odor originating from the ears, possibly indicating a secondary infection due to the mite infestation.
  • The presence of crusts and sores in the ears, often resulting from excessive scratching.
  • In severe cases, the dog may show signs of hearing loss or balance issues due to the impact of the mites on the inner ear.
  • A visible presence of tiny white specks moving within the ear indicates mite infestation. However, they are not always easily seen without a professional examination.

These signs could imply that your dog is dealing with an ear mite infestation and should prompt immediate veterinary attention.

How to Diagnose Ear Mites in Dogs

Identifying ear mites in dogs is a comprehensive process that combines observable symptoms, hands-on evaluation, and lab tests. The veterinary team usually begins the assessment process by collecting a detailed health history of the dog and conducting a thorough physical examination, with special attention directed to the pup’s ear.

During the physical assessment, vets watch out for the hallmark indicators of ear mites: persistent scratching of the ears, recurrent shaking of the head, and a distinctive dark, coffee-ground-like discharge inside the dog’s ear canal. However, these signs alone cannot definitively confirm an ear mite infestation, as they could also be linked to other ear complications, such as bacterial or yeast infections.

To accurately diagnose ear mites, a vet will gather a sample of the debris or discharge from the dog’s ear for microscopic examination, known as ear cytology. The sample, often combined with a drop of mineral oil, is placed on a microscope slide to look for mites. Under a microscope, ear mites appear as tiny, white, mobile specks.

In certain instances, if the vet doesn’t detect mites but suspects an infestation, they may employ an otoscope to look deep inside the ear for any signs of mites, or they may opt to treat for mites anyway, particularly if the dog has been in contact with an infected animal known to have ear mites.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that not all ear discomfort in dogs is due to ear mites. Other conditions, such as allergies, foreign objects, or different types of parasites, can generate similar symptoms. Therefore, a meticulous examination and the proper testing are essential for a correct diagnosis and treatment. Any dog displaying these symptoms may have ear mites and should be evaluated by a vet promptly to prevent the dog from contracting ear mites.

Treatment Options for Ear Mites in Dogs

ear mites in dogs

Several remedial alternatives are available for dogs afflicted by ear mites, and your veterinary professional will suggest the optimal strategy based on your dog’s particular requirements:

  • Ear Cleaning: This is the initial action in the remedial process. Your vet will delicately cleanse your dog’s ears to eliminate any accumulated debris or discharge, providing some relief and facilitating the medication to target the tiny parasites more effectively.
  • Topical Medication: Topical medications designed to exterminate ear mites are typically administered directly into the dog’s ear canal. These medications, which can comprise pyrethrins, Selamectin, or moxidectin, must be applied daily for a specified duration, usually between 7 and 30 days.
  • Injectable Medication: In certain cases, a vet might opt for an injectable solution (like ivermectin) to address ear mites. This is often a fallback option if topical treatments fail to produce results or can’t be used due to the infected dog’s demeanor.
  • Oral Medication: Some oral treatments may also successfully combat ear mites. These are typically administered in tandem with other treatments.
  • Environmental Treatment: Given that ear mites can survive for brief periods outside the host’s body, thoroughly cleaning your dog’s surroundings is crucial. This process includes washing your pet’s bedding and diligently vacuuming areas the dog frequents.
  • Preventative Medication: After resolving the ear mite infestation, vets often advocate for regularly using a broad-spectrum parasite preventative to safeguard against future infestations. Some over-the-counter ear solutions may serve this purpose but always consult your vet first.

Remembering that all dogs within a household should receive simultaneous treatment to circumvent reinfection is vital. Post-initial treatment and follow-up visits to your vet are necessary to ensure complete eradication of the mites. Since ear mites have a three-week life cycle, treatments may need repetition, as some remedies may not annihilate mite eggs. Investing in pet insurance may help cover the costs of this and other necessary treatments in case your dog spots ear mites or develops a secondary ear infection.

How to Prevent Canine Ear Mites

Regular ear cleaning and other preventative measures can help curb the risk of Otodectes cynotis, more commonly known as ear mites, in dogs. Here are several strategies to avoid your pet’s suffering from this issue.

  1. One key to prevention is to minimize your dog’s contact with other animals that might be carriers. Mites are more common in environments where multiple animals are present. Therefore, if you observe signs of infection in one pet, it’s wise to separate them from the rest of your animal family to prevent disease spread.
  2. Incorporating a flea comb into your pet’s daily grooming routine can be beneficial, as fleas are drawn to the warmth of dogs. Pay particular attention to areas like the underbelly during these checks.
  3. Keeping your home clean is essential. Regular vacuuming eliminates dirt and dust that could potentially harbor pests. Alternatively, you could utilize a steam cleaner or wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth for thorough cleaning.
  4. Inspect and clean your pet’s bedding regularly. Since dogs spend significant time on their beds, any blankets or linens should be vacuumed meticulously during changes. Also, look for stray hairs and fur, which can house fleas and other pests.
  5. Proper hand hygiene is crucial before and after pet interactions. Washing your hands before touching your pet can prevent the transfer of bacteria. Equally, washing hands post-handling your pet ensures you don’t inadvertently move bacteria from your pet to other surfaces.
  6. Regular bathing of your pet can be highly beneficial. Not only does this routine help remove excess oils and debris from their coat, but it also keeps them feeling fresh and smelling good. Regular bathing can be especially crucial in older dogs as it maintains their health and happiness.
  7. Within the ear canal, frequent and thorough cleaning is one of the best ways to prevent mite infestations. Removing excess hair from your dog’s ears and avoiding exposure to debris-filled water during swims can also significantly reduce the chances of an ear mite infestation. Remember, mites are tiny parasites that can lead to uncomfortable infections if not addressed proactively.

Frequently Asked Questions

Natural treatments for ear mites in dogs can help alleviate symptoms and support healing. Some natural remedies include:

  1. Mineral or olive oil: Applying a few drops of mineral or olive oil into the affected ear can help suffocate the mites and soothe the irritated skin. Be sure to gently massage the base of the ear to distribute the oil.
  2. Apple cider vinegar: Mixing equal parts of vinegar and water can create an ear rinse. Use a dropper or cotton ball to apply the solution to the ears. Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties that can help combat ear mites.
  3. Aloe vera gel: The cooling and soothing properties of aloe vera gel can provide relief from ear mite irritation. Apply a small amount of pure aloe vera gel to the inside of the ear, avoiding the ear canal.
  4. Neem oil has natural insecticidal properties and can be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Apply a few drops of the diluted neem oil to the ear, carefully avoiding the ear canal.

It’s important to note that while these natural remedies can help manage the symptoms of ear mites, they may not eliminate the infestation. Therefore, if the symptoms persist or worsen, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Apple cider vinegar has natural antimicrobial properties and can help create an unfavorable environment for ear mites. Therefore, it may help to alleviate some of the symptoms and reduce the number of mites in the ears. However, apple cider vinegar alone may not eliminate an ear mite infestation in dogs. It is typically more effective when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes proper cleaning of the ears and appropriate veterinary medication prescribed specifically for ear mites. It’s best to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and guidance on the most effective treatment for your dog’s ear mite infestation.

Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes used as a home remedy to help manage ear mite infestations in dogs. It has mild antiseptic properties and can help to flush out debris and wax from the ears. However, hydrogen peroxide alone is not sufficient to eliminate ear mites. Ear mites are persistent parasites that require specific medications to kill them effectively. Therefore, it is important to consult a veterinarian to diagnose and treat your dog’s ear mite infestation properly. The veterinarian can prescribe appropriate ear medications or recommend over-the-counter products specifically formulated to treat ear mites in dogs. Following the veterinarian’s advice for safe and effective treatment is best.

If left untreated, an ear mite infestation in dogs can lead to complications and discomfort. The mites can cause intense itching and irritation in the ear canal, leading to scratching, head shaking, and rubbing of the affected area. This can result in secondary infections, such as bacterial or yeast infections, which may worsen the symptoms and require additional treatment. The constant scratching can also cause trauma to the ear canal and potentially lead to ear hematomas, which are painful swellings filled with blood. Additionally, chronic ear mite infestations can affect the overall health and well-being of the dog, as the constant discomfort and inflammation can hurt their quality of life. 

The recovery time from ear mites in dogs can vary depending on the infestation’s severity and the treatment’s effectiveness. With proper and timely treatment, which typically involves medicated ear drops or topical medications to kill the mites and soothe the irritated ears, the symptoms of ear mites can improve within a few days. However, it’s important to continue the treatment as directed by your veterinarian for the recommended duration to ensure complete eradication of the mites and prevent re-infestation. Sometimes, it may take a couple of weeks or more for the dog’s ears to heal fully and for all the mites to be eliminated.

Ear mites are not typically transmissible from dogs to humans. Ear mites are species-specific, primarily affecting animals such as dogs and cats. While humans can be infected with a different type of mite called “human ear mites” or “human scabies,” these mites differ from those found in dogs and cannot be directly transmitted between species. If you have concerns about your health or suspect an infestation, it is best to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Dog ear mites primarily live and thrive in the ear canal of dogs. Therefore, they do not typically infest or survive on furniture or other surfaces for an extended period. However, it’s still a good practice to clean and disinfect any surfaces or items that may have come into contact with an infected dog’s ears to prevent any potential spread or re-infestation. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your dog’s bedding and living areas are also important for overall hygiene and to prevent the buildup of mites or other pests.

Ear mites can cause discomfort and irritation in dogs. They can lead to itching, scratching, head shaking, and ear canal inflammation. If left untreated, the constant scratching and irritation can cause secondary infections, which can be more serious and painful for the dog. Therefore, it’s important to promptly address ear mite infestations to relieve your dog’s discomfort and prevent complications.

Yes, dogs can get ear mites at any time of the year, including winter. While external parasites, such as fleas and ticks, may be more common during warmer months, ear mites can still affect dogs regardless of the season. In addition, ear mites are highly contagious and can spread from one animal to another through close contact. Therefore, it’s important to maintain regular ear hygiene and monitor your dog’s ears for any signs of mites or other issues, regardless of the time of year.

Ear mites in dogs do not necessarily become worse at night specifically. However, the symptoms of ear mites, such as itching and discomfort, can be more noticeable to the dog during quiet moments, including nighttime, when there are fewer distractions. Additionally, dogs may exhibit more discomfort or restlessness at night due to the lack of external stimuli. Therefore, if your dog is experiencing ear mite infestation, seeking appropriate treatment from a veterinarian to alleviate the symptoms and eliminate the mites is recommended.

Ear mites in dogs can sometimes cause a distinct odor. Ear mites often produce excessive ear wax, which can have a foul smell. Additionally, secondary infections or inflammation caused by ear mites can contribute to an unpleasant odor. Suppose you notice a strong, unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s ears, along with other signs of ear mite infestation, such as itching, shaking of the head, and discharge. In that case, having your dog examined by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment is advisable.

Ear mites primarily live and thrive in the ear canals of dogs. While some mites or debris can be transferred to the carpet or other surfaces if the dog shakes its head vigorously or scratches its ears, the mites are not well-suited for survival outside the ear canal. Ear mites require a warm and moist environment to survive and reproduce, so they are unlikely to establish a long-term presence on carpets or other household surfaces. However, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in the home is still a good idea to minimize the spread of mites or other potential irritants.

Ear mites in dogs are tiny parasites that are barely visible to the naked eye. They are usually white and have a crab-like appearance. Ear mites can be difficult to see, but you may notice signs of their presence, such as dark, crumbly discharge resembling coffee grounds in the dog’s ear, frequent scratching or shaking of the head, and inflammation or irritation of the ear canal. If you suspect your dog has ear mites, it’s best to have them examined by a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Yes, ear mites can cause discomfort and pain in dogs. The presence of ear mites can lead to intense itching and irritation in the ears, causing the dog to scratch or shake their head vigorously. This can further damage the delicate skin and ear canal, leading to inflammation, redness, and even secondary infections. If left untreated, the discomfort and pain caused by ear mites can significantly impact the dog’s quality of life and overall well-being. Therefore, it is important to address ear mite infestations promptly to alleviate the discomfort and prevent further complications.

Ear mites themselves typically do not directly cause death in dogs. However, if left untreated, an ear mite infestation can lead to complications such as severe ear infections, inflammation, and injury to the ear canal, which can be painful and cause significant discomfort to the dog. These secondary infections and complications can affect the dog’s overall health and, in rare cases, may lead to more serious systemic issues if left untreated for an extended period.

If your dog has ear mites or an ear infection, there are several signs and symptoms you can look out for. These include:

  • Excessive scratching or rubbing of the ears
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Redness and inflammation of the ear canal
  • Ear discharge, which can be dark, waxy, or foul-smelling
  • Itching and irritation around the ears and head
  • Sensitivity or pain when the ears are touched or manipulated
  • Hair loss around the ears or on the head
  • Crusts or scabs on or around the ear
  • Changes in behavior, such as irritability or restlessness

Dog ear mites themselves are not easily visible to the naked eye. They are very small, measuring about 0.1-0.4 mm in size. However, you may be able to see some signs of their presence. Ear mites can cause dark, crumbly debris to accumulate in the ear canal, resembling coffee grounds. This debris may be visible when examining the inner ear. Additionally, some dogs with ear mites may have visible signs of inflammation, redness, or irritation in the ear canal. If you suspect your dog has ear mites, it is best to have them examined by a veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

While some essential oils may have antimicrobial or insecticidal properties, using them directly on dogs is generally not recommended, especially in the ear. Essential oils can be highly concentrated and may cause irritation or adverse reactions in dogs, including burning or inflammation of the sensitive ear tissues. Some essential oils can also be toxic to dogs if ingested or absorbed through the skin. It is best to consult a veterinarian for appropriate and safe treatment options for ear mites in dogs. They can provide you with suitable medications or therapies that are specifically formulated for treating ear mites and are safe for canine use.

It is recommended to see a veterinarian if you suspect your dog has ear mites. A veterinarian can properly diagnose the presence of ear mites through a thorough examination of your dog’s ears. They can also rule out other possible ear conditions and determine the most appropriate treatment plan. For example, over-the-counter remedies or home treatments may not be as effective as prescribed medications, and the veterinarian can provide you with the appropriate medications and instructions for proper use. Additionally, the vet can offer advice on preventing future infestations and help address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the ear mite infestation.

No, there is currently no vaccine specifically for ear mites in dogs. Vaccines are typically used to prevent infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria, while tiny parasitic mites cause ear mites. Therefore, the primary approach to managing and treating ear mite infestations in dogs involves proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, usually with medications prescribed by a veterinarian. In addition, regularly cleaning and maintaining your dog’s ears can help prevent future infestations.

There are a few potential complications from ear mites, including: 

  1. Hearing loss. Ear mites can cause permanent damage to the inner ear if they’re left untreated. This can lead to hearing problems and even complete deafness in some cases.
  2. Infection. Ear mites are known for causing ear infections, which can be extremely painful and irritating. If your dog develops a disease due to ear mites, it can be challenging to get rid of and could require treatment from a vet.
  3. Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). Ear mites are known for causing inflammation in the eardrum, which can result in blocked or narrowed Eustachian tubes. This can reduce oxygen levels in the inner ear, resulting in dizziness and other symptoms.

The cost of treating ear mites in dogs can vary depending on factors such as the geographic location, the severity of the infestation, the required medications, and any additional veterinary services needed. Generally, the cost of treatment can range from around $50 to $200 or more. This typically includes the examination fee, ear cleaning solutions, medications (such as ear drops or topical ointments), and follow-up visits if necessary. Therefore, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate estimate based on your specific situation and to discuss the best treatment plan for your dog.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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