Understanding Ear Mites And How To Avoid Them
Of all types of canine parasites, ear mites are the most common. Dogs with droopy ears, particularly English Cocker Spaniel, Bloodhound, Basset Hound, and Miniature Schnauzer, are prone to ear mites. Although dogs with short ears are not as vulnerable to ear mites, they can also develop ear infections because mange is highly contagious.
Ear mites can be frustrating to deal with because they keep coming back. Before treating the condition, my advice is to find out what’s causing ear mites to reoccur to prevent the problem from happening again.
Ear Mite Types and Causes
- Did you know that ear infections in dogs are often caused by a specific type of ear mites?
The auricular mites are microscopic critters that dig deep into the ear’s tegument. Because these nasty parasites love moist, dank environments, your dogs’ ears make the best homes for these microorganisms.
As the parasites’ population grows, so does the amount of bacterial and fungi inside your dog’s ears. The implantation of fungi and bacteria, combined with your furry friend’s earwax, water and shampoo deposits, will cause irritation in the ear canal, leading to inflammation, persistent itchiness, and skin lesions. In some cases, the itching is so intense that the poor dog would scratch his ears until blood starts pooling in the ear canal!
If your dog keeps shaking its head frequently and there's abrasion behind your pet's ears, these are sure sign of an ear mite infestation. I always inspect my dogs' ears for dark buildup that looks like coffee grounds. These are actually ear mite feces.
The intensity of the itchiness will depend on the severity of the infestation. A dog might rub its ears on hard surfaces to relieve itchiness. Dogs with severe ear mite problems would also hold their heads in a weird position, usually inclined to the side with the affected ear. If you think your dog is suffering from ear mites, get it checked by a vet.
From my experience, puppies age about 3 to 4 months old usually suffer from ear mites so keep an eye out for these critters if you are taking care of a litter.
Dangers of a Severe Ear Mite Problem
- For dogs, an ear mite problem can cause persistent discomfort and pain. That's why as soon as you see signs of ear mites on your dog’s ears, do not delay treatments. This condition can cause a variety of complications, including hematoma, in which blood accumulates inside your pet’s ears from intense head shaking.
- If the infection gets worse and becomes chronic, a simple ear mite problem can lead to hearing impairment, balance problems, and other complications.
- Apart from infection and hearing problems, ear mite infestation can also cause mange. Mange is a highly contagious skin disease that can be passed on to other dogs.
How to Get Rid of Ear Mites
Dealing with ear mites is frustrating but as long as you use the right products, the problem should go away eventually. To prevent the problem from getting worse, treat the mites as soon as you discover them.
Your vet will prescribe parasite medications to kill the offending parasites. These meds can be applied directly into the ear or on the skin. You can also treat your pet’s ears with mineral oil or permethrin drops, which you can find at your local pet supplies store.
It is also equally important to clean your dogs’ ears regularly to remove the mites’ fecal buildup. I would use several cotton balls saturated with a canine ear cleaner. Depending on the temperament of your pet, you can clean its ears while sedated.
My dogs are a patient bunch so there was never a time that they require sedation for ear cleaning. But for severe build-up that requires professional cleaning, I’d go for sedation so the whole process won’t be as stressful to my pets.
If you are using anti-parasitic drops, massage the insides of your dog’s ears so the medication will penetrate the deeper areas of the ears. On the other hand, if you are using a topical antibiotic, apply a small amount at recommended frequency. Deciding the frequency of administration on your own will do more bad than good.
If the ear mite infestation has led to a severe ear infection, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics to reduce inflammation and heal the lesions.
- As soon as treatment starts, a dog will feel relief almost instantly. That means the dog will no longer scratch his ears vigorously or shake his head. However, you have to complete the full course of the treatment so the ear mites will be eradicated.
- The reason why ear mite treatment is so lengthy is that these parasites mate and spread rapidly. If you miss a single mite, it could start reproducing new mites again, causing a vicious cycle of infection and mange. An average treatment will last for several weeks.
I also make it a point to get my dogs’ ears cleaned once every month. If you are caring for a dog for the first time, do not self-medicate, work with your vet. Apart from routine checkups, I always clean my pets’ beddings, rugs, and toys thoroughly.
To reduce the risk of a re-infestation, make a habit out of cleaning your dog’s sleeping area. Mites can cling to your dog’s beddings and toys, lying in wait until they can enter your dog’s ears again.
Home Remedies for Ear Mites
Apart from using medications and anti-parasitic drops prescribed by your veterinarian, you can also use home remedies to control ear mites in dogs.
However, do note that most home remedies are only meant to ease discomforts, not solve the root cause of the problem. I’d say, home remedies are best for dogs that have not experienced ear mites before.
But for severe cases of ear mites, nothing beats going to the vet. In a pinch, these home remedies work great at easing discomfort caused by ear mites in dogs:
Almond oil helps ease inflammation and soften hard or sticky ear secretions caused by an ear infection. Plus, ear mites hate this stuff!
I would use a dropper to get a small amount of the oil and apply the oil deep into my dog’s ears. Then, I’d massage my dog’s ears to make sure the oil goes in deep into the ear canal.
Leave the oil to soften the sticky residue and pat with paper towels to remove the excess.
Vinegar and Water
Who knew kitchen staples like vinegar can be used to get rid of ear mites in dogs?
Vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound that kills a variety of bacteria, fungi, and microorganisms. Acetic acid has the ability to kill ear mites and disinfect your pooch’s ears!
To use vinegar as a treatment for ear mites, mix an equal amount of vinegar and water in a small dish. With a clean dropper, get a small amount of the mixture and drop it deep into your dog’s ears.
If you don’t have a dropper, you can also use a pipette. Just make sure you don’t pour too much of the stuff into your dog’s ears! This solution is also great for routine ear cleaning, I use it all the time.
Aloe Vera Gel
For severe ear mite problem that led to redness, skin lesions, and painful inflammation, you can’t go wrong with aloe vera gel.
Aloe vera gel is rich in soothing nutrients that reduce inflammation, ease itchiness, and speeds up healing. You can use fresh aloe vera gel or get a store-bought one from a beauty or pet store.
I would get a couple of aloe vera stems, cut each one in half and scoop out the gel. What I do is apply a small amount of the gel all over my dogs’ ears, concentrating on the areas that are very red.
- If you can’t find aloe vera gel, you can also use calendula oil.
Treating ear mites can be quite frustrating especially if it keeps coming back and you have multiple pets. My advice is to be persistent in terms of treatment and pet hygiene. It helps if you separate an infected dog from other dogs to contain the problem.
Keep your pets’ ears nice and clean after every bath but take great care not to irritate the sensitive inner ear during cleaning. Always take your dogs to your vet especially if you are dealing with a severe case of ear mite infestation.
It takes about 3 weeks to eradicate ear mites. If at some point your pet is in pain, use at-home remedies to reduce inflammation but do not depend on these natural treatments completely. You need to use potent antibiotics, soothing ointments, and anti-parasite medications to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Sara and I would like to thank you for checking out my blog. I have been around dogs since I was kid and I cannot imagine life without one. So now, I am sharing with you the knowledge I have accumulated over the years and hopefully it helps you too.