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    Ear Mites in Dogs: Treatment & Prevention

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Ear mites are itchy, annoying parasites that can cause an infection in your dog’s ear canal. If your dog is scratching a lot, ear mites may be the culprit. Always schedule a visit with your veterinarian when your dog is showing signs of ear problems. Ear mites may not be the case, but here's a few things every dog owner needs to know pet ear care and avoiding an ear mite infestation.

    Causes of ear mites

    Ear mites are very contagious, especially for young puppies and dogs with fragile immune systems. However, ear mites can happen at any age for several reasons.

    What are ear mites

    Ear mites are tiny insects that you can barely see. An ear mite infection can cause itching and ear discharge as the tiny mites work their way into the ear canal. These little parasites feed on your dog’s ear wax, blood and ear tissue. It's not just uncomfortable for your dog, it can turn into a bigger infestation with spreading power.

    How a dog gets ear mites

    Most dogs get an ear mite infection outside. Dogs can also pick up mite infections from other dogs or at boarding kennels and groomers. Newly adopted dogs may have ear mites from the shelter where pets are close to other animals that might be infected with parasites.

    What to do about ear mites

    Separate your dog from other pets if you think your dog has an ear mite infection, because ear mite infestations are highly contagious.

    Signs that your dog has ear mites

    Scratching is one of the first symptoms of ear mites. Not every scratch is an ear mite infestation though, so don’t panic. Dogs can scratch for other reasons like allergies, fleas and ticks, a yeast infection, and other parasite conditions like sarcoptic mange. Here are the signs of ear mites to look out for in your dog.

    First signs of ear mites

    Your dog may shake his head to get rid of the infestation. You may also notice inflammation or redness, called otitis externa, in your dog’s ear canal. As a mite infestation gets worse, dark brown ear discharge occurs that resembles coffee grounds. If your dog has floppy ears, lift each ear to look for discharge. This is the time to get a vet’s diagnosis and treatment in case itching is from another ear disease.

    Advanced mite infestations

    If an ear mite infestation continues without treatment, your dog may get a secondary ear infection. Too much scratching from ear mite damage can cause cuts, infections and inflammation, causing damage to the ear canal. A secondary bacterial infection is also common.

    Treating ear mites in dogs

    See your vet right away for diagnosis and treatment for your pet’s ear. Acting quickly will keep the ear mite problem from getting worse and spreading.

    Over-the-counter options

    A non-prescription topical medication can be effective. However, your vet must rule out other problems with your dog’s ear canal like a flea infestation, yeast or bacteria to decide on the right treatment.

    The vet appointment

    The first step in ear mite treatment is a visual inspection to look for clinical signs of inflammation and ear discharge. Your vet will clean your dog’s ear canal to remove the excess wax and ear discharge. Some dogs need to be sedated before cleaning the ear canal.

    Your vet will treat your dog’s ear canal with a topical medication to destroy the tiny mites and will also treat the secondary ear infections. You also might get a monthly topical medication to kill new ear mites.

    Prognosis and ongoing treatment

    Most ear mite infections are easily treated if caught early, and your dog will feel better in no time. Your dog might scratch for a couple of weeks and might need a cone collar to prevent over-scratching. Follow all mite medication instructions carefully. Clean all your dog’s bedding to protect other pets. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your vet to be sure the ear mites and all secondary infections are completely gone.

    Preventing ear mites in dogs

    Ear mite infestations can be a real problem, so prevention is the key. Good grooming habits are important as well as mite medications to prevent mite infestations.

    Good hygiene

    Having a regular cleaning routine means that you’ll notice the tiny mites before they become a big problem. Use a clean, soft and damp cloth to clean ears. White cloths work best so you can see the ear mite debris if present.

    Parasite prevention

    Your vet will probably recommend a prescription flea and tick medication that is approved to treat mites. The added benefit is that your pets and your family will also avoid a flea infestation, as well as Lyme disease and other problems that can be caused by ticks.

    Dealing with ear mites in dogs

    Ear mite infections are uncomfortable for your dog, but the good news is treatment is effective. Most dogs get relief from ear canal medications from the vet. Once your vet diagnoses ear mites, use some preventive treatments to keep ear mite infestations away.