Written by Anna Hollisey
If your dog’s shaking his head and scratching his ears, he might have caught the dreaded ear mites. These tiny terrors hop between animals to lurk in the warm folds of their ears. Here’s our guide to diagnosing and treating ear mites in dogs.
Ear-scratching is one of the first signs that your dog has ear mites. They’ll feel the irritation and rub and scratch at their ears; they might also tilt their head.
However, this response could be caused by anything inside the ear – from water to excess wax, foreign objects, or an ear infection.
Many owners mistakenly treat their dogs for ear mites when they have, in fact, developed a skin allergy or infection. The only way to be sure is to visit your veterinarian. They’ll use an otoscope to check for mites, which can then be targeted with a treatment.
Ear mites are very small parasites which are found on dogs (and, more commonly, cats). They feed on wax and skin oil, so ears are their favorite spots. Like nits, they are transferred between animals who come into contact, so if one pet has ear mites, you will need to treat every animal in the household.
Adult ear mites lay eggs which take 3 weeks to become adult mites; this means that your other animals could already be infected.
Ear mites are not fussy about breed, size or shape of dog, so there’s no predicting their behavior. They love cats’ wide, perky ears just as much as dogs’ floppy ears. If your dog has them, here’s what you will notice:
It’s almost impossible to diagnose ear mites at home, so you’ll need to book a consultation with your vet. They can check whether your dog is suffering from an infection or mites, using either a microscope or swab.
Also note that if you use a treatment that doesn’t kill eggs, you’ll need to continue treatment for at least 3 weeks. The main options are:
After or alongside treatment for ear mites, it is wise to clean your dog’s ears very thoroughly. Sometimes ear wax can solidify and cause discomfort for a long time after infestation. You can buy ear-cleaning products which are dispensed into the ear and squelched around to reach every fold.
Once your dog’s had ear mites, you won’t want it to happen again. You can prevent ear mites using an all-in-one parasite prevention treatment such as Frontline (topical), Bravecto or NexGuard (oral). These prevent fleas and sometimes ticks as well as ear mites; they are suitable for ongoing use and available for cats as well as dogs. Make sure that you treat your entire animal household.
Can’t get relief? If your dog is taking a treatment like Frontline and still suffers with itchy ears, there could be an underlying reason. Allergies or infections often reoccur; sometimes the ear discharge has caused a blockage. Be sure to consult your vet if you think something has been missed.
Sometimes, itchy skin – even in the ears – is a symptom of an inefficient immune system. It can also cause discomfort all day long. You can give your dog a boost in this respect by using our Soothe supplement. It’s been developed for dogs with skin conditions and it works from the inside, improving immune response and digestive health so that your dog’s skin becomes less irritable.