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Ear Mites in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

Written by Anna Hollisey


weimaraner with huge ears

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. 

Does your Dog Have Ear Mites?

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. 

What Are Ear Mites?

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.

What Are the Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs?

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:

  • Firstly, ear mites cause itching. Your dog might shake their head vigorously or paw at their ears. 
  • In response to the infestation, the ears produce more wax – and sometimes a black discharge.
  • The skin inside the ears becomes red and inflamed
  • You might notice a strange smell (although this can also be caused by an infection). 

Treating Ear Mites in Dogs

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:

  • A topical treatment. This is the type that you squeeze onto the skin and is absorbed into the bloodstream. It is then secreted inside the ear and kills ear mites. 
  • In-ear treatment. You use a medicated cleanser inside the ear to kill mites (and some types also kill eggs). Some of these contain antibiotic ingredients, which will tackle a secondary infection as well. 
  • Injections. A newer form of treatment, injections will be required 2-4 times. They’re fast-acting and good for dogs who have sensitive ears.
  • Oral medication. These usually prevent all parasites and will kill ear mites with one dose. 

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. 

Preventing Ear Mites in Dogs

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/products/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.