How To Recognize and Treat Dog Ear Mites


If your dog is scratching his or her ears, and shaking their head, then dog ear mites (otodectic dog mange or otitis externa) might be the problem. Dogs with ear mites scratch their ears a lot, removing some of the hair in the process.  It's a canine parasite skin infection that can strike year round. While this parasite affects the ears, the other type of mange, sarcoptic dog mange or dog scabies, can also effect the ear tips as well as other parts of the body. The problem starts when mites enter irritate the ear and ear canal while feeding on skin debris.  The mites cause the ear to fill with remains causing the ears to appear dirty, containing wax or filled with coffee grounds. If the waxy exudate caused by mites builds us, it can become a breeding ground for fungi and bacterial infection. 

dog ear mites
Inflammation Caused By Dog Ear Mites


Mites can spread from dog to dog and unlike other types, do not burrow into the skin. The mites take 3 weeks to mature from egg to adult can survive in a dog ear for several weeks. While the dog ear mites primarily inhabit the ears, they can also be found at the head of the tail, on the neck, face and feet.

Dog Ear Mite Under A Microscope
Dog Ear Mite (Otodectes cynotis) Under A Microscope. It is a non burrowing mite.


Symptoms of dog ear mites include:

  • Mild Cases:
    • itch
    • scratching
    •  head shaking
    • reddish ear irritation
    • crust formation in the ears

  • Severe Cases:
    • smelly discharge (purulent)
    • bleeding in the ear
    • a perforation of the tympanic membrane
    • inflammation of the middle ear (Otitis media)
    • vomiting and vertigo (otitis interna)
    • movement problems in the neck (jerking of the neck)


A veterinarian will look at dog ear wax under the microscope and will be able to identify the presence of mites.


For canine ear mites your veterinarian will first clean the ears with a product like EpiOtic Ear Cleaner. Medications are then applied in one to two treatments applied to the ear canal. Ear drops contain a miticide with popular brands called Acarexx (an invermectin .01% based mitcide) or MilbeMite OTIC (.1% solution of milbemycin oxime). The drops may need to be used 1x to 2x. Revolution (Selamectin) is then applied twice at 30 day intervals to protect against any mites (Revolution is is a spot-on for dogs older than 6 weeks of age only). If there are signs of a bacterial or fungal infection in the ears, medications will be prescribed to treat these conditions as well.

There is also a herbal remedy called Ear Dr. that can help with the symptoms of ear discomfort such as itch and pain.

Because mites can be passed between dogs, all pets in the household will need to be treated as a precaution. Treatment is important to avoid long term damage to the ear. If your dog has ear mites, be sure to clean the dogs environment with a disinfectant such as Benzarid, by thoroughly vacuuming the home, and by washing all of a dogs belongings with a liquid detergent. 

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