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Ear Mites in Dogs

What Are Ear Mites in Dogs?

Ear mites in dogs are highly contagious parasites that inhabit the ear canals. They belong to the Psoroptidae family, a group of parasitic mites that reside on the skin’s surface rather than burrowing into it. Scientifically known as Otodectes cynotis, these mites are typically less than half a millimeter in length and are best observed under a microscope. They have an impact on various species, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and occasionally livestock.


The presence of ear mites in dogs leads to a pronounced itch. The primary symptoms of a dog ear mite infection encompass:

  • Scratching and rubbing at the ears
  • Head shaking
  • Dark discharge emanating from the ears
  • Hair loss, skin lesions, and the potential for secondary skin infections, which may develop around the ears, head, and neck due to excessive scratching and rubbing.

It’s important to note that bacterial and yeast ear infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mite infestations. If you observe any concerning signs related to your dog’s ears, it is advisable to reach out to your veterinarian for a thorough examination.


Ear mites in dogs are contracted by being in proximity to other animals infested with these parasites. Understanding the life cycle of mites is crucial to comprehend how dogs acquire ear mites. Adult mites lay eggs, which progress into larvae, pass through two nymph stages, and eventually mature into adults. The entire process from egg to adult mite takes approximately three weeks, and adult mites have a lifespan of about two months.

These mites sustain themselves by feeding on your dog’s ear and skin surface debris, leading to inflammation and irritation. Transmission of the mites occurs through direct physical contact from one animal to another. Due to their highly contagious nature, it’s imperative to treat all susceptible animals in your household simultaneously to effectively eradicate them, even if only one pet is diagnosed with an infestation.


When a dog presents symptoms like scratching and ear discharge, it can be challenging to differentiate between an ear infection and ear mites. Hence, consulting your veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

Proper diagnosis ensures the administration of appropriate medication, as using the wrong one can pose risks and discomfort to your pet, besides being a waste of resources. Moreover, if your dog’s eardrum is ruptured, only specific medications can be safely utilized, underscoring the importance of veterinary consultation.

For an official diagnosis, your veterinarian will typically examine your dog’s ears using an otoscope and collect an ear swab to inspect for mite eggs and adult mites under a microscope. Additionally, your vet may conduct an ear cytology to rule out secondary or concurrent bacterial or yeast infections. In some cases, a skin scrape may also reveal the presence of mites.


Treating ear mites in dogs involves a combination of ear cleaning and medication administration.

Cleaning the dog’s ear canal is essential for removing debris and buildup, facilitating the effectiveness of medication, and promoting the restoration of normal, healthy tissue. Your veterinarian will conduct the initial ear cleaning and may demonstrate how to perform it at home if necessary.

Medication options for ear mites can include:

  • Topical products for inside the ear.
  • Topical products applied to the dog’s skin and absorbed into their body.
  • Oral pills.
  • Injections.

While some topical medications for the dog’s ear canal may be single-use, others require daily application for 7 to 30 days. Your veterinarian will prescribe medication based on your pet’s specific condition and needs.

Additionally, it’s crucial that all pets in the household receive treatment to prevent reinfection among them. Consult your veterinarian to determine appropriate treatments tailored to each of your pets.

Living and Management

Following treatment for dog ear mites, most dogs experience a relatively swift and uncomplicated recovery, although some may face persistent challenges with the mites. Veterinarians might recommend a follow-up examination to ensure the dog’s ears have returned to normal. If not, additional treatments will be provided.

In some cases, residual debris may remain in the dog’s ear canal, necessitating flushing. Moreover, if a bacterial or yeast infection persists, the vet may prescribe additional or alternative medication to address the infection.

Prevention of future ear mite infestations can be achieved using many of the same products used to prevent fleas, ticks, and other parasites, such as Bark out loud by Vivaldis, Nexgard.

After treatment, it’s important to regularly inspect your dog’s ears for any signs of ear mites or other issues. Watch out for discharge, redness within the ear canal, as well as excessive head shaking or scratching around the ears.

Ear Mites in Dogs FAQs

Can humans contract ear mites from dogs?

Yes, humans can contract ear mites from infected dogs, although it’s not common. More often, other pets in the household become infected from a contagious dog.

What home remedy effectively kills ear mites in dogs?

Limited research has been conducted on the safety and efficacy of home remedies for dog ear mites. Given the availability of numerous safe and effective medications, it’s advisable to consult your veterinarian for a prescribed treatment.

Will tea tree oil eliminate ear mites in dogs?

Tea tree oil should not be used on dogs or applied to their ears. Undiluted tea tree oil can be highly toxic to dogs. While diluted tea tree oil is believed to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties, it can cause discomfort, burning, and damage to inflamed ears. Hence, it’s recommended to use safe and proven products prescribed by your veterinarian.

Does hydrogen peroxide effectively kill ear mites in dogs?

Using hydrogen peroxide in inflamed ears can be extremely painful and may impede healing while damaging sensitive tissues. It’s advised against using hydrogen peroxide to treat ear mites in dogs.

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