How Do Dogs Get Mites?

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Ear mites are one of the most common reasons that pets see the veterinarian, because they are highly contagious from pet to pet. The most common way that dogs get ear mites is to contract them from outdoor cats who then transmit them to a dog and then between household pets. Ear mites are also prevalent in pet shops and shelters. Take your dog to your veterinarian if you suspect ear mites to get a diagnosis and treatment.

Ear Mite Facts

Ear mites are tiny eight-legged parasites that are barely visible to the naked eye. Each ear mite has a life cycle of three weeks, but they produce eggs inside the ear and can become an infestation that is so severe that the ear canal is obstructed with debris that looks like coffee grounds. Ear mites are generally not transmittable to humans.

Signs and Symptoms

Dog ear mites cause ear rubbing and excessive scratching of the ears, neck and head. A dog may shake his head excessively when he has ear mites. Observation of the ears may show scratches on the backs of his ears with thick brown or black crusts in his ear and bumps that look like coffee grounds in the ear canal.

Ear Mite Complications

Ear mites can cause further complications if they are not treated when you first notice signs. Excessive head shaking can cause a blood vessel in an ear to break and form a hematoma with blood pooling in the earflap. The continuous scratching at an ear can cause a secondary yeast or bacterial infection.

Veterinarian Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to see in your dog's ear canals. He will likely take a skin scraping to view under a microscope to determine if your canine companion has ear mites.

Ear Mite Treatments

Treating ear mites involves cleaning the ears first with a commercial dog ear cleaner and then administration of a liquid parasiticide or miticide for approximately a week to remove both ear mites and eggs. The treatment is usually repeated about two weeks later. Your veterinarian will likely want to re-check your pooch's ears in about a month from the first visit to see that the ear mites are eradicated. You should also treat all other household pets at the same time and clean your house thoroughly to prevent the highly contagious ear mites from infecting other pets.

Prevention of Ear Mites

Ear mites can be prevented in dogs by:

  • Monthly flea and tick topicals with miticide 
  • Monthly ear cleaning to remove ear wax and oils
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