Ear mites in dogs are a common occurrence that many pet parents face. The most common ear mite is called otodectes cynotis. This eight-legged parasite is tiny and barely detectable to the human eye. These parasites can cause a mild to severe reaction in your dog which can cause the external or internal ear to become irritated. If the situation is left untreated it will only get worse and can cause serious ear and skin infections. Ear mites feel on the wax and oils within your dog’s ear canal. When your dog has ear mites he will show signs of discomfort and an odor may be present, depending if there is an infection or not.
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Life Cycle of Ear Mites
Since ear mites are a common occurrence in dogs, it helps to learn more about them and their life cycle.
There are actually 250 species of mites worldwide. However, the Otodectes cynotis is the species that affect dogs. Otodectes cynotis, ear mites, begin their life cycle as a pearly white egg that is so tiny it is not visible to the human eye. The egg is laid by a mature female into the ear canal of your dog. They soon become larvae and have three pairs of legs. The larvae survive by feeding on the ear wax and skin oils that are in your dog’s ears for up to a week after hatching from the egg.
The next stage lasts less than a week and is known as Protonymph. At this stage they have eight legs that are not all fully grown yet. This stage is so brief and they soon molt into the final stage known as Deutonymph. During this stage the ear mite will grow from an immature deutonymph to an adult. A female adult ear mite will produce eggs and breed with an adult male.
The entire development period starting form egg through adulthood only takes three weeks.
Transmission of Ear Mites
Ear mites are extremely contagious and easily spread by casual contact to surrounding animals and pets that are near the infected dog. This means your dog can spread ear mites to your cat and vise versa. Pet parents can be assured that ear mites can’t transfer from your dog to you. Ear mites are not able to use humans as a host or food source.
What to do if You Suspect that Your Dog has Ear Mites
Once you realize that it is a possibility that your dog has ear mites you will want to contact the veterinarian to make an appointment.
Do not clean your dog’s ears before arriving to the veterinarian appointment. The veterinarian will examine your dog’s ears and will take a sample for inspection microscopically to determine if it is ear mites or another issue. Even if your dog has experienced having ear mites in the past, some of the symptoms that are for ear mites can also be signs of other bacterial infections.
The veterinarian will provide the proper diagnosis and advise you of the proper action to take for healing your dog.
Diagnosis of Ear Mites
Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical exam on your dog. It will include a urinalysis, complete blood count, chemical blood profile and electrolyte panel. Your veterinarian will also perform a dermatologic exam that includes skin scrapings. Your dog’s ears will also be examined by the veterinarian by use of an otoscope. This will help the veterinarian see if the ear mites are in your dog’s ears.
Treatment of Ear Mites in Dogs
Your veterinarian will first clean your dog’s ears to remove as much residue, wax and ear mites as possible. This thorough cleaning is done gently and carefully to keep your dog as comfortable as possible. If your dog squirms or doesn’t like getting his ears cleaned, the veterinarian may decide that sedation is required.
Once his ears are cleaned the veterinarian will prescribe products to treat the ear mite infestation. These products are usually applied directly into the ear or onto the skin. In addition your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs depending on the severity of the problems. You can expect your dog to start feeling improvements soon after treatment begins.
Even though you see improvements in your dog’s ears, continue with the entire treatment.
How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs
You can take preventative measures such as cleaning your dog’s ears at least once a month and check his ears on a weekly basis to see if there is any dark brown waxy buildup, which can also appear to look like coffee grinds. Another extra measure is keeping his bedding clean and checking other pets in your home for signs of ear mites.
Since ear mites are easily treatable, prognosis is good for most dogs. There are times that the severity and the length of time your dog has had ear mites can cause further damage to his ear drum. In this type of situation, your dog may suffer from hearing loss permanently.
Although watching your dog suffer with itching and discomfort due to ear mites can be upsetting, the fact that it is easily treatable and prognosis is good should help pet parents calm their nerves. Remember: ear mites in dogs are common and can spread easily from animal to animal. It is important to take preventative measures and keep a good eye on your dog’s ears. Checking your dog’s ears once a week will allow you to catch the ear mites before it becomes a serious issue.