How do l know if my dog has ear mites or not?
Ear mites are part of the family of mites which are parasites living on our pets. They are little tiny spider like parasites that cannot be seen with the naked eye. As their name says, they infect and live in the ears of dogs and cats. They are commonly found deeper in the ear canal but if there is no space they can spread to other parts of their hosts’ body. The life cycle of a single mite is approximately 4 weeks. The female mite can lay eggs every three weeks and it only takes four days for eggs to hatch. They feed on the ear wax and also the epidermal debris of an ear. They like to burrow into the ear, causing itchiness and inflammation to which the body responds to by producing more wax. This is a mild enough complication, but the complications giving more cause to worry are as a secondary result of ear mite infestation.
Dogs that are afflicted with ear mites will typically scratch at the ears excessively and shake their heads, even pulling out their own hair leaving bald patches behind as they scratch. Some dogs will shake their heads so hard and vigorously that a hematoma of the ear will form (with blood pooling in the ear due to breakage of a blood vessel), almost like the cauliflower ear that rugby players get. This will need surgery to correct. Also a concern is when dogs will scratch at their ears to the point that damage is done to the ear canals or ear drums which can in severe cases cause permanent deafness.
Ear mites are highly contagious and are often carried forward from parent to off spring and inter species. It is not contagious to humans and you do not need to take any special care to protect your children or family members from an animal infested with ear mites.
Ear mites are not visible to the naked eye; your animal care giver will have to use a otoscope and examine the inside of the ear to see if they can find any mites. An easier way is to take a sample of the skin and send it off to the laboratory for analysis. Do not self-diagnose or fall for a flippant diagnosis without proper investigation as some other infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mites.
Classic symptoms of ear mites can include any or all of the following:
- Head shaking or carrying the head tilted to one side
- Excessive scratching at the ears (there may be sores and bleeding around the ears)
- Dark brown to blackish crusty gel-like discharge in the ears
- Difficulty hearing – especially if combined with other signs.
Your veterinarian will prescribe medication for you to use on your dog. Some will prescribe an ointment to be placed directly in the ear canal, others give a spot on that goes directly onto the skin whilst other veterinarians give a prescription for a combination of both. If there is a big built up of debris and dirty ear wax, you will also get a veterinary grade ear cleaner to flush out the ear before applying any medication. Most dogs does not mind getting their ears cleaned out as this brings them immense relief and even the most aggressive dog l’ve come across are just too happy to be relieved from the constant itch. Some veterinarians will also give an anti-inflammatory drug for a quick relieve of the itch and an antibiotic if any infections have already set in.
Your dog will start to feel relieve soon after treatment have started, most of the time within the first two to three days. Be sure to continue the treatment for as long as it is prescribed to make sure you fully get rid of the infestation.
Effective “spot-on” – some vets use it and some don’t. (advanta, frontline)
Ear cleaner – loosens the wax for easy cleaning. (ubavet)
Antibiotic ear gel – kills mites and cures symptoms. (canaural, orydermyl)