How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites? 7 Questions Answered

When you see your dog start scratching uncontrollably, so many possibilities can race through your mind. From fleas and ticks to mites looming in their ears, it’s tough to know which creepy critter is bothering your furry friend. Learn more about how dogs get ear mites, how to identify them, and the best ways to get rid of these contagious parasites.

What Are Ear Mites?

ear mite under microscope

Ear mites, also known as Otodectes cynotis, are parasites that often live in the ears of dogs, cats, and other small animals. But what exactly do dog ear mites look like? These tiny organisms are about the size of a pinhead and look like little moving dots to the naked eye. These differ from other external parasites, like fleas or ticks, which are larger and typically burrow in the skin rather than the ear.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites?

Ear mites are highly contagious between puppies, kittens, and outdoor cats. Dogs typically become infested by direct contact with another infected animal. While social interaction is the most common way to contract ear mites, they can also be picked up from the outdoors in wooded or grassy areas.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Ear Mites?

Ear mites are especially difficult to spot early on because of how small they are, so an important initial indicator will be sudden behavior change in your furry friend. Dogs who have ear mites will shake their heads and scratch their ears frequently. While occasional itches are normal, ear mites will likely cause your pup to become very agitated.

What Are Common Signs of Ear Mites?

If you notice discomfort in your furry friend’s body language, be sure to monitor them closely for these other ear mite symptoms.

Excessive ear scratching: This is the most common sign of ear mites in dogs. If you don’t see your dog scratching, you can check for hair loss in the area around their ears since this will likely be a result of itching.

Ear inflammation: The ear or surrounding area may become red or warm from the irritation.

Ear rash or blistering: Frequent itching can cause a wound or infection in the ear, which may lead to a rash or even painful blisters.

Wax buildup: Ear mites that live in the ear canal may cause brownish, waxy debris to form.


RELATED: My Dog Has Fleas! How to Spot & Kill Them


How Can I Spot Ear Mites in Dogs?

dog ear infected with ear mites

It can be difficult to see what dog ear mites look like just through the naked eye. However, the mites may be detected by placing some of the waxy debris on a dark surface and carefully watching to see if tiny white specks move away from the debris. You can also take your pup to the vet where they will use a microscope or otoscope to confirm the diagnosis.

How To Get Rid of Ear Mites in Dogs

Early treatment is important to prevent some of the long-term effects scratching can cause, like an infection in the ear drum that may lead to permanent damage such as hearing loss.

Use a dog ear mite treatment: Healthy Promise® Aloe Ear Mite Treatment kills ear mites on contact while it simultaneously soothes irritated skin. Hold your dog firmly and fill the ear canal with the suggested number of drops in each ear. Massage the base of the ear to ensure the treatment penetrates their ear wax. Gently dry the ear with a cotton ball, soft cloth, or cotton swab.

An ear mite-specific treatment is the most effective way to get rid of the parasites, however some symptoms can remain after the bugs are gone. In this case, you will want to treat lingering itchiness or wax buildup.

Wash your dog’s ear: Find an ear wash with glycerol, which will help soften ear wax and aid in dissolving odor-causing ear wax to help clean, soothe, and relieve itchy ears.

Clean with pet wipes: Pet wipes are another safe way to help clean your dog’s ears. Our ear wipes are formulated to gently remove odor-causing wax and relieve itchiness.

Apply an ear powder: Healthy Promise® Ear Powder is specially formulated with zinc oxide to absorb excess moisture and reduce irritation with soothing aloe vera and witch hazel.

cleaning a dog's ear

How Can I Prevent Dog Ear Mites?

The best way to prevent dog ear mites is to prevent the spread of the mites. If you live in a household with multiple pets, it's important to quickly treat all of your furry friends even if only one of them is diagnosed. Always monitor your dog for symptoms after playing with puppies, meeting new dogs in a park, boarding with other dogs, or spending time outdoors.

Do I Need to See a Vet for Ear Mites?

An ear mite problem can typically be solved at home with the right treatment, but you can always seek advice or a diagnosis from your vet, especially if you aren't sure if your pup has ear mites vs ear wax. Inflamed, watery, or blocked ear canals indicate a more serious condition that requires a veterinarian’s services.

We’re All Ears for a Healthy Solution!

As pet parents, we try our best to keep our pups safe, but sometimes catching a critter is inevitable. Now that you know how dogs get ear mites, the best you can do is monitor and treat them swiftly!

Learn more about dog ears and how to keep them healthy and clean!