Dog ear mites, or otodectes cynotis, are highly contagious parasites that are easily spread between dogs and cats; however, humans cannot contract them. The otodectic mites are parasites that are crab-like in appearance. Although they can live anywhere on your dog, they prefer to live in the ear canal most times. These tiny parasites feed off of tissue fluids or tissue debris and do not puncture skin like fleas do; you will not be able to identify them with a naked eye.
Reasons Dogs Get Them
The number one most common reason for ear mites in dogs is coming in contact with an infected animal. There are different types of mites that feed on canine species such as dingoes, wolves, foxes, coyotes, and of course dogs. Ear mites are transmitted from dog to dog from both direct and indirect contact, but all mites begin their life on infected animals. For these reasons it is important that you care for your dog properly and provide it with a nice clean home and body that is regularly groomed and cleaned. Interestingly enough, ear mites do not jump like fleas; they actually crawl between animal hosts. Direct contact is considered any contact during sleep, play, or fighting. In addition, puppies that are born to a mother infected with ear mites will too become infected with the parasite and require treatment. Moreover, if you have a dog you use for hunting and tracking prey, that dog is at a high risk of contracting ear mites from the prey; this is especially common in wild dogs. Indirect contact on the other hand is still a bit of a mystery. There is still much unknown regarding how ear mites know when to drop off. However, they do drop off the host into soil, grass, dog toys, or bedding and wait for another unsuspecting canine host to come. A much more disturbing way they travel between dogs is via the hands of people. It is said that the mites will crawl onto the person's hands and be transported to whatever animal the person touches next.
When it comes to symptoms of ear mites in dogs, since you will not see them, you will have to look for other signs. Don't worry; your dog will display obvious enough signs of discomfort that you will know. The first symptom you will likely notice is your dog shaking his or her head excessively accompanied by frequent scratching at both ears; the word both is important because ear mites will infect both ears. Since the mites cause pain and irritation, you can gently look inside the dog's ear for severe redness and a thick gooey-like discharge; making sure you clean your hands both before and after. It is common to also notice a large amount of earwax or other debris inside the dog's ear. Some say the debris can look like coffee grounds and there is always an unusually bad smell that comes along with ear mites in dogs.
What Mites Do to Your Pet?
Dog ear mites not only cause itching and pain discomfort; they can also lead to more serious complications. Ear mite infections can lead to skin infections, while the excessive scratching and shaking of the dog's head can cause a blood vessel on the ear flap to rupture. If this happens, you will notice the dog's ear flap to swell which will cause severe pain for your dog. Ear mites in dogs can also lead to the development of a hematoma on the dog's earflap. If the hematoma has a chance to grow, it will require surgery for removal which can become rather costly. Finally, ear mites can impair your dog's hearing with a build-up of the coffee ground-like discharge in the ear canal.
You have two options for treatment of your dog's ear mites, and that is to do it yourself or take your dog to the veterinarian. Let's start by saying that if you are inexperienced or more importantly, unsure if ear mites are the problem, it may be a good idea to go ahead and see the vet. However, either way the first step in treatment will include a thorough cleaning of the dog's ear to remove debris and other waxy substances to allow the medication to reach the dog's skin and not just make contact with the wax. The best way to clean the ear is to use cotton balls and canine ear cleaner; depending on the severity of the build-up and the temperament of the dog, the vet may require sedation of the animal. When the cleaning is completed, the vet will usually prescribe either an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medications. It also common to see topical ointments and drops used to get rid of ear mites in dogs. The last, and most important, thing to remember here is that you must treat your entire home and yard in addition to each pet you have in the household; not forgetting to finish a complete round of the medication for each animal to ensure you kill the entire ear mite population on the dog.
How to Prevent?
There is no sure fire way to prevent your canine friend from developing ear mites, but there are several things you can do to reduce the risk. First, you can avoid contact between as many unknown animals and your dog. In other words, you should try to only subject your dog to other animals you know are taken care of. In any case, it is important to always pay close attention to the behaviors of your dog so that you will quickly notice signs of pain or discomfort. Your best bet will be to contact your vet at the first sign of any problem. You can help your dog out immensely by providing him or her with care early to prevent serious complications or too much pain for the animal. Anyhow, the best way to dramatically reduce the risk of catching dog ear mites is to have your dog regularly groomed. A regular grooming will allow you or another expert to clean your dog's ears regularly; thus increasing your chances of catching a case of ear mites in dogs early or preventing them all together by keeping them very clean.