What are ear mites and how do I get rid of them?

April 13, 2012

Dog owners would see the pet shaking the head from time to time. Head shaking is the dog’s effort to get temporary relief from the ear itching that is causing immense discomfort. Although some dogs have the inclination to amuse the family by shaking and tilting the head, the action can be an indication of a health concern especially if accompanied with frantic ear scratching. These actions can be indications that the ear is infected or that there is a foreign object in the dog’s ears. The scratching and the head shaking can also be a symptom of ear mite infestation. Although most prevalent in cats, ear mites can also infest dogs. Ear mite infestation is not a life threatening condition. However, thousands of feet running inside the ear canals would make the dog very uncomfortable. Getting rid of these tiny buggers is therefore very necessary.

Otodectes cynotis is the type of ear mites commonly found in dogs. These are spider-like parasites that thrive on moist and warm locations thus the ear canals are perfect breeding places for these parasites. These buggers are very small but if you look closely into the dog’s ears you will see white dots moving among the ear wax and on the ear canal of the pet. Reddish or brown coffee ground-like exudates that can be crusty are symptoms of infestation. These are dried blood and ear wax. An increased amount of ear wax is a symptom of infestation. Although it is believed that ear mites can exist anywhere on the dog’s body, these parasites only thrive in the dog’s ear canal as they feed on ear canal debris. As with any other parasites of dogs, ear mites too can be easily transmitted. The infestation of one pet can spread to the cats, rabbits, hamsters and other pets of the family. The good news is that this particular parasite cannot be transmitted to humans.

The effect of ear mites on the dog would depend on the severity of infestation. Ear mite infestation would not really be a life threatening situation. Nonetheless, a dog owner still has to administer treatment. The itching caused by the parasite would not only make the dog very uncomfortable but it can also be the reason why the dog will permanently lose its hearing. Because of the itch, the dog will incessantly scratch and rub the ears against the ground or against objects. In an effort to get relief from the discomfort, the dog will constantly shake the head resulting to hematomas when blood vessels break. Incessant scratching can break the skin of the ear flaps so that secondary bacterial infection can set in. Although not a serious concern, if the ear mite infestation is not eradicated, the ear canal and ear drums can be severely damaged so that the dog will lose its hearing permanently.

How should a dog owner manage the ear mite infestation? You can get rid of the ear mites that make your pet very uncomfortable by using various products that contain pyrethrin. Products that do not contain insecticides will not be effective in resolving the parasite infestation. Over the counter commercial preparations are readily available at affordable prices thus there is no excuse for a dog owner not to get rid of the ear mites that affect the dog. Before the medication is applied thorough ear cleaning will be necessary. Apply a few drops of mineral oil to the ears of the dog. This will soften the crusty coffee ground-like exudates. Remove the softened gunk with cotton balls or with a soft cloth. This procedure is necessary to allow the medication to properly penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the ears. Apply the medication. The treatment is often administered for two to four weeks until the ear mites are totally eradicated.

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