Ear mites in dogs

Ear mites

Ear mites are one of a number of mites that can cause severe irritation to the skin and ears of your dog.

Mites are tiny external parasites transferred by close contact with other infested animals.

They are closely related to ticks, although mites are much smaller, so much so that many species of mites are only visible with a microscope.

What are the common mites in dogs?

The three mite species most commonly infesting dog are Demodex mites, Sarcoptes mites and ear mites.

Ear mites, as their name suggests, inhabit the ear canal and surrounding skin, causing intense ear irritation and discomfort.

How are mites transmitted?

These little critters are easily transmitted from one infested animal to another, as are Sarcoptes mites, which also cause an intensely itchy skin disease called sarcoptic mange. These mites can also be transmitted to humans.

Then there are the Demodex mites. Most dogs (and humans!) have Demodex mites hanging out on their skin in low numbers. These mites are usually acquired when the animals are young, however the usually don’t cause any ill health, as low numbers of mites can be kept in check by a normal immune system.

In some puppies, due to a genetic fault, the mite numbers can increase leading to a skin condition called demodectic mange. This can also occur in other animals who’s immune system isn’t working well, such as ill or elderly animals.

Given mites are so tiny, you won’t see them on your dog with the naked eye but there are signs to look out for, which will vary depending on the species of mite.

Signs to look out for

With ear mites, you may notice your dog scratching around head and ears, head shaking and an unpleasant odour. A dark brown crumbly coffee ground like discharge is also often seen.

With Demodex mites you often see hair loss, skin thickening and skin infections.

Sarcoptes mites, or mange, causes intense itching, hair loss, and skin infections.

It is important to see your vet as soon as you notice any of these signs to confirm the diagnosis and so they can advise on the best treatment options. Sometimes secondary bacterial or yeast infections can also be present which makes the itch even worse, so ear drops or antibiotics may also be prescribed for any additional infections.

Nexgard SPECTRA is a highly effective option to treat mites on dogs, and also covers your pet against all the other important parasites including fleas, ticks and intestinal worms.

It can be used on puppies from 8 weeks of age and dogs as small as 1.35kg, so visit the Nexgard website to learn more.

About the Author: Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service. 

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