If your dog is shaking and scratching his head, it may be because Otodectes cynotis has taken up residence in his ear canal. The bug’s Latin name translates as “ear beggar of the dog.” It is an arachnid, in the same family as spiders and ticks.
The name perfectly describes what these tiny creatures do, which is to feed on wax and oils in your dog’s ears. Their presence causes itching and that makes the dogs scratch. While the parasites themselves don’t bite skin, the secondary damage caused by canine claws can be serious.
So it’s important to move quickly to clear up ear mite infestations as soon as you suspect them.
What are the symptoms of dog ear mites?
- Itching: The first sign of an ear mite infestation may be your dog scratching his head.
- Dark, crumbly reddish-brown discharge: This is often composed of dried blood and will resemble coffee grounds.
- Wounds, inflammation, and infections: The scratching may lead to cuts and infections in the ear. The most common sign of a mite infestation is a scab or abrasion at the base of the ear, which is the result of a dog scratching with his hind limb claws. Bacteria can infect the open wounds, leading to infection.
- In heavy infestations, ear mites may start to invade other parts of the dog’s body.
What should you do if you suspect dog ear mites?
It’s important to eradicate ear mites as soon as possible, for the good of the infected dog and your other pets. Ear mites can easily spread to cats and ferrets, as well as other dogs. In the wild, they have also been found in foxes. If one animal in a household is diagnosed with mites, all pets should be treated at the same time, according to recommendations from the Companion Animal Parasite Council. These mites can spread to humans, but this is very rare.
Although there are recipes for home remedies on the Web, it is wiser to visit your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment. There are several other ear conditions that mimic mite infestations, so you want to make sure your treatment plan is on target.
Also, dogs with itchy painful ears will resist treatment and handling. These dogs may require the helping hands of a vet tech or, in extreme cases, sedation.
How are ear mites treated?
The first thing the vet will do is examine the ear canal and the discharges from the ear for the presence of mites. They can be easily spotted with the aid of an otoscope.
The next step would be a thorough ear cleaning. That will be followed by application of one of the products approved for treatment of ear mites in dogs, such as selamectin and moxidectin/imidacloprid, often used against a range of parasites.
Bacterial or fungal infections should also be treated.
Prevention is a matter of monthly topical anti-parasite application and keeping your dog’s ears clean.