Canine Bible is reader-supported. We receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Learn more.
This is a complete guide on ear mites in dogs.
If your pup is shaking and scratching his head and ears more than usual, tiny creatures known as ear mites might be living in your dog’s ear canals.
Ear mites can cause severe itchiness around the ears and a host of other problems in dogs. It’s vital to understand all the basics of this tiny parasite so you can keep your dog happy and safe.
So, what should you do if you suspect them? We cover ear mite infections in dogs from A to Z. Let’s get started!
Learn all about dog ear mites
What Are Dog Ear Mites?
Ear mites, also known as Otodectes cynotis, are tiny eight-legged parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs but can also live on your dog’s skin surface. It’s common in cats and other small animals too. These tiny critters feed on skin fat and earwax, which explains why they settle in the ears.
Unlike many other parasites, ear mites do not burrow under the skin and are relatively easy to treat. However, they are highly contagious and infect animals through direct contact with infected animals.
The ear mite is an arachnid, in the same family as spiders and ticks, but easier to treat. They are microscopically tiny and barely visible to the naked eye and can only survive for a very limited time without a host.
Ear mites are a relatively mild parasite infection. Nevertheless, complications may occur if an animal develops a hypersensitivity reaction that causes intense irritation at the external ear.
What Causes Ear Mites In Dogs?
You are probably asking yourself is, what causes ear mites in dogs? Or how (and why) did my dog get an ear mite infection?
Ear mites are most commonly contracted from outside environments or areas of poor hygiene such as boarding facilities, shelters, breeders, or pet stores.
In dogs, ear mites usually come from another pet. When your dog shares bedding, incompletely cleaned cage, or sleeps in close contact with other pets, the ear mites can easily transfer from one animal to another.
Outdoor cats and dogs are most likely to have ear mites. A dog in contact with outdoor animals is at a higher risk of contracting ear mites.
Once ear mites have infected your dog, a full-fledged infestation can quickly spread, even if it’s just one single ear mite. According to Trupanion, female mites can lay five eggs each day. These eggs hatch in only four days, and four weeks later, they can lay eggs too.1
Now you know why it’s vital to detect the signs early on and get your pet checked.
Dog Ear Mites Symptoms
My dog keeps scratching his ears. Does he have ear mites?
Symptoms of ear mites in dogs may vary depending on the severity of the infestation. If you notice the following signs of an ear mite in your dog, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further wound infections.
The clinical signs, symptoms of ear mites include:
- Excessive ear scratching. This is usually the first sign of infection. Ear mites are terribly uncomfortable for dogs
- Foul ear odor. (foul-smelling odor from the ears)
- A dark waxy or crusty discharge of clumps composed of dried blood in the ear canal that resemble coffee grounds
- Head shaking or rubbing against the floor or furniture
- Pain or discomfort vocalization
- Inflamed ears painful to touch
- Thick red-brown or black crusts in the outer ear
- Mild alopecia (Hair loss)
As the infestation grows, ear mites may start to invade other parts of the dog’s body. It’s important to seek veterinary care without delay when you notice the initial signs.
Dog Ear Mites Health Risks
Excessive and continuous ear scratching often leads to skin lesions, scabs, abrasion, ear hematomas, or skin or ear infections.
Other, more serious problems resulting from untreated ear mite infections in dogs include a serious ear disease called Otitis Externa. This condition is an infection of the outer ear that, that if untreated, can progress to the middle and inner ear and damage the eardrum, which can permanently damage your pet’s hearing and sense of balance.
According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the most common cause of otitis externa is ear mites.2
As the infestation grows, ear mites may start to invade other parts of the dog’s body. An untreated ear mite infection can cause a skin disease in areas other than the ear, like the neck and tail.
Sometimes, a dog’s high-intensity effort to relieve the itch can bruise the ear flap (pinna), causing the ear blood vessels to burst, leading to hematomas on the ear flap. The inflammation resulting from scratching may also cause long-term damage to the ear canal.
However, the most dangerous consequence of ear mites in dogs is possible hearing loss and balance deterioration.
Diagnosing Ear Mites in Dogs
How can you tell if your dog has ear mites? Can you see ear mites in dogs?
Ear mites in dogs can be easily spotted, diagnosed with the aid of an otoscope (an instrument vets use to look inside the ear).
A microscopic examination of ear discharge is another option. If your dog’s ears are too sore and painful to the touch, sometimes, your dog may need to be sedated.
Untreated ear mite infections can cause serious health problems, so getting a proper diagnosis from your vet is a must.
Pro Tip: If your dog gets diagnosed with ear mites, but you have more than one pet at home, they all should be treated as a preventive method due to the highly contagious nature of ear mites.
What Do Ear Mites In Dogs Look Like?
Wondering what ear mites in dogs look like? Watch this video!
Dog Ear Mites Pictures
These ear mites in dogs photos can help you identify
Learn how to get rid of ear mites in dogs and prevention tips
Ear Mite Treatment In Dogs
How do you kill ear mites in dogs?
After your vet confirms the presence of ear mites, treatment usually starts with your veterinarian flushing out your dog’s ear canal with a saline solution to remove any wax buildup.
After the ears have been thoroughly cleaned, your vet may prescribe a topical medication, like Revolution, that’s applied directly inside your dogs’ ear canals to kill the mites. Antibiotics may also be recommended depending on the severity or spread of the ear mites.
Your veterinarian may also advise you to bathe your dog weekly for up to a month to remove mites that might still be hanging on.
Remember, ear mite medications cannot kill the egg or pupae. Ear mite treatment is directed at killing the adult and larval forms.
You will be asked to return for a check-up after a few weeks. You will need to monitor your pet to ensure that the mites have been eliminated after the initial treatment.
Ear Mite Medicine For Dogs
What is the best ear mite medicine for dogs?
There are a variety of different medical treatment options your veterinarian may recommend.
Among the best ear mite medication for dogs are:
- Oridermyl® (topical medication)
- Advantage Multi®
If you wonder which one is best, Canine Bible corroborated the effectiveness of these ear dog medicines for dogs when it comes to getting rid of ear mites.
Here is a summary of our most interesting finding:
- The efficacy of Oridermyl in mite killing, reduction of bacteria and yeast counts, as well as improvement of clinical signs was similar to Selamectin (aka Revolution®). According to clinical trials, Selamectin provided an efficacy of 95.8% (23 of 24).
- Four studies on Ivermectin as ear drops and the overall efficacy in mite-killing was 92.5% (62 of 67).
- In the case of Advantage Multi, five clinical trials investigated its efficacy which resulted in 92.8% (77 of 83) for one dose of Advantage Multi®
- Finally, Moxidectin/imidacloprid (the main ingredients of Advatange Multi) provided an efficacy of 98.1% (52 of 53).5
Based on your dog’s situation and preferences, your vet will decide which medication to prescribe. But, according to our research Revolution and Advantage Multi presented the highest levels of efficacy at killing ear mites in dogs.
Home Remedies For Ear Mites In dogs (OTC Treatments)
If you are looking to get rid of ear mites in dogs at home, here are some of the most effective over-the-counter treatments.
Regardless of what option you choose, the first step is to clean the ears with a soothing solution like mineral oil or olive oil to remove as much debris as possible.
The oil can help asphyxiate the mites. Dog ear cleaner wipes also work great to clean your dog’s ears and/or up excess oil. Dog ear wipes are a convenient way to remove dirt and keep your dog’s ear free of wax and discharge.
Check with your vet before administering any of these homemade remedies for dog ear mites.
Vaseline For Ear Mites In Dogs: Does Vaseline Kill Ear Mites In Dogs?
Does vaseline kill ear mites in dogs?
Vaseline is great for removing ear mites because it suffocates them. Mites cannot escape through its thick coating.
A study published in the Philippine Journal of Ophthalmology found that petroleum jelly may have an acaricidal effect (pesticide effect that kills members of the arachnid subclass Acari, which includes ticks and mites). The study also notes the suffocating effect of petroleum jelly on lice and its ability to lessen hatching in lice eggs and that the same effect is to be assumed in mites.7
According to UCI Health experts, vaseline is also a natural antibiotic and antiseptic or substance that prevent the growth of disease-causing microorganisms. 8 In addition, vaseline can soothe the skin effectively, easing itching, inflammation and swelling derived from ear mites.
While vaseline for dogs is safe, use it under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Ear Mites In Dogs Home Remedy Vinegar
The primary compound in vinegar is known as acetic acid.
Acetic acid is bactericidal (an agent that prevents the growth of bacteria) to many microorganisms and a useful antimicrobial agent in the external ear canal.9 Apply the vinegar and water mixture to a cotton ball and swab the outside of your dog’s ears. Veterinarians may also recommend gently flushing the ear out with distilled water and apple cider vinegar.
Never use apple cider vinegar on wounds, scabs, or broken skin.
Baby Oil For Dog Ear Mites
William Miller Jr., VMD, a professor of dermatology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says that “there are many topical, oral, and systemic agents and most such as ivermectin are highly effective… even one old-time remedy – baby oil– can [get rid of ear mite infestation].” Simply put a few drops into an affected ear several times a day for a month or so. This usually smothers the mites,” Dr. Miller notes.4
Essential Oils For Ear Mites In Dogs
This treatment is from the Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine by Drs. Susan Wynne and Steve Marsden might help you treat ear mites in dogs naturally.
Add one or two drops of the following essential oils your ear cleaning oil of choice (i.e., mineral, almond, or olive oil) to help with ear mite control and itching:
- Peppermint oil (topical anesthetic effect)
- Catnip oil (help to control and/or repel the mites)
- Hypericum oil (relieves ear pain)
- Calendula oil (heal the ear surfaces)
You’ll need to treat the ears with this homemade solution every three days for two weeks. You must adhere to this schedule because ear mite eggs hatch every four days.
Garlic Oil For Dog Ear Mites
Since mites don’t like sulfur and garlic has a lot of it, the following options work great!
Crush a couple of garlic cloves in a cup of oil (coconut oil or olive oil.) and let it marinate overnight. The next day, remove the garlic before using the oil to treat your dog’s ears. Flush your dog’s ears with the solution once a day for a month. You can use a syringe for this.
Mullein is also anti-parasitic. Applying garlic-mullein oil can be an excellent anti-mite remedy.
Dog Ear Mites Home Remedy Olive Oil
Every other night for six weeks, you can put olive oil in your dog’s ears. This will cause the mites to drown. Adult mites will die first. After the new mites hatch during the next six weeks, the olive oil will also drown them, eliminating the problem.
Ear Mite Prevention For Dogs
Preventing ear mites in dogs is difficult. These almost-invisible critters will attach to almost everything from grass to loose dog hair and carpets.
However, you can do a lot to lessen the chances of your dog getting infected.
How To Prevent Dog Ear Mites
If your dog is perfectly healthy or recovering from an ear mite infection, here is how to keep him safe from ear mites!
Since ear mites feed off of ear wax and oils, keeping your dog’s ears clean can help mitigate the risk of infestation.
You’ll want to do a thorough ear cleaning at least once a month. These are the two ear cleaners for dogs we use on our pups here at Canine Bible and we couldn’t be happier with the results.
Use the Zymox Cleanser as a routine ear cleaner. It’s great for the maintenance and prevention of ear infections. In conjunction, you can use Zymox Otix Enzymatic Solution to soothe ear infections, redness, and inflammation for pets of all ages. Simply fill the ear canal and let the antimicrobial solution get to work. Users report that this product is effective in killing ear mites.
Just make sure you run it by your vet first, and they approve. Also, clean your house, kennel, and pet bedding. Regularly sanitize and wash any items your dog uses. While you will have little control over what the dog encounters outdoors, your home environment is easier to keep mite-free.
Doing all this may keep ear mites at bay.
How To Prevent Dog Ear Mite Infection From Happening Again
If your dog has just been diagnosed and treated by a professional, you can avoid re-infestation by doing the following:
1. Ear mite quarantine – Quarantine your pup from all other animals or objects previously used by him for at least 2 to 3 weeks. According to a study published on Experimental and Applied Acarology, ear mites can survive off the host for 12 days.
2. Disinfect and sanitize – After leaving the vet, before your dog even touches anything in your car or home, you need to sanitize and disinfect any places, clothing, bedding, toys, kennel, surfaces, or objects that may have been in contact with your dog.
Disinfection reduces the risk of a repeat ear mite infection. Even when all of your dog’s items have been disinfected, it’s advisable to keep them vacated for at least 12 days to be safe.
*We show you a step-by-step guide on how to disinfect your home from ear mites in the next section, so keep reading!
3. Administer medication – Follow the instructions by your vet and run the full course of medication to make sure your pet is fully disinfected.
4. Follow up and monitor – The follow‐up period before your dog returns for a check-up should last at least 21 days because the life cycle of an ear mite usually lasts three weeks. The purpose is to ensure that all newly hatched mites or incoming mites in the environment from other animals are killed.
Learn in-depth, key information about dog ear mites
How To Get Rid Of Ear Mites In Your House
Now that we’ve taken care of your dog ear mite issue, it’s time to focus on disinfecting your house.
There is no point in getting rid of ear mites in your dog if your house it’s still infected with ear mites. Begin your environmental treatment the same day you begin treating your pet.
Step 1: Remove all pet bedding from the carpeting. Proceed to wash it in the hottest setting possible. Use regular detergent.
Step 2: Vacuum any rugs, furniture, or carpet thoroughly. Don’t miss any spots. You are dealing with tiny arachnids, so they know how to hide.
Step 3: Sprinkle a flea insecticidal killing powder on the carpet. Don’t worry, flea killers will also get rid of ear mites. Let it sit for as long as the instructions state. We found this powder from Harris very effective and it’s safe for human kids and fur kids!
Step 4: Vacuum carpets again to remove the powder and dead mites.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1 through 4 in two weeks. This will ensure these tiny critters don’t return.
For toys, kennels, kitchens, and other surfaces, you can use this eco-friendly biopesticide that can be sprayed easily around your home. It’s safe around children and pets. It kills and repels indoor pests and keeps your home pest-free.
Ear Mites In Puppies
Ear mites are highly contagious, and more than often, the mom passes ear mites to the litter.
In addition to making your puppy miserable with constant itching and scratching, a severe ear mite infestation can be devastating in small puppies.
So it’s vital to eradicate ear mites in puppies as soon as possible. However, there are special considerations when it comes to treating a puppy. It’s advised to refer to your vet for treatment as it will depend upon the age and, in some cases, your pup’s weight.
How Long Does It Take To Get Rid of Ear Mites In Dogs?
When will my dog be completely ear-mite-free? How quickly does it take for ear mite treatment to work?
Well, since the ear mite medication cannot kill the eggs of the parasites, getting rid of ear mites on dogs depends mainly on the life cycle of ear mites, which lasts three weeks (21 days). Ear mite medicine only kills the adult and larval forms, so you have to wait until all eggs to develop into adult mites before they start dying off.
If the infestation has spread to other parts of the body, it may take longer. But, usually, you can expect the ear mite infection to be completely gone in three or four weeks.
Dog Ear Mites vs Ear Wax
How can you distinguish between dog ear wax and ear mite wax?
Don’t confuse healthy ear wax with ear mite wax. Ear mite infestation produces a gooey buildup of darker brown or black wax and resembles coffee grounds with a foul odor. On the other hand, healthy ear wax in dogs is light brown and doesn’t have an odor.
Dog Ear Mites vs Yeast Infection
A yeast infection creates a brown or gray, greasy ear discharge. It’s a waxy residue that scabs around the opening of the ear. Conversely, an ear mite infection creates a dry black ear discharge.
Are Dog Ear Mites Contagious?
Yes, ear mites are highly contagious and you should isolate your infected pet from other pets. Ear mites can move from one dog to another in close contact and eventually make their way to the ear.
Can Humans Get Ear Mites From A Dog?
Although it’s not entirely impossible, humans may catch ear mites when in contact with the affected animals. However, it’s extremely rare.
If your furry friend has an infection, make sure he is isolated from other pets and keep yourself at a safe distance. Also, don’t share a bed or furniture with your pet.
Ear Mites In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions
Can Peroxide Kill Ear Mites In Dogs?
No. Hydrogen peroxide is extremely irritating to tissue, so it can cause irritation within the ear canal and cause further damage and impede healing. Use an ear cleaner made for dogs instead.
Can You See Ear Mites In Dogs?
William Miller Jr., VMD, a professor of dermatology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says ear mites are almost microscopically tiny, “about the size of a pinhead.” But if you look closely in an infected dog, it’s possible to see their rapidly moving little bodies with the naked eye, he says. You can get an otoscope for better viewing.
Is Ivermectin For Ear Mites In Dogs Good?
Ivermectin is commonly used as a heartworm preventive in dogs. But it’s also used to treat various internal and external parasites such as ear mites. Ivermectin is extremely effective in killing ear mite infections. Ivermectin can be administered topical liquid or injection for ear mite treatments.
Can You Use Essential Oils For Ear Mites In Dogs?
Yes, you essential oils to get rid of the pests. Holistic vets recommend cooking oil or olive oil because it asphyxiates the ear mites and, at the same time, cleans up the ear. Always consult with your vet before treating your dog for any condition.
Can Ear Mites Get On Furniture?
Yes, while ear mites can’t jump, they can crawl fast. If your dog has ear mites, these mites can travel to your bedding and furniture or attach to any other surface.
How Long Can Ear Mites Live On Bedding?
Ear mites live their entire life in the ear canal of the host but do occasionally wander out to the dog’s skin or other surfaces. The life span of ear mites off their host is usually less than 12 days. So you can expect ear mites to die after two weeks of living in your bedding.
What Is The Life Cycle of The Ear Mite?
The life cycle of ear mites is divided into five stages: egg, larva, protonymph, tritonymph (a.k.a. deutonymph), and adulthood. This entire process takes approximately three weeks for a mite to develop from egg to adult. According to VCA Hospitals, adult ear mites live about two months, during which they continually reproduce.
Does Zymox Kill Ear Mites?
Zymox is a cleaning solution and it may not kill ear mites in dogs. It’s mild antibacterial properties and you may need a medical prescription or homemade remedy to kill ear mites.
Do Ear Mites In Dogs Smell?
An infestation of mites in your dog’s ears can cause a foul odor.
Ear Mites On Dogs
A dog ear mite infection can be an irritating problem for your pet and wallet, especially if your pup is dealing with severe itchiness or serious ear damage to your pet’s ear canal.
If your dog develops any of these symptoms, see your vet right away. Also, check yourself for signs of ear mites and make an appointment with your doctor.
Animal-to-human transmission is unlikely, but it can happen. The sooner you see your vet and receive the proper medication, the sooner you can kill ear mites in dogs and their eggs.
Sources & References:  Trupanion,  Cornell University,  Experimental and Applied Acarology,  Cornell Feline Health Center,  Evidence‐Based Veterinary Dermatology  Criver  PAO Journal  UCI Health,  Vet Folio
Image credit: Flickr