How Ear Mites Affect Dogs
It only takes a very few ear mites to cause an intense allergic reaction in dogs. Affected dogs will have extremely itchy, irritated, sensitive ears and will be very uncomfortable. They will try to relieve their discomfort by scratching at their ears, head and neck vigorously and relentlessly. They will rub their ears on the ground or on furniture and will shake their heads violently. Unfortunately, these efforts will only cause them to suffer further anxiety and pain. The symptoms become worse as the mite load increases.
Symptoms of Ear Mite Infestation
Owners of dogs suffering from ear mites normally notice one or more of the following signs:
- Irritation of the external ears (intense; usually both ears are affected)
- Itchiness (pruritis) in and around the ears, head and neck (intense)
- Scratching at the ears, head and neck (intense; constant; frantic)
- Rubbing the ears on the ground/floor
- Rubbing the ears with the paws
- Head-shaking (violent; persistent)
- Hair loss (alopecia) around the ears
- Red ear flaps (outer and inner)
- Ear flaps that are thickened, brown-to-black, crusted, scabbed, bleeding, oozing
- Waxy exudate in the ear canals (thick, dry, crumbly, dark; resembling coffee grounds)
- Unpleasant, smelly (malodorous) ear discharge (most common with secondary bacterial infection)
- Itchiness (pruritis) on the neck, rump and tail (intense)
- Scratching at the neck, rump and tail (intense)
If left untreated, the constant scratching caused by ear mite infestation can lead to weeping open sores that are prime sites for secondary bacterial infections. Self-mutilation increases the likelihood of infections or other damage to the middle ear, such as otitis media. Repetitive head-shaking can cause hematomas to develop at the ends of the ear flaps. Hematomas are localized, pouch-like accumulations or pockets of blood that can be difficult to treat. Continuously swollen, infected ears can also contribute to hearing loss. Ear mites should be suspected whenever both of a dog’s ears are affected.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Ear mites can occur in dogs of any age, breed, mixed breed or gender. However, they tend to be more common in puppies and young adult animals. Dogs kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions are more likely to “catch” ear mites from nearby dogs or from shared bedding.