Infection by ear mites – typically, by Otodectes cynotis – causes an intense allergic reaction that is accompanied by itchiness, scratching, head-shaking, rubbing, waxy build-up, hair loss and sores. It is not difficult to diagnose ear mites in omestic dogs.
Ear mites are easily diagnosed by sampling the waxy discharge from inside the affected ears and examining it in mineral oil under a microscope or magnifying glass. The sample is best obtained using a soft cotton swab. Adult Otodectes mites look like tiny, moving white specks that are approximately the size of the head of a pin. Sometimes, ear mite eggs can be seen microscopically. Skin scrapings can be used to identify Otodectes mites, especially if the infestation has spread to locations other than the ears, such as the neck or rump, which are easier to sample. In some cases, the attending veterinarian will be able to see ear mites when looking into the external ear canal with an otoscope. Otoscopes are medical instruments used by both human and animal doctors to examine ears and nasal passageways.
Otodectes mites are among the most common causes of ear irritation in young dogs. They must be distinguished from the Sarcoptes mites that are responsible for generalized mange in dogs.