Ear mites are a parasite that can affect both dogs and puppies. Dogs with ear mites may scratch at their ears, shake their heads and you may notice a dark discharge around the inside of your dog’s ear flap or deeper into the ear canal. This might look like coffee grounds, and there could be lots or only a little of this present. Ear mites themselves can’t be seen with the naked eye and for a diagnosis your vet may need to check out some of the discharge with a microscope.
There are lots of ear problems that look similar to mites, so if you’re worried your dog might have an ear problem get it checked out by your vet. Unfortunately there aren’t any effective home remedies to cure ear infections or ear mites, so the cause will almost always need veterinary intervention to cure. Get any ear concerns you have checked out as soon as you can by your vet, it’s important to distinguish a little wax from a problem or infection.
What are mites?
Mites are an external parasite that can live on the skin or coat of your dog, and ear mites are capable of infesting the warm and damp space down your dog’s ears. These mites feed off the wax and oils present in the skin, and multiply rapidly. The mites cause local irritation, itchiness and sometimes inflammation, as well as a dark brown discharge. Scratching can cause damage to the tissue of the ear, which can progress from irritating to painful. Ear mites are spread through close contact between animals, so these pesky parasites can be spread to your other pets. Infections are very rarely spread from pets to humans, so don’t panic. Good hygiene and hand washing should prevent any transmission from dogs to humans.
Home remedies for ear mites in dogs
There are no suitable home remedies for treating ear mites, if you’re concerned your dog may be infected then you must consult your vet. Spot-on treatments and ear drops are available which will be effective in getting rid of the parasite, but treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Attempting to treat the problem with home remedies may prolong suffering and cause further damage.
Discharge from the ears can be gently removed with a cotton pad and warm water, but nothing else should ever be put down the ear without consulting your vet.
Most owners find topical spot-on treatments easiest to apply, and one or two treatments is often effective in completely clearing an ear mite infection. Prescription ear drops can be very effective but may take a little more time to work. If your dog’s ears are very sore or irritated they may need other medication to help them feel more comfortable, never attempt to treat your dog’s ear problems yourself.
How to clean out your dog's ears
Always use a pet safe cleaner. The best and most effective cleaners can be purchased from your vet, or your local vet may be able to recommend a cleaner that doesn’t require a prescription. Never put any liquid down your dog’s ear without checking with your vet first or you could cause permanent damage.
Once you’ve sourced a suitable product, and had your dog’s ears checked by your vet for any problems it’s safe to begin cleaning.
Lots of dogs don’t like having their ears cleaned, particularly if they’ve had any painful conditions in the past. Make the experience positive with treats and praise. Never force your dog to do something he or she isn’t comfortable with, build up to cleaning over time if they aren’t happy with this straight away. Start by getting your dog used to touching their ears before attempting to put any liquid down. Larger dogs may be more comfortable on the floor, but smaller dogs or puppies might be easier to manage on a table. If your dog is wriggly or prone to fidgeting, ask someone to give you a hand holding them still and reassuring them.
The ear cleaning solution can be applied to cotton wool pads and used to remove built up debris around the ear flap and entrance to the canal. Always be gentle and praise your dog! If your dog is happy and calm with the situation, cleaner can be applied (as instructed on the bottle or by your vet) into the ear canal. This should be gently massaged to help break down any waxy discharge and removed with a cotton wool pad or tissue. This may feel a little wet or squishy, and you may notice some squelching noises. Never push your finger too far into the ear. This process can be repeated until there isn’t any wax or gunk coming out.
Be prepared for your dog to shake their head after this and watch out for spray!
If your dog isn’t happy with this at home, or you’re struggling to clean your dog’s ears effectively, speak to your local vet for advice and guidance.