Dog Ear Mites: Spotting Symptoms and Safe Treatments

10 Minute Read
Updated May 23, 2024

Is your dog shaking his head more than usual? He might be a goof, or he might be waging a war against the ear mites in his ears. Learn how to treat ear mites in dogs.

Dogs are susceptible to a variety of pests, and dog ear mites are one of the most common, right behind fleas and ticks. These annoying parasites love to feast on your dog's skin and their ears make a nice cozy home for them to propagate future generations.

 The thought of ear mites might make your skin crawl, but for dogs, it's a very unpleasant reality. These little intruders can wreak havoc on their ears, and if left untreated they can do serious and permanent damage. 

Learn more about ear mites in dogs and how you can treat and prevent ear mites safely and effectively.


What Are Dog Ear Mites?

Ear mites, scientifically known as Otodectes cynotis, are a type of external parasite that feeds on skin and other debris in your dog's ears. They thrive in moist, dark, and warm environments, making your cat’s ears the ideal habitat for them to flourish.

Life Cycle of Ear Mites in Dogs

The life cycle of an ear mite is unique to other types of parasites, especially intestinal worms in dogs. Instead of dropping eggs to infect new hosts, ear mites find hosts in their adult stage and reproduce.

From here, they reproduce and the new mites can survive each stage of the life cycle while still attached to your pooch. The life cycle of a dog ear mite takes about 3 weeks, and once reaching the final adult stage, can live up to 2 months. 

Here are the 5 different stages of the ear mite life cycle:

  1. Eggs
  2. Larvae
  3. Protonymphs (First Nymph Stage)
  4. Duetonymphs (Second Nymph Stage)
  5. Adult

New eggs can be hatched every 10 days and each female mite can lay 5 eggs per day. And that's just one ear mite. In just 3 weeks, the eggs will hatch and become adults and will start laying eggs of their own. 

Identifying the signs and quick treatment are key to getting this infestation under control and reducing damage to your dog's ears.


Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs


Spotting signs of ear mites in dogs can be tricky if you aren't sure what to look for. Unlike fleas and ticks that are big enough to see, mites are significantly smaller. 

While technically visible without a microscope, mites are very easy to miss, especially on dogs with big, floppy, and fuzzy ears.

Instead of trying to visualize the ear mites directly, which can be deep into the ear canal, look for evidence of ear mite activity and signs of irritation in and around your dog's ear.

Here are some common symptoms of ear mites in dogs:

    • Excessive ear twitching or drooping ears
    • Tilting or head shaking their head
    • Excessive scratching
    • Red, broken, and irritated skin
    • Swelling or raised bumps
    • Waxy brown debris in the ear
    • Damage or irritation to the back of the ear from your dog scratching
    • Tenderness or ear pain when touched

When left untreated, ear mites in dogs can lead to worsening symptoms. One common example in dogs is called an aural hematoma. 

This occurs when the force of your dog shaking his head and ears repeatedly leads to damage to the small blood vessels in the ears.

Blood from these broken vessels will pool in the ear and start to inflate the thin layers of skin. This can be very painful and can result in permanent deformation of the ear.


Risks of Dog Ear Mites 

Mild symptoms of ear mites in dogs are annoying and can be painful, but the longer the infestation is left to thrive, the worse the results can be.

If not treated promptly, dog ear mites can lead to some severe conditions and injuries, some of which can do permanent damage. Here are a few risks of ear mites in dogs:

    • Deformation of the ear tissues and cartilage
    • Secondary infections from open wounds
    • Abscesses (pockets of trapped bacteria under the skin)
    • Hearing damage or loss

While these symptoms aren't common, they are a real possibility if you do not treat the ear mites quickly and appropriately. Talk to your vet for a diagnosis and the best treatments. 

Another risk factor to consider is that ear mites are highly contagious. While they don't pose a risk to humans, ear mites can easily spread between pets in a multi-pet household. This means that if you are treating one pet for ear mites, it's probably best to treat them all. 


How to Check for Dog Ear Mites


Ear mites are very small, making them hard to see, but not impossible to see. If you suspect your dog has ear mites, or is shaking their head or scratching more than usual, grab a small flashlight and take a look.

Gently flip back your dog's ear and shine the light into the ear. Make sure to pay close attention to all the nooks and crannies where the mites may congregate.

The mites can resemble coffee grounds and can blend in with other debris in the ear, so when you spot a speck, look for movement. 

Don't be discouraged if you don't see anything, as this is just one way to check for mites. If you can't see any signs of movement, then the next step is to look for the waste that ear mites leave behind.

Mite poop is the easiest sign to see of mite activity in your dog's ears. Mite poop will look like pepper, and will likely clump in the waxy build in the crevices of your dog's ear.

Either visible signs of mite activity along with any irritation or behavioural changes are likely pointing towards ear mites. Check with your vet to verify and start treatment quickly.


How to Get Rid of Dog Ear Mites

Once you have a confirmed diagnosis from your vet, it's time to start treating. Prescription treatments from your vet will be the most effective way to eliminate the mites. 

Typical treatments for ear mites come in the form of ear drops that are applied directly to your dog's ears. 

You can also look for over-the-counter options, like Bio-Groom Ear Mite treatment. These products can be equally effective depending on the severity of the infestation. 

Are Natural Dog Ear Mite Treatments Effective?

At-home treatments are also an option. Though the evidence for natural dog ear mite treatments is anecdotal, some say they are a safe and effective way to eliminate dog ear mites.

We looked at 2 of the most common and safest home remedies for ear mites in dogs using ingredients you probably already have on hand:

Olive Oil for Dogs Ear Mites

This is the top-rated and most effective home remedy for dog ear mites. Olive oil can be applied just a few drops at a time to the affected ear to suffocate the mites. 

The oil is non-irritating and can be gently massaged into the ear canal. Additionally, this can help support healing from any damaged skin inside the ear from the mites.

After applying the treatment, use a clean microfibre cloth or cotton ball (not a Q-tip!), to gently wipe out any debris that was loosened by the oil. Don't jam your finger or anything else deep into the canal, just stick to the surface level of the ear.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Ear Mites in Dogs

Another natural method for ditching those pesky parasites is to use apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can kill the mites and make the ear canal unhospitable. 

This superfood ingredient has many natural and effective properties, such as being anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, but also helps to evict ear mites. 

Make sure to dilute the vinegar with water before administration. A 1:1 ratio allows the acidic mixture to remain effective against mites, but won't throw off your dog's natural skin pH. 

If your dog has open sores in the ear, then skip this method. Apple cider vinegar, even diluted, can sting when it comes in contact with extremely irritated or damaged skin.

Keep in mind that these natural remedies don't work for every dog. If your natural methods are not successful, you need to reach out to your vet for appropriate prescription medication to eliminate the dog ear mites quickly. 

Dog Ear Mite After Care

Even quickly managed infestations can leave your pet's ears a little tender, especially if they are doing a lot of scratching and shaking to ease the itching and discomfort. 

Most minor wounds and abrasions will heal on their own, but you can help speed up the process and provide faster relief with a few at-home aftercare tips:

    • Clean their ears after treatment is completed. This will remove debris, dead mites, eggs, and bacteria that could lead to infection.
    • Soothe any residual itching and heal the skin by gently applying coconut oil or pure aloe vera on the affected areas.
    • Use a cone to remove access to the area. Dogs hate cones, but their scratching and fussing can slow down healing and cause more damage.
    • Boost skin health by keeping your dog well hydrated and offering omega fatty acids to their food. Fish oils can reduce inflammation, but also protect the delicate skin barrier that supports skin cell growth.


How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs


Like any pest problem on dogs, the very best medicine is prevention. There is no way to guarantee your pet will never get mites, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risks:

    • Clean Your Dog's Ears: Regular ear cleanings and other dog grooming practices not only help keep your dog healthy, but they also allow you to check their ears for early signs of infestations, infection, and irritation.
    • Boost Their Immune System: Your dog's immune system plays a vital role in fending off pests and infections. A strong immune system supported by a healthy diet and good digestion can help reduce the risk of mites and other nuisance pests.
    • Stay Up-to-Date on Flea & Tick Medications: Many flea and tick medications, like Elanco K9 Advantix ii, can kill mites and many other external pests
    • Keep Them Dry: Mites love warm dark and moist environments. You can't change the first two, but you can make their ears less hospitable to mites by keeping them dry. After baths, rainy walks, or swimming, do your best to dry their ears.
    • Minimize Wildlife Interactions: Mites are spread easily from animal to animal. Strays, wild animals, and animals that live in unclean environments are more likely to host mites and can transfer their aural intruders with a simple touch.
    • Maintain a Clean Environment: A clean environment can help support your dog's immune system and reduce interactions with pests. Keep a clean house and yard to reduce infestations.

Shop All Flea, Tick & Pest Solutions


Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Ear Mites

What are ear mites in dogs?

Dog ear mites are highly contagious external parasites that feed on skin and other debris in your dog's ears. They thrive in dark, warm, and moist environments, which is why the ears are so appealing.

Can ear mites cause deafness in dogs?

Sadly yes, untreated ear mite infestations in dogs can eventually lead to partial or even complete deafness in the infected ear(s). This is because ear mites can thrive deep into the ear canal and damage the structure and tissues.

Can dog ear mites be transmitted to humans? 

As contagious as they are to other animals, ear mites in dogs are not transmitable to humans.

How can I prevent my dog from getting ear mites? 

There is no way to guarantee your dog will never get ear mites, but you can limit interaction with wildlife and stray animals, which are most likely to spread the parasite.

Can ear mites lead to other health problems in dogs? 

Untreated ear mites in dogs can lead to permanent damage to the ear canal and possibly even damage your dog's hearing.

What's the difference between ear mites and ear yeast infections in dogs?

Though some of the symptoms are similar, like itchiness and irritation, ear mites are parasites that infect the host, while yeast is a fungus that is already naturally present on your dog's skin. Dog ear mites are much easier to treat.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


    Most Popular Dog Posts

    Tips for Crafting Complete and Balanced Homemade Raw Dog Food

    How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee? How Long Can Puppy Hold Pee?

    Can Dogs Eat Raw Eggs? Benefits & Safety of Raw Eggs for dogs

    The Amazing Benefits of Goats Milk for Dogs | Can Dogs Drink Milk?

    Best Long Lasting Dog Chews to Keep Your Dog Busy