We love our dogs. Man’s best friend gives us unconditional love while we obsess about our fur babies on a day-to-day basis. Daily we note what and how much Fido eats and drinks, if he had a bowel movement outside, and did he go for walk to make him a happier and more manageable companion in the evening. We spend billions of dollars on dog food, toys and annual vet visits. We buy books on dog training and animal behavior. Is there anything that we wouldn’t do for our dogs? If not, then something like knowing more about the common parasites that inflict pain and disease on Fido should be a no-brainer.
The ear mite, known scientifically as Otodectes cynotis, is one of the most common parasites found on dogs. Dogs pick up this mooching mite from close contact with other dogs and cats that have ear mites. Unlike fleas that spend only their adult life cycle on the host animal, ear mites generally spend their entire life cycle in Fido’s ear canal. The parasite eats dead skin cells and stays in a moist, dark and warm environment and thrives. If left untreated, the ears become inflamed and the dog’s immune system goes into hyper drive to provide protection causing an inflammatory and sometimes allergic response. Mites, however, can survive outside the ear canal and infest areas around the face.
Diagnosing Ear Mites
Is Fido looking at you with his head tilted and then shaking his head or scratching at his ears? Is there a foul odor around his head? Is there a brown, gooey residue in his ears? If one answers yes to any of these questions, then it is a good indicator that the dog has an ear mite infestation. Left untreated, it becomes a serious health issue and causes poor Fido much distress.
One of the first rules for treating any infestation is to positively identify the parasite before beginning treatment. Ear yeast infections can exhibit similar symptoms to an ear mite infestation. A vet swabs each ear and views the content taken from the ear under a microscope. If the vet sees any of these eight-legged critters, then the next course of action is a treatment to smother and kill the current generation of ear mites and prevent future generations from laying more eggs.
An ointment is prescribed that has a mineral oil base in it and it is applied twice a day. It takes up to six weeks to cure an ear mite infestation. The vet may recommend oral antibiotics during this time to ensure that the dog does not develop a secondary infection. Animals who came in contact with Fido before treatment will need to be examined and treated for ear mites as well. Finally all bedding will need to be cleaned.
Ear mites in dogs are, thankfully, easy to identify and treat if the symptoms are observed. Dogs are able to communicate their needs to us if we observe their behavior carefully. Some dogs will dig at their ears until it is bloody if the ear mite infestation is not treated early. Resist the urge to treat it without first making a positive identification of the parasite.