Ear Mites in Dogs

Written by Small Door's medical experts

Ear mites, scientifically known as otodectes cynotis, are mites of dogs and cats that can infest the outer ear and cause inflammation of the ear canal. Infestations can be mild, but in some cases, it can lead to infection and even ruptured eardrums if left untreated.

In This Article

Ear mites are more common in cats than dogs. These microscopic parasites can result in the form of mange called otodectic mange, the symptoms of which can be similar to the symptoms of ear infections in dogs. Recognizing the signs of ear problems like mites will help with your dog’s treatment before the infestation leads to a painful condition like a ruptured eardrum.

Signs & Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

The signs and symptoms of ear mites in dogs are similar to the symptoms of ear infections in dogs. In fact, ear mite infestations can lead to ear infections as a result of inflammation and self-trauma.

  • Head shaking

  • Ear scratching

  • Buildup of debris in the ears

  • Foul smell

  • Redness of the outer ear and pinnae

  • Pus and discharge

Ear mites cause irritation and inflammation in your dog’s ear canal. This inflammation is often visible, and the itchiness associated with ear mites can cause your dog to shake her head and paw at her ears. If your dog typically has upright ears, you may also notice that the ears will droop.

Mite infestations can cause a foul odor in your dog’s ears. You may also see a buildup of dark debris in your dog’s ears, similar to coffee grounds. As you examine your dog’s ears, look for redness in the ear canal as well as the outer ear, as this is another sign of ear problems in dogs. In severe cases, you may even notice pus and discharge, which can be the result of infection or a torn eardrum.


The symptoms of ear mites in dogs are similar to the symptoms of ear infections and other ear conditions. Inflammation, foul odor, itchiness, and discharge are common.

How Did My Dog Get Ear Mites?

The otodectes cynotis mite leads to symptoms associated with otodectic.

Common causes:
Otodectes cynotis

Ear mites are contagious. Your dog most likely contracted ear mites through direct contact with another dog or cat, sharing grooming materials with an infected dog or cat, or sleeping near or on the same bedding as infected animals. Crowded, stressful circumstances like boarding facilities, dog daycares, grooming salons, and shelters may also increase the risk of transmission, as these circumstances can suppress your dog’s immune system.


Ear mites in dogs, known as otodectes cynotis, lead to a condition known as otodectic mange. These mites are highly contagious and spread from direct contact with infected animals or environments.

Diagnosing Ear Mites in Dogs

Your veterinarian will diagnose ear mites in dogs through a physical examination and diagnostic testing. The veterinarian will examine your dog’s ears with an otoscope to look for mites and signs of mites. Mites appear as white specks to the naked eye, and if your veterinarian suspects that mites are the cause of your dog’s symptoms, they will take a sample with an ear swab to identify under a microscope. In some cases, your veterinarian may also recommend additional diagnostic testing, such as bloodwork, to rule out the possibility of an underlying condition.


Veterinarians diagnose ear mites in dogs with a physical examination and by identifying suspected mites under a microscope.

Treating Your Dog for Ear Mites

Dogs are treated for ear mites with a anti-parasitic medication (in the form of ear drops), an oral medication, or a topical medication applied to the skin. It is important for owners to follow the instructions and administer the medication for the duration of the treatment, as this will ensure that the medication kills the mites throughout all stages of their lifecycle.

In most cases, your veterinarian will recommend treating both ears even if only one is affected. This will prevent the spread of the mites. Your veterinarian might also suggest an ear flush to clear out your dog’s ear canal, as this will decrease irritation and remove debris. Additional follow-up visits and multiple cleanings may also be recommended.

Flushing and cleaning can be painful for dogs. If your dog is sensitive or if the ear is painful, your veterinarian may sedate your dog during the office visit.

Is there a cure for ear mites?

Luckily, there is a cure for ear mites. Parasiticides will kill the mites and eliminate the infestation.

Are Ear Mites Contagious For Humans or Other Pets?

Ear mites are highly contagious to other animals, especially dogs and cats. Your veterinarian may recommend treating all other animals in the household to reduce the risk of reinfection and to control the infestation. Ear mites are not contagious to humans.

What is the cost for treating ear mites?

You can expect to pay for the hospital visit, diagnostic tests like ear swabs, and the medication. The cost will vary depending on the medication provided, and if you have multiple pets in the household, you may also need additional medication to treat these animals.


Ear mites are a contagious but treatable condition. With medication, you will be able to eliminate ear mites from your dog’s ears, which will resolve the symptoms.

Recovery and Management of Ear Mites

Managing ear mites requires full compliance with your veterinarian’s instructions. While the prognosis for a full recovery is good in most cases, you will need to administer the medication for the prescribed length of time. Otherwise, some mites may survive to reinfect your dog.

You will also need to disinfect your home. The home treatment for ear mites is similar to that of fleas. Thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming your home and treating all other animals in the household will help.

Ear mites are not fatal. However, if you do not treat otodectic mange promptly, your dog may suffer permanent damage to the ear canal, and complications like secondary infections are also possible.


Ear mites are treatable with proper management. Cleaning your home
and treating all other pets in the household will reduce the risk of

Preventing Ear Mites

Ear mites are preventable. The best way to prevent your dog picking up this parasite is to avoid contact with infected dogs. Knowing the symptoms of ear mites will help you identify potentially infected animals, and treating all animals in the household with the appropriate parasiticide will prevent the spread of mites in your home.

In some cases, it is not always possible to prevent your dog from picking up ear mites, but making a regular practice of checking your dog’s ears for signs of inflammation, infection, odor, or dirt will help you catch a potential problem before it gets out of hand.

Is there a vaccine for ear mites?

There is no vaccine for ear mites.

Summary of Ear Mites in Dogs

Ear mites in dogs are preventable. To prevent an infestation, avoid contact with infected dogs and regularly inspect your dog’s ears for signs of problems.

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