Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange)
Ear mites, tiny spider-like parasites that suck lymph from the skin of the ear canal, are another common cause of infections.
It takes only a few ear mites to produce a severe hypersensitivity reaction that leads to intense itching, scratching, and violent head shaking. The ear flaps become red, excoriates, crusted, and scabbed. The canals contain a dry, crumbly, dark brown to black, waxy discharge that looks like coffee grounds and may have a bad odor dur to secondary infection.
Ear mites can be identified by removing a specimen of wax with a cotton tipped applicator and viewing it under a magnifying glass against a black background. Mites are white specs, about the size of the head of a pin, that move.
Once the diagnosis has been made, all dogs and cats in the household should be treated to prevent re-infestation. If you have a house bunny or ferret, check their ears as well. The ears must be cleaned as described for external otitis. This is essential. Dirty ear canals provide wax and cellular debris that shelter mites and make it difficult for ear medications to contact and destroy them.
After cleaning, medicate the ears using either a miticide ear preparation prescribed by your vet, or one of many over the counter ear mite medicines available at pet stores. Most preparations contain pyrethrins and thiabendazole. Commonly used products are Nolvamite, Cerumite, Mitox, Acarex, and Tresaderm. Tresaderm contains a miticide, and antibiotic, and a steroid to relieve itching. Use according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Revolution is a flea control product that is also effective against ear mites and approved for use in treatment and prevention. Ivermectin (de-worming medicine) may be used as an off-label medication for treating tough cases of ear mites.
it is important to complete the entire course of treatment. If treatment is stopped too early, a new crop of mites will re-infest the dog.
During treatment, mites escape from the ear canals and temporarily take up residence elsewhere on the dog, causing itching and scratching. In addition to treating the ear canals, the entire dog and all animals that come into contact with her should be treated weekly for 4 weeks using a pyrethrin-based shampoo, a pyrethrins-based flea powder, or Revolution.
Mite infections are often complicated by secondary bacterial otitis. When present, treat as described for external otitis.
Please contact your veterinarian or a professional pet groomer with questions regarding this condition.
Show Sources & Contributors +
Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook
Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007
Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD
The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats
Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001
Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM