Dogs, especially those with long ears belonging to breeds such as English Cocker Spaniel, Bloodhound, Basset Hound, Miniature Schnauzer and so on, are prone to the development of ear infections. There are various types of ear infections, but the ones with mites are the most frequent ones.
In order to find out how to get rid of ear mites in dogs, you must know what causes their occurrence, what ensures a favorable environment for their development and what makes them stay away and never come back. Even though dogs with small ears have fewer chances to get infected, they are not fully protected either, because an affection like mange is highly contagious.
Types and causes
Most ear infections in dogs are caused by auricular mites, which are microscopic parasites that dig into the ear’s tegument, creating optimal environments for the implantation of bacteria and fungi. Moist and dirty ears represent favorable environments for the growth of these microorganisms. Bacterial and fungal infections can be caused by the irritation occurred as a result of ear wax accumulation, as well as water and shampoo accumulations, minor injuries or the presence of foreign bodies inside the ear canal.
A dog with an auricular infection tends to shake its ears and scratch them very often. If the itching sensation is intense, a dog might rub its ears on hard surfaces, such as furniture or carpets, trying to relieve its feeling of discomfort. A dog with such an infection might keep its head in a weird position, inclined to one side. That side is usually the side with the affected ear. A physical examination should reveal reddened skin, brown or black deposits, higher temperature and a pungent smell as well. A dog with an ear infection might not let anyone get close to its ears.
Ear mites are the most frequent cause of itchy and infected ears in dogs. Puppies that are not older than 3 to 4 months are often affected by them. Mites look like coffee grounds that are spread inside a pup’s ears, causing it to scratch a lot. If these mites are discovered in time, they can be easily treated with a few drops of mineral oil or drops that contain permethrin, which is a pesticide. However, if this affection is not discovered and treated immediately, the skin from the ear canal gets thickened and the infection can become chronic.
This is why it is advisable to treat it as soon as it appears, attempting to repair the ear tissues before it is too late. After the mites are removed, the treatment with a local antibiotic ointment is recommended. This should last for several weeks. The medication works best if it is massaged towards the inside of the dog’s ears. The type of ointment and the frequency of administration should be established with a veterinarian. Deciding by yourself is not a bright idea.
Mange in dogs
Mange in dogs is also caused by mites. In fact, it is a different specimen of mites, which is scientifically called Otodectes cynotis and which is parasitizing the external auditory canals of dogs. Among its characteristics are violent itching, the formation of crusts, brown or black ear wax, pus and the loss of hearing when the problem is not taken care of in a reasonable amount of time.
This parasite feeds on ear wax and desquamated cells that are not removed from the dog’s ears. There is a series of factors that influences a canine specimen’s receptivity to this type of mites, such as breed, age, diet, hygiene and a weak immune system too. The continuous irritation of the ear canal caused by this mite stimulates the secretion of more ear wax, which is also a factor that determines any dog to scratch itself, sometimes so hard that it hurts itself. An open wound is an even more favorable environment for infections, but this time, bacteria and fungi take over.
Whenever you notice your dog changing its behavior and starting to violently scratch its ears, you should check them. If your dog’s ears present an increased amount of ear wax of different color and consistency than usual and an unpleasant smell, it is best to go see a veterinarian.
He or she has to take samples from the dog’s ears and examine them under the microscope in order to establish a diagnosis. Until then, you must know that these parasites are sensitive to dryness, light, heat or low temperatures. Despite of all these, they can survive for several weeks. Only a pooch with a low immune system or with poor hygiene can be contaminated. Although this mite is contagious between dogs and other animals such as cats, it cannot be transmitted to humans.
Remedy types and prevention
There are a few home remedies for ear mites in dogs, as well as treatments that must be prescribed by a specialist that are based on antibiotics. Prevention is also something you can consider in case your dog never had ear mites or in case you want to keep it away from getting an ear infection again.
The solutions you can prepare at home are not recommended for severe cases because they don’t have enough power to fight against the mites. Also, applying an antibiotic when it is too soon might determine the formation of an immune response to the product’s compounds and it might not work again in the future.
Home and medical treatments
The home treatments that can be applied in case a dog suffers from an ear infection are meant to decrease its discomfort. They might not completely remove the cause of the infection, but they definitely help. They can also be used as a method to prevent mites’ attacks, especially if the dog in question was affected before.
- If a dog’s ears contain too much oily and sticky secretion, you can pour half a teaspoon of almond oil inside its ear canals. It would be ideal to use a pipette or a bottle with a dropper attached. In this way, you cannot miss and you don’t have to hold down your dog for too long. After you pour the almond oil inside, massage its ears until you are sure the product got deep. Next, use a few paper towels to remove the oil in excess. Mites will not like this!
- A mixture of vinegar and water in equal proportions can be used often and poured inside the dog’s ear canals without having to use a pipette. The secret of this mixture is the acetic acid, which is very effective for canine specimens affected by bacteria and other microorganisms. It is also a solution that can be used from time to time just to clean a pooch’s ears.
- If a dog’s ears are red and inflamed, you can use calendula oil or fresh Aloe Vera juice in order to reduce the inflammation. These two can be found in any shop with natural remedies, not necessarily in pet shops.
A medical treatment for ear infections should be prescribed by a specialist after he or she establishes a diagnosis. This type of treatment must be applied for a long time. It usually takes longer than 3 weeks and it involves daily cleaning of the dog’s ears. The treatment must last this long, because the growth phases of a mite last this long. Thus, antiseptic solutions are prescribed, as well as solutions that kill mites and other parasites.
There are cases when the veterinarian is the only person who can clean the ears of an infected dog because it might not want to let you clean them. The discomfort and sometimes the pain caused by intensive scratching might determine a dog to walk away when you have to apply the treatment, therefore, it might have to be mildly sedated for the first times. Applying antibiotic ointments is also part of the treatment routine.
Delaying the treatment or applying an inappropriate treatment that is also ineffective can lead to complications, such as the ear hematoma, which is a blood accumulation caused by intense scratching and shaking, located under skin. In addition, the infection can get chronic, the dog can develop a hearing impairment or the infection can extend to the middle ear section, fact which often causes balance problems. All these issues, as well as the mite infection itself, can be prevented if the owner follows certain steps on a weekly basis as described below.
Steps for preventing ear infections
In order to prevent the occurrence of ear infections, you should clean your dog’s ears regularly. In case you notice an accumulation of ear wax and dirt, clean it with the help of a cotton swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide or a special solution that cleans dog ears, which can be found under different commercial names in any pet shop. In addition, make sure that while you bathe it, its ears are protected.
You can insert cotton swabs inside its ears before taking a bath, but try to be very careful not to push them in too hard or too deep. After bath time is over, make sure there is no water left inside its ears. Stagnant water from a dog’s ears creates a moist environment that leads to the development of bacteria and yeast. Dogs with big ears do not benefit of natural ventilation, so you are the one who should worry about that and wipe the water.
In case your dog is a Poodle or a Bichon, then you must know that its ear canals are hairy. What you can do is to ask the veterinarian to pull out these hairs because they favor the accumulation of ear wax, dirt and also moisture. If you cut these hairs, you would make a big mistake. This is because the roots will only irritate the soft skin from that area. Mites love that environment, so make sure you take the time to check your pooch’s ears and to go see the veterinarian often enough in order to prevent such problems.
Remember that the indicators for healthy dog ears are: no odor, pale pink ear skin, minimum accumulation of ear wax, overall cleanness and dry skin. Conversely, the indicators for unhealthy dog ears are: unpleasant smell, excessive ear scratching or shaking, sensitivity to touch, brown or black secretions, pus, higher temperature and inflammation. Try to keep all these signs in mind and search for symptoms every time you clean your pooch’s ears. Prevention is a much better solution that any other.
Couple more advices
Ear mites and mange are two different diseases caused by mites. The first one is not contagious and it does not have severe effects if it is not discovered or treated immediately. Because mange is highly contagious, you are not only responsible for the health condition of your dog, but also for all the other dogs that come in contact with yours. This is a big responsibility and you should try as hard as you can to avoid it.
The treatment for ear infections with mites is not hard to apply, so you should proceed when the first signs show up. The only disadvantage of the available treatments is that they don’t exterminate the mites right away. It takes around 3 weeks for a dog to heal completely. In addition, you can ease its discomfort by applying home remedies, but don’t rely on those as treatment.
Try to distract your beloved pet with different fun toys or attractive activities when you see that all it can do is scratch itself. Remember that scratching can lead to open wounds that, in turn, lead to the development of other types of infections with bacteria and fungi. These two need different treatments and have way more serious complications than a simple ear infection that occurs one time and doesn’t turn into a chronic affection.