When you see your dog scratch and scratch and wonder what’s bugging him, it could be just that: a bug. Ear mites, or otodectes cynotis, can be the problem, and pet owners should be aware of them, says the American Kennel Club, or AKC. Latin for “ear beggar of the dog,” it describes what the tiny arachnid does, which is feed on wax and oils in the ear of the animal.
The animal scratches its head repeatedly in the beginning stages.
There is a brown, crumbly discharge from the animal’s ears.
Secondary wounds from the animal’s excessive itching can occur, sometimes leading to ear infections. You may see a scab or abrasion at the base of the ear.
The ear mites, if the infestation is heavy, may invade other parts of the animal’s body.
Ear mites are mostly seen in dogs and cats, but have been found in ferrets and foxes in the wild, according to the AKC.
If you’ve got a pet with ear mites, treat all the household animals, says the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Sometimes, though rarely, they can even carry diseases to humans. Ear mites are most commonly found in outdoor cats, and can easily infect their doggy friends. They can be passed by casual contact.
If you choose to treat your pet at home, keep a few things in mind, warns a PetMD.com blogger. Be sure about the condition you’re treating. If you misdiagnose the problem, the parasitacides you purchase may or may not work. It could be a different type of ear infection.
One good option is to see your veterinarian, who will check your pet’s ear canal. Of course, the ear needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and your vet will likely use a product such as selamectin or moxidectin/imidacloprid, according to the AKC, and treat an infection if it has occurred.
To prevent future ear mite infections, you may want to try products such as Revolution or Advantage-Multi. Revolution is applied to the neck—not the ears.
The best prevention is to keep your dogs’ and cats’ ears clean. Other suggestions for parasitic control include cleaning up feces regularly, keeping your pet’s exposure to other animals at a minimum, and regular exams to your veterinarian.