There are a few species of mites that can live in your puppy’s ear but the usual suspect is otodectes cynotis or dog ear mites. These mites are tiny (about 0.3 – 0.5mm long) eight legged parasites that are related to the mites that cause mange. Ear mites feed on wax and oils in the ear canal and have a 4 week life cycle. Humans do not get these particular mites so you do not have to worry about catching these mites from your dog, but they will happily move between other species of mammals such as cats and rabbits.
How does my puppy get ear mites?
Ear mites are highly contagious and there are a number of ways your puppy may have picked them up. They may have been passed on from their mother if she had them or between pups from the same litter or different litters. Puppies who share common facilities such as at puppy school will also pass them to each other. Also if pups have access to straw they can also pick them up from the straw if cats or rabbits have had access to the straw before or after it was baled.
How do ear mites affect my puppy?
Ear mites cause irritation and inflammation in the internal or external ear canal and they usually produce a very characteristic dark waxy material that has a very strong odour. In extreme cases, the ear canal may be completely blocked by this material. The secondary effects of the ear mite infection are the scratching and rubbing of the ears and head shaking may lead to outer ear damage if the mites are not treated. Breeds such as Miniature Dachshunds and Puggles with pendulous ears (ears that hang down) seem to be a little more susceptible to them. Puppies are usually a little more susceptible to ear mites than adults but a dog of any age can acquire them. In fact most dogs will pick them up over the course of their lives.
Treating ear mites in dogs
The first step in treating a dog for ear mites is to clean the inner flap of the ear and outer part of the ear canal. This will help to remove any built up wax where some of the ear mites or eggs may be hiding. Apply an ear mite solution to the dog’s ear canal and massage the outer base of the ear to work the solution into the ear. This solution has a range of product names but most will sell for a few dollars for a small bottle and should be available from your local pet store. Follow the instructions on the bottle and be sure to complete the full course of the treatment to make sure you have killed all of the mites. Also, if you have other pets such as other dogs, cats and rabbits, be sure to treat them for ear mite infection as well. If your dog still seems like it has ear mites or if they seem to be worse, get them checked by your veterinarian to rule out any other issues such as infection or other ear issues.