Dogs have been man’s best friend since the Middle Stone Age. Truly, dogs and human civilization have evolved together. If you own a dog, you want to ensure the well-being and comfort of your beloved canine companion.
Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) are a relatively mild and common parasite in dogs. However, some dogs can experience an immune hypersensitivity reaction that results in intense irritation of the external ear. This can lead to excessive scratching at the ears and shaking the head. Dogs can even pull out their own hair as they scratch. Excessive shaking of the head can cause hematoma or breakage of a blood vessel and pooling of blood in the ear. Dogs can sometimes damage their own ear drums or ear canals due to excessive scratching. The mites can also spread to other parts of the dog’s body.
The affliction is more common in younger pups but can occur at any age. The parasite is highly contagious, passing from parents to newborns and between animals of different species (but does not affect humans), e.g. from cats that spend much time outdoors.
Common symptoms may include itching of the ears, neck and head; or generalized itching; excessive scratching at the ears or around the head; frequently shaking the head; black or reddish brown crusts may form in the outer ear; ground coffee life bumps may appear in the ear canal; abrasion and scratch marks or crusting and scales may appear on the back side of the ears, tail, neck, and backside.
For accurate diagnosis, your vet will require a thorough history of your pet’s health, info about onset of symptoms and whether the dog has been in contact with other animals recently. A complete physical examination of your dog will be performed by the vet to rule out any other diseases. Skin scrapings will be taken for a dermatologic analysis. Ear swabs in mineral oil may be examined. An otoscope affords a direct view into the ear canal and can aid in direct discovery of the parasite. In hypersensitive dogs, an indirect diagnosis may be made on the basis of your dog’s response to a prescribed course of treatment.
Treatments are usually administered on an outpatient basis. The parasite is highly contagious and as such all the other pets in the same household should be treated. Fortunately, the mites cannot survive for long away from the animal’s body. A thorough cleaning of the household should prevent relapsing.
The ears need to be carefully cleaned with a commercial ear cleaner formulated specially for canines. Prescribed external parasiticides should be used for at least 7 days to remove mites and eggs, with a repeat treatment 2 weeks later. These treatments should be used until the ectopic mites are all gone.
One month after treatment begins; the vet will schedule a follow-up appointment and take ear swabs of your dog’s ears to ensure healthy recovery.