Boston Terrier dog getting their ears cleaned

The presence of ear mites in dogs can turn your pet’s ear into an itchy battleground. From common causes to telltale signs, we’re exploring how these tiny invaders infiltrate your dog’s ears and how to navigate the path to relief.

What are ear mites in dogs?

Dog ear mites are tiny troublemakers that can wreak havoc in your furry friend's ears. These small arachnids, scientifically known as, are a common nuisance in the world of veterinary care. But what are ear mites in dogs, and how do they affect your canine companion?

Ear mites infest a dog's ear canal, setting up shop in this warm and cozy environment where they feed on skin debris and tissue fluids. These pesky critters can jump from animal to animal and lead to a variety of problems, including intense itching, ear inflammation, and even secondary bacterial ear infections if left unchecked.

Long-term exposure to ear mites can result in ear canal damage, causing a condition known as otitis externa. Dog ear mites typically induce a characteristic dark, crumbly discharge, resembling coffee grounds, which may be observed during a veterinary examination.

Symptoms & signs of ear mites in dogs

Dog ear mites can be silent terrorists, causing discomfort to our furry companions that can go unnoticed. Recognizing ear mites in dogs symptoms and signs of ear mites in dogs will help you get ahead of a serious infestation!

persistent itching

One of the hallmark signs of dog ear mites is relentless scratching and pawing at the ears. Dogs may even rub their ears against furniture to alleviate the irritation. You may also notice something called the pinnal-pedal reflex––this is where your dog will start scratching with a back leg as you are rubbing his or her ear. This reflex indicates intense itchiness!

head shaking

Frequent head shaking or tilting may indicate the presence of ear mites. This behavior is an attempt to dislodge the bothersome pests.

dark, waxy discharge

Ear mite infestations often produce a dark, crumbly discharge resembling coffee grounds. This discharge can be a clear indicator of the problem.

Inflammation and redness

Your dog’s ears may appear red, swollen, or inflamed due to the irritation caused by ear mites.

foul odor

An unpleasant odor emanating from your dog's ears is a sign of infection caused by scratching and the accumulation of debris.

hair loss

In severe cases, dogs may experience hair loss around the ears as a result of their incessant scratching.

If you observe any of these signs of ear mites in dogs, don’t wait––consult your veterinarian immediately to avoid complications and more discomfort for your pet. 

Two dogs sniffing each other's ears

Causes of ear mites in dogs

Dog ear mites are a nuisance no pup desires, but understanding the causes of ear mites in dogs can help you protect your four-legged friend from miserable itching and ear-itation! 

So, how do dogs get ear mites? There are a few main causes:

direct contact

Ear mites are highly contagious. Dogs can pick them up from other infected animals during close contact like playtime, walks, and grooming sessions. This is why it's crucial to be cautious in social settings, especially in multi-pet households.

from the environment

Ear mites can also survive in the environment for some time. If your dog encounters bedding, toys, or other items contaminated with mites, they may become an unwitting host.

maternal transfer

Puppies can acquire ear mites from their mother during the nursing period. The mites can be transmitted through close physical contact.

Are ear mites contagious in dogs? Yes, they are––which is why early detection is so important. Remember, maintaining good hygiene and minimizing contact with infected animals can go a long way in safeguarding your dog from the torment of ear mites in dogs.

How vets diagnose ear mites

Diagnosing ear mites in dogs requires a keen eye and a thorough understanding of the telltale signs. When a concerned pet parent suspects their furry friend may be battling these pesky parasites, it's essential to turn to a veterinarian for an official diagnosis. 

clinical evaluation

Vets begin the diagnosis by conducting a detailed clinical examination. They examine the dog's ears, looking for classic signs of ear mites in dogs like itching, head shaking, and that characteristic dark, crumbly ear discharge.

otoscopic evaluation

To confirm the presence of dog ear mites, vets often utilize an otoscope, a specialized instrument that allows them to peer deep into the ear canal. Here, they may spot the mites or their tiny white eggs, though this is not always the case.

microscopic analysis

If mites are not seen with the naked eye, a swab of your dog’s ear discharge may need to be examined under a microscope. This can confirm the presence of mites or their debris for a proper diagnosis.

Once ear mites in dogs are confirmed, the next step is ear mite treatment for dogs––so that your canine companion can bid farewell to irritation for good. 

Infographic displaying ear mite treatments for dogs

Ear mite treatment for dogs

When your canine companion is plagued by dog ear mites, your number one priority is finding a swift and effective ear mite treatment for dogs. Here's a veterinary perspective on how to get rid of ear mites in dogs:


The primary course of action involves applying medicated ear drops or ointments prescribed by your veterinarian. These solutions typically contain anti-parasitic compounds to eliminate the mites and alleviate irritation.


Proper ear hygiene should already be part of your pet’s routine, but it’s even more important if they have ear mites. Your vet may recommend gentle cleaning to remove waxy debris and mite residue. Never use cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear canal.

preventative measures

Addressing the environment is equally vital. Wash your dog's bedding, toys, and any items they frequently come into contact with to eliminate potential sources of re-infestation.


Always consult with your vet for guidance specific to your dog's condition. They can tailor an ear mite treatment plan that suits your dog’s needs.

As for what kills ear mites instantly, it's not a simple answer. While treatment can be fast-acting, it may take a few weeks or longer to completely eradicate these tiny pests. A proactive and consistent approach–guided by your veterinarian–is the most effective way to ensure your dog is free from the discomfort of ear mites.

Recovery and management of dog ear mites

Recovery and management of dog ear mites is essential for your four-legged companion's well-being. To effectively address ear mites in dogs, there are a few key steps:

treatment regimen

Upon diagnosis of dog ear mites, veterinarians prescribe medicated ear drops or ointments. These formulations often contain parasiticides to eliminate the mites. Proper application and dosage are vital for successful management. If your dog has a bacterial or yeast infection secondary to the ear mites, additional medications may be required.

ear cleaning

Keeping the affected ears clean is extremely important. Your vet may recommend gentle cleaning with ear wipes or an ear flush to remove debris and mite residue. These can help the delicate skin of the ears recover while also preventing secondary infections.

environmental hygiene

Keep your dog's bedding, toys, and any items they play with clean and sanitized to minimize the risk of reinfection. This can also help prevent spreading ear mites to your other pets!

regular follow-up

Schedule follow-up appointments with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's progress and adjust the treatment plan if necessary.

While the desire to know how to get rid of ear mites in dogs instantly is understandable, recovery requires time and diligence. Patience is key in keeping your canine friend free from the discomfort of ear mites––and consulting your veterinarian is your best path to successful recovery.

Are there home remedies for dog ear mites?

When faced with the discomfort of ear mites in dogs, it's natural to wonder if there are any effective home remedies for ear mites in dogs. A few home remedies you may see on the internet include: 

  • Olive oil
  • Green tea 
  • Mineral oil
  • Apple cider vinegar

While the internet is rife with DIY solutions that can smother ear mites or make the ear environment less inviting, it's crucial to approach this issue from a veterinary perspective. This is especially important because many of these treatments may actually harm the ear canal, and in some instances could cause your pet to go deaf.

You should never rely solely on home remedies for ear mite treatment in dogs. Ear mites can be persistent and challenging to eliminate completely, often necessitating professional intervention. Here's why:


Not many home remedies can remove dog ear mites entirely. They might offer temporary relief, but often fall short of providing a lasting solution.


Attempting home treatments without a proper veterinary diagnosis can be risky. The symptoms of ear mites overlap with other ear conditions, and your dog needs an accurate diagnosis to get effective treatment.

delay in treatment

Turning to home remedies first can result in delays in getting your pet proper care. The longer you wait, the more discomfort your dog may endure and the worse the condition can get.

For the best results, go straight to your veterinarian when dealing with ear mites in dogs. They can prescribe ear mite treatment for dogs tailored to your pet's specific needs. While there are supportive care measures you can take at home–such as keeping your dog's ears clean, using ear drops, ear flushes, and more–professional guidance is vital for a successful and comprehensive solution.

Preventing ear mites in dogs

Preventing ear mites in dogs requires vigilance and care. By taking these steps, you can help safeguard your furry friend from the discomfort of ear mites in dogs:

avoid exposure to stray dogs

Dogs can get ear mites from stray dogs through direct contact or shared environments. Stray dogs may carry ear mites, and close interactions like play or grooming can lead to transmission. Ear mites in dogs are highly contagious, making it essential to minimize contact with strays and prioritize regular veterinary care to prevent infestations and maintain ear health.

Regularly bath and clean your dog's ears

Regular ear cleaning and bathing play a crucial role in preventing ear mites in dogs. By maintaining proper hygiene, you can remove potential sources of infection and irritants. Clean ears discourage mites from taking up residence, reducing the risk of infestation. Consistent hygiene measures are key to keeping your canine companion's ears healthy and free from these bothersome parasites.

Wash and dry dog bedding or blankets

Washing and drying bedding and blankets can aid in preventing ear mites in dogs. Cleaning these items regularly eliminates any mites or their eggs that may have contaminated the materials. High-temperature drying effectively kills mites, ensuring a mite-free environment for your pet. This simple yet essential step reduces the risk of infestation and contributes to your dog's overall well-being.

Are ear mites contagious in dogs?

Are ear mites contagious in dogs? It’s a common concern among pet parents, and the answer is a resounding YES! Ear mites are highly contagious parasites that can easily spread from one dog to another.

These tiny troublemakers infest a dog's ear canal, causing intense itching, head shaking, and dark, crumbly ear discharge. When infected dogs come into close contact with healthy ones, whether through grooming, playtime, or sharing bedding and toys, the mites can hop from host to host.

If one dog in a household is diagnosed with ear mites, isolate the infected pet and thoroughly clean and disinfect the environment to prevent the mites from spreading. Prompt treatment and regular ear checks can help control and prevent these pesky parasites from causing discomfort and potential complications in our canine companions.

Conclusion: final thoughts on dog ear mites

In the realm of canine health, the topic of ear mites looms large. From their contagious nature to the discomfort they cause, understanding treatment options and proactive measures are key. Regular veterinary check-ups, meticulous hygiene practices, and swift intervention can empower pet parents to shield their dogs from the nuisance of ear mites.

This blog exists to provide general information and education about veterinary health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website, or in any linked materials is not intended as and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions, or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you suspect that your pet has a medical concern, you should consult with your veterinary health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website, or in any linked materials.

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Written By a Vetnique Vet

Veterinarian Dr. Hillary Wolfe smiling and holding a little dog.

Dr. Hillary Wolfe, DVM, CVFT

Dr. Wolfe is a traveling veterinarian and the owner of Tula Veterinary Nutrition. She is passionate about enhancing pet health and longevity through food, with a strong focus on natural nutrition and homemade diets.

Small Animal Veterinarian & Certified Food Therapist 

St. Petersburg, FL 

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