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What Are Dog Ear Mites and How to Get Rid of Them Naturally

What Are Dog Ear Mites

For many of us, this week was the time to get back to work after all the holiday fun and mayhem. Office parties are over and there isn't another three day weekend in sight.

For some of us, the stress of getting back to work is escalated by the thought of our new puppy at home all alone. If you were one of the many families that received a new Christmas puppy, check out the column that I wrote last week about choosing a name for your new dog.

This week I'm ready to get back on track with a more serious discussion. I want to talk about ear mites in dogs. These parasites are quite common, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them. They don't come from dirty environments or animals infested with other parasites like fleas. In fact, ear mites are extremely contagious, and dogs typically catch them from outdoor cats.

Possibly the most common misconception about ear mites is that they only live in the ears. They can actually survive anywhere on your dog's body.

There are several different types of mites that can infest the ear canals of your dog. The same types of mites can affect both dogs and cats, so you need to be especially careful if you have a multi-pet household.

Humans are not affected by ear mites. Though you and your vet may be curious, it isn't important to diagnose the type of mite in order to treat it.

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What Are Dog Ear Mites and How to Get Rid of Them Naturally

How to deal with dog ear mites naturally

Ear mites in dogs will lead to scratching around the ears and shaking the head. The worse the infestation is, the worse the symptoms. If the infestation is severe enough, it could even lead to bleeding in the ear canal. This bleeding could eventually cause a yeast or bacterial infection if not treated.

In extreme cases that were untreated for a long time, ear mites have caused permanent damage to the ear canal and hearing loss. Although they are a common problem, you need to take them very seriously.

The most common ear mites, known as Otodectes Cynotis, are eight-legged parasites that eat the oils and wax in your dog's ears. You would have to look extremely closely to see a single mite. Large groups of them can easily be mistaken as dirt or wax buildup in the ear.

Each mite has a three week life cycle, but they breed like fleas. Your dog will be infested before you know it if you don't take care of the problem as soon as it arises. If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from ear mites, keep your eyes open for these common symptoms:

  • Excessive scratching or rubbing of his ears
  • Shaking his head often
  • A brown or black waxy secretion
  • Inflammation inside or on the exterior of the ear
  • A strange odor coming from inside the ear
  • A coffee-ground looking discharge or dried blood inside the ear

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How to Get Rid of Ear Mites in Dogs

How to get rid of ear mites in dogs

Certain bacterial infections can mimic the signs of ear mites, so if you're unsure as to what exactly is going on inside your dog's ears you'll want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. However, because ear mites are contagious you may very well know when and how your dog contracted the parasites.

A few years ago one of our boxers got ear mites from an outdoor cat while we were visiting family. The dog, Maddie, began scratching her ears shortly after we returned home from our trip and I suspected something was up since she had never had any ear trouble before.

Sure enough, a few days later I received a phone call from the cat's owner who informed me that her cat had been diagnosed with ear mites and the vet told her that they were extremely contagious and she should warn me to look for signs.

I made the decision to treat my dog at home, and you may make the same choice.

GUIDE: How To Clean Dog’s Ears 101

Stay Away From Over-the-Counter Remedies

There are over-the-counter remedies available at most pet stores, but be wary. Many of these products are made with chemicals that could do more harm than good. There can be nasty side effects to these treatments as well. If you're going to use a chemical treatment, you're better off to get something from your veterinarian.

Although these treatments are much cheaper than anything you'll get as a prescription from your vet, you'll get what you pay for. If an over-the-counter treatment causes more severe issues, you're going to end up spending a lot more to have your dog treated for the side effects and the ear mites.

Plus, you may end up having to rush your dog to the emergency vet if he has a severe reaction at night or over the weekend.

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The Natural Remedy That Worked for Me

Cleaning dog ears for ear mites

If you follow my columns you know that I've turned to holistic veterinary medicine to solve some of our family's most common pet problems over the last few years. It started with simple things, like natural flea treatments and common supplements. Now we feed a more natural diet and look for natural remedies for almost every ailment.

When Maddie contracted ear mites, my first thought was to look for a natural remedy. It sounds simple, but it isn't – especially if you want to get your dog relief quickly. It takes a lot of research to find trusted natural remedies that are safe and effective.

I recommend consulting with a holistic veterinarian whenever you have questions about natural remedies.

The first thing you'll need to do is thoroughly clean your dog's ears. This will relieve some of the discomfort immediately. Apply a couple of drops of olive oil to your dog's ear and gently massage it for a couple of minutes. This will help to loosen any deeply impacted mite dirt or dried blood.

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Once the oil has been in his ears for 3-5 minutes, use cotton balls to gently swab the inside of the ear and remove the dirt and mites. DO NOT USE Q-TIPS. You can easily damage your pet's ear by inserting a Q-Tip too far.

Nature's Answer Yellowdock Root, 1-Ounce Cleaning the ear does not kill the mites left behind. After a lot of research and a conversation with our vet, we decided yellow dock root extract (find a good one here) was the ear mite remedy that would be best for Maddie. You can purchase the extract at any natural food store.

Mix 9 drops of yellow dock root extract with 1 tablespoon of water. Use an eye dropper to administer a few drops of the solution into each ear and be sure to massage it gently for a couple of minutes after the treatment so your Fido cannot shake it out.

Even if you only notice signs of mites in one ear, be sure to treat both. 

Ear mites are extremely contagious. If you have multiple animals in your home, you need to treat all of them – not just the ones showing signs of mites.

As I mentioned, the lifespan of an ear mite is about 3 weeks. Since natural remedies aren't as potent as the over-the-counter chemical treatments or prescriptions, you'll want to be sure to treat your dog every three days for at least 4 weeks. I'm happy to say that after treating Maddie with this solution for 4 weeks the mites were gone.

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Now it’s your turn

Have you tried any natural remedies for ear mites? Has your pet become infested with the parasites, providing you with some advice to pass on to other pet parents? Let's Talk! Leave a message in the comments below or post on our Facebook, Google+ or Twitter pages.

Remember, don't ever use a natural remedy on your pet without proper research and a conversation with your veterinarian.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.