Ear Mites In Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & More

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Dog's ear with mites (caption: Ear Mites In Dogs)

If your pup is shaking his head or scratching his ears a lot, it could be due to unwelcome critters living in his ear canal. Ear mites are a common problem in dogs (and even more so in cats). How do you know if your dog has ear mites? And what should you do if you suspect them?

What Are Ear Mites?

The ear mite, Otodectes cynotis, is a tiny parasite that most commonly lives in the ear canal of dogs, cats, and other small animals, but it can also live on the skin’s surface. Ear mites are related to arachnids and feed on the wax and oils in your dog’s ears. Unlike many other parasites, they don’t burrow into the skin, so they’re relatively easy to treat. However, they’re highly contagious.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites?

Animals become infested by direct contact with another infected animal.


Hand holding dog's ear with hematoma (caption: Dog Ear Hematoma)

Ear mites are so small they’re hard to see with the naked eye, but you might notice them as moving white specks. However, there are other tell-tale signs that your dog has an ear mite infestation.

  • Excessive scratching at the ears
  • Head shaking
  • A dark waxy, or crusty discharge from the ear (can resemble coffee grounds)
  • A crusted rash around or in the ear

Aggressive and continued ear scratching can often lead to skin lesions, ear hematomas, or skin or ear infections. So it’s important to take your pup to the vet as soon as you notice the initial signs.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Symptoms of ear mites can mimic other conditions that can cause serious health problems, so getting a proper diagnosis from a veterinarian is key. Ear mites are easy to spot with an otoscope (an instrument vets use to look inside the ear).

Once your vet confirms an ear mite infestation, the first step is a thorough cleaning of the ear canal. Then, your vet may prescribe a topical medication, like Revolution, that’s applied to the inside of your dog’s ear to kill the mites. Your vet may also recommend a course of antibiotics to treat any secondary infections.

Tips: If you have more than one pet, you should get them all checked by your vet at the same time so the infestation doesn’t continue to spread. You’ll also need to wash bedding in hot water and clean any toys and surfaces that the infected animal uses to get rid of all the mites.


Since mites feed off ear wax and oils, keeping your dog’s ears clean can help reduce the risk of a mite infestation. We recommend Zymox Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes or Bohdi Dog All-Natural Ear Cleanser.

Both dog ear cleansers are relatively affordable and can last a while too. But before purchasing either, you’ll want to give your vet a call and make sure they approve it.

Once approved by your vet, you’ll want to do a thorough ear cleaning at least once a month. See our tips on how to clean your dog’s ears.

What Do Ear Mites In Dogs Look Like?

Check out this very brief video of what ear mites look like through an otoscope.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the top questions that our readers ask about ear mites.

Can You Use Essential Oils For Ear Mites In Dogs?

If you’re looking for home remedies for ear mites in dogs, look no further than your kitchen cabinet. Holistic vets recommend cooking oil or olive oil because it helps suffocate ear mites and gently rinses out debris.

Garlic can help kill bacteria that might develop with a mite infection. So, for the greatest benefit, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to a cup of oil. Either heat the mixture or let it marinate overnight. Let the oil cool and remove the garlic before applying it to your pup’s ears. Although home remedies can be effective in some cases, we advise you to consult with your vet before treating your dog for any condition.

Can Peroxide Kill Ear Mites In Dogs?

No. Vets even advise against cleaning your dog’s ears with hydrogen peroxide because it can cause irritation within the ear canal and damage the sensitive tissues in your dog’s ears. Use a vet-recommended cleaner instead.

Dog Ear Mites vs Ear Wax: How Can You Tell The Difference?

Ear wax is normal in healthy dogs, but regular ear wax is light brown and doesn’t have an odor. The wax in dogs with ear mites is usually darker brown or black, resembles coffee grounds, and can give off a foul odor. If you spot ear wax and the ears are also reddened and inflamed, your dog may have ear mites — especially if he’s scratching his ears and shaking his head.

Dog Ear Infections

As we mentioned above, the symptoms of ear mites can resemble other conditions, especially ear infections. You can learn more about dog ear infections here. But if you suspect either mites or an ear infection, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible so he can get the relief and treatment he needs.

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