Ear mites are absolutely horrible things. Not only do they sound creepy, but they are something I do not want my dog to have in his ears.
But here’s the thing; my cat just got diagnosed with having ear mites, so my fear was that ear mites are contagious from cats to dogs. I spoke to a vet friend of ours, and here’s what I learned.
Can dogs get ear mites from cats? Dogs can catch ear mites from cats. Ear mites are attracted to ear wax and oils in both cat and dog ears. Ear mites are contagious, so if your cat has ear mites, your dog can also get them from the cat.
And importantly, cats are more likely to be infected with ear mites than dogs. That means they usually transmit from feline to canine rather than the other way around.
Please keep reading, as I explain how to tell if your dog has ear mites, how to treat them, and when you might need to call a vet.
Can dogs catch ear mites from cats?
Yes, dogs do get ear mites from cats. As a result, both dogs and cats are prone to having these little critters crawling around the inside their ears.
Ear mites are very contagious from cats to dogs and will spread quickly. Sometimes all it takes it the briefest of contact between the two animals to make the dog catch ear mites.
Now that you know the answer, what can you do about it if your dog (or cat) ends up with an earful of hungry ear mites?
What are ear mites and what do they look like?
Ear mites are microscopic, minute little parasites and are part of the mite family (pretty obvious I guess). They’re classified as arachnids, the same family as ticks and spiders because of their eight legs.
If you have a microscope, this is what an ear mite would look like in your dog or cat.
Did You Know? The species name of the ear mite is Otodectes cynotis which translates from Latin to meaning “a beggar of the dog”!
You won’t be able to see ear mites in your dog’s ear with the naked eye due to the size of them. However, if there’s an infestation of ear mites between cat and dog, you might see something… it will resemble a tiny, white dot no bigger than a pinhead.
According to Wikipedia, there is a sign of ear mites that isn’t foolproof, but worth checking for.
“Infected animals have a large amount of crumbly dark brown material in their ears. On close inspection, tiny white mites can barely be seen in the debris, as they are microscopic. Ear mites do not burrow as some mites do but live within the ear canal.”
But it would be difficult to diagnose your dog has ear mites based an observation like this alone.
The best way to diagnose ear mites
If you suspect ear mites have passed from cat to dog, your vet will take some samples from your dog’s ear. They can then view them through a microscope to confirm if they’re ear mites or not.
Ear mites like to take up residence deep down in the dog’s ear canal (that’s where the best tasting food is for them). Sometimes, they may be found wandering around on the skin surface.
While most commonly found in cats and ferrets, dogs are also likely to get infected if they come into contact with an infected cat. Rabbits are also known to get ear mites and can also pass them to dogs.
Ear mites are nifty little critters and can jump from cat to dog, and dog to cat very easily. They can be found in bedding, furniture or outdoors.
What about us human doggie owners?
If your dog or cat has ear mites and likes to share your bed with you then you could also be infected. But, in most cases, it’s unlikely you’ll have ear mites taking up residence in your ears. Similarly, dogs don’t tend to carry bed bugs into your home either.
Handy Hint: Speaking of beds, here’s what to do if your cat starts peeing in your dog’s bed.
How to tell if a dog has ear mites from your cat?
One of the first signs telling you your special four-legged friend has ear mites living in his ear is persistent scratching of the ears. Your dog may also start to shake his head all the time, as if he’s trying to dislodge something from his ear (which he is!).
Sometimes, the itchiness gets so bad your dog will scratch constantly causing nasty wounds around the ear area.
Another way to tell if your dog may have ear mites is to look into his ear. A severe ear mite infestation could result in a seriously bad-smelling, crumbly, dark-colored substance which is made up of blood. Another sign could be your dog’s ears being hot to the touch.
If your dog is presenting with any of these signs, then take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis.
How to treat a dog with ear mites
If your vet diagnoses an ear mite’s infection, then he may proceed with the following treatment:
- He may ask you to bring all your pets in for treatment as treating one animal will not necessarily clear up the infestation problem.
- Your vet will clean out your dog’s ear thoroughly to remove any of the substance caused by the ear mites and wipe out as many of the ear mites as possible.
- An antiparasitic medication will be applied to the ear canals.
- If the infection is severe, the vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics.
- You’ll also be asked to bath your dog frequently as ear mites are known to cling to dog hairs.
- The vet will recommend you disinfect your home as well. This will help to eliminate any ear mites who are lurking in the bedding, yours or your dog’s.
Home remedies for ear mites in dogs
You could try using a home remedy to get rid of the ear mites. Some of the following ideas may sort out your dog’s ear mite problem:
- Garlic and oil: Add some garlic to any oil such as sunflower or olive oil and let it seep overnight. Remove the garlic before putting a few drops of oil into your dog’s ear daily. The oil will clean out the debris created by the ear mites. And, the little critters will drown in the oil. This treatment will need to be continued for at least a month.
- Green tea water: This is a mixture of green tea leaves seeped in hot water. Let the water cool, strain the leaves and then add to your dog’s ear once a day for up to a month. This will clean out the substance caused by the ear mites. And it acts as a natural antibiotic.
- Apple cider vinegar and water: Parasites don’t like apple cider vinegar. You could apply a few drops every day in your dog’s ear until the infection clears up.
While these remedies may help, ear mite infections can get out of control very quickly. So, if your homemade remedy is not working, consider treatment from the vet.
I have never used a home remedy with my own dog, so please do your research first and ask the vet if they think it’s a good treatment option.
Will my dog suffer any long-term complications from ear mites?
If your dog has an ear mite infestation for a long time with no treatment, he may suffer from hearing loss or loss of balance. However, this is only in extremely severe cases.
Which is why it’s very important you get your dog seen by a vet as soon as you suspect any problems.
Your dog’s persistent scratching of itchy ears could cause scratch wounds to become infected. These will need to be treated if you want to prevent any nasty infections developing.
Is it ear mites or an ear infection?
Sometimes your dog may be scratching his ear or shaking his head vigorously because he’s got an ear infection. Dogs are prone to ear infections caused by bacteria or yeast because their ears create a happy, warm place for these conditions to thrive.
So, how do you tell if it’s ear mites or an ear infection? Look out for the following signs typical of an ear infection caused by bacteria or yeast and not by ear mites:
- A sticky, foul-smelling discharge from the ears.
- A buildup of wax.
- Redness and/or swelling of the ear.
- Loss of balance.
- Hearing loss.
Other ear infections can be caused by food allergies, environmental irritants, a ruptured eardrum, tumors or polyps in the ear canal and incorrect cleaning of the ears.
Dog owners know their darling pooches can get fleas, ticks and whatever else plagues our animals, but ear mites? Yeh, they are not pleasant as I experienced with my dog.
Thankfully both my dog and cat were successfully treated, so I will need to keep an eye on them both from now on. There’s every chance my dog can get ear mites from my cat again in the future.
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, take him to the vet so you rest assured you know what is wrong with your dog. And get the best treatment for his overall wellbeing.
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Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.