What are dog ear mites?

Updated April 17, 2017

Ear mites in a dog can almost drive them crazy. These tiny insects are parasites that travel from dog to dog causing intense itching, a bad odour at times and on the rare occasion a punctured eardrum if left untreated. They have eight legs that latch onto the fur and skin surface in the ear canal. Different than other mites in that they do not burrow into the skin, ear mites are still a common and annoying health issue for dogs.


Otodectes cynotis, also known as dog ear mites, are crab like in appearance and live their entire lives on the host if left undisturbed. Females lay eggs in the ear canal and the adjoining fur. Once these eggs hatch the newborn mites eat ear secretions and debris while morphing through growth stages. At this point they have no gender. Once they mate with an adult male the young mites then develop into a female or male themselves and the life cycle continues.

Life Cycle

Dog ear mites have a life cycle of approximately three weeks. This cycle includes four stages. In the first stage the adult female lays eggs in the ear canal lining. She lays up to five eggs a day. This may not seem like many until you consider there are numerous egg laying females. Stage two arrives in four days with the birth of mite larvae who then in turn feed on the ear secretions for four more days. Once they finish eating they rest for one day before morphing into nymphs, which is sort of the mite version of a child or teen stage of life. Nymphs have two stages. During these two stages, they repeat the feeding a few days and resting process before entering the final adult stage.


Ear mites are so small that they are rarely seen with the naked eye in or around the dog's ear. However it is possible at times to see them with a magnifying glass. They look like small white and brown specks. When ear mites are suspected, it is best to take the dog to a veterinarian or an animal hospital. Pet care professional have the proper microscopes and other equipment needed to actually see the mites. Further, they will be able to check for ear mite symptoms through an exam.


Dogs suffering from ear mites shake their heads and scratch their ears almost incessantly because of the constant itching. There may be sores around the ears from scratching. Ear mites also leave behind a black coffee ground like discharge in the ear canals.


The solution to an ear mite problem is treatment by a veterinarian. They have the knowledge needed to clean the ear without injuring it. Medication in the form of ear drops is also usually given to kill the mites and prevent secondary infections from scratching. Special collars are fitted to keep the dog from scratching the ears while they heal. Ear mites are very contagious so keep pet dogs away from unfamiliar dogs. Kennels and sleeping areas should be kept clean. Providing pet dogs with routine checkups and grooming reduces the chance of infestation.

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About the Author

Connie Whiting has been a professional writer since 1999. She is published in Red Rock Press Anthologies and "Legacy" magazine. She is also an experienced food column writer. Past positions include certified dental assistant and virtual assistant for “Your Invisible Assistant” a service focused on travel arrangements and media writing. Currently, Connie writes for Demand Studios while pursuing an Associate of Arts.