Your guide to ear mites in dogs

While they are not life-threatening, ear mites in puppies and dogs can cause a great deal of irritation without effective treatment. Take an in-depth look at how to deal with them.

Why you need to prevent ear mites in dogs

Ear mites in puppies and dogs may not be as deadly as ticks or heartworms, but they can still make life very unpleasant for your furry friend.


For your beloved dog or puppy, ear mites can cause intense ear irritation and discomfort. These tiny parasites feed on wax and oils in your dog’s ear canals and can result in head shaking or scratching, rubbing of the ears and secondary ear infections.


As a pet owner, you want your pooch to be happy and healthy, so read on to learn more about signs, symptoms, and ear mite treatment for dogs.

Ear mites in dogs
Ear mites in dogs

What do Ear Mites Look Like?

You may think it’s necessary to know what ear mites look like in dogs in order to tackle them, however ear mites are so small that it’s unlikely you will be able to see them. It takes a vet with an otoscope or microscope to properly spot an infestation.

If you want to know how to check your dog for ear mites, it is best to look for signs of ear mites rather than the parasites themselves.

What are Ear Mites?

So, what exactly are ear mites in dogs? Also known by their scientific name, Otodectes cynotis, ear mites are tiny parasites that inhabit the ear canals and surrounding skin. They are a member of the Psoroptidae family of mites, which prefer to live on the surface of the skin to source their sustenance, rather than burrowing further inside the skin as some other types of mites are prone to do.

Given the fact that they are only 1-2 millimetres in length, ear mites are difficult to see with the naked eye and it can initially be difficult to determine what is causing the symptoms (discussed in more detail below).

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

Diligent owners should be on the lookout for the early signs of ear mites in their dogs.

  • Symptoms of ear mites in dogs include:
  • Skin irritation in and around the ears
  • Scratching around the ears, head, and neck
  • Head shaking
  • Dark and waxy ear discharge 
  • An unpleasant odour from the ears

Ear mites symptoms in puppies are typically the same as in older dogs.

How do Dogs get Ear Mites?

But how do dogs get ear mites in the first place? Contact with other dogs or cats with ear mites is typically what causes ear mites to be transmitted in dogs. Ear mite infestations are more common in puppies than older dogs.

When one puppy or dog is infested, the mites can get onto bedding or transfer directly from dog to dog through play and socialising. As dogs like to play together, the mites find it easy to make their move to a new host. Owners should always look for signs their dog has ear mites.

How to Diagnose Ear Mites in Dogs

As mentioned above, ear mites are tiny and inhabit the ear canals. So, how are owners supposed to diagnose ear mites in dogs? It is important to consult your vet if your dog experiences any irritation of the ears. They will use specialist equipment to examine your dog’s ears to confirm if there are ear mites present, or if there is another cause of your dog’s irritation (e.g. a bacterial or yeast infection).

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs

As with all parasites, prevention is better than cure when it comes to ear mites. Simple monthly dosing with NexGard® for Dogs or NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs helps keep dogs healthy by treating and controlling ear mite infestations. 
As well as giving your dog preventative parasite protection, it is also wise to:

  • Keep your dog away from other animals that have ear mites 
  • Regularly wash bedding and toys in hot water
  • Give washed bedding a turn in a tumble dryer to get rid of any pesky mites that might be hanging around
Ear mites in dogs
Ear mites in dogs

Ear Mite Treatment for Dogs

Again, it is important to visit your vet if you suspect that your dog has ear mites, as they will need to examine your dog’s ears and look at a sample under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether a secondary ear infection is present.

So, what are the options when it comes to treatment for ear mites in dogs?

There are different types of ear mite medication, including over the counter treatments such as NexGard® for Dogs products (available from a variety of physical and online stores), or medicated ear drops which may be prescribed by your vet. Puppy ear mite treatment is usually the same as for adult dogs. It is important to use effective and proven ear mite treatments. You should not use unproven home remedies for ear mites in dogs as they may not be safe or effective. If you have questions about the best ear mite treatment for dogs, please speak to your vet.

How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Ear Mites?

A single dose of NexGard® for Dogs or NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs is highly effective at treating ear mites in puppies and dogs. If the ear irritation persists, or a secondary ear infection requiring additional treatment is present, it’s best to consult with your vet. 

Can You Get Ear Mites From Your Dog?

With all this talk of nasty little parasites, you may be wondering if you can catch ear mites. The good news is that the likelihood of ear mites moving from dogs to humans is very small. 

Dog Ear Mites vs Ear Wax

When it comes to spotting the difference between dog ear wax vs mites, it takes an informed eye. It is normal for dogs to have a small amount of ear wax. An excessive amount of ear wax can be a sign of ear mites or other ear conditions. It is important to consult with a vet if there is an excessive build-up of wax, or other signs such as redness, discharge, an unpleasant odour, itchiness or head shaking. 

Ear Mites vs Ear Infection

Ear mites aren’t the only reason your dog might have discomfort in their ears, so how do you know if your problem is dog ear mites or an ear infection?

Ear infections are common in dogs and can have many different causes. They can be caused by a yeast infection, a bacterial infection, or even secondary to an allergic skin disease. It’s best to consult with your vet who can examine your dog and rule out other potential causes by looking at your dog’s ear wax down the microscope.

Dog Recovery & Management of Ear Mites

The good news is that there are highly effective treatments available for ear mites in dogs. A single dose of NexGard® for Dogs or NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs is highly effective at treating ear mites in puppies and dogs. Dogs with ear mites may develop secondary ear infections which require additional treatment. If ear irritation persists, always consult with your vet.

Ear Mites in Dogs FAQs

  • My dog has been scratching his ears. Does he have ear mites? 
    Ear mites are common, especially in young dogs, but there are many other causes of itchy ears in dogs. You should consult with your vet to confirm the diagnosis.

  • What should I do if I think my dog has ear mites? 
    You should consult with your vet to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

  • Can dogs get ear mites from other dogs? 
    Yes. Ear mites can be transmitted from one puppy or dog to another while playing.

  • Can a dog get ear mites from a cat? 
    Yes. Cats can get ear mites that can be transmitted to dogs and vice versa.

  • How long to get rid of ear mites? 
    A single dose of NexGard® or NexGard SPECTRA® is highly effective at treating ear mites in puppies and dogs. If the ear irritation persists, it’s best to consult with your vet.

  • Are ear mites painful for dogs? 
    Ear mites can result in irritation of the ears and secondary ear infections. Dogs will often scratch at their ears which can leave them red and painful. 

  • Can a dog have ear mites in only one ear? 
    Ear mites will generally infest both ears, although one ear may be more severely affected that the other. 

  • Can puppies get ear mites?
    Ear mites are common in puppies. Consult with your vet if you are concerned. 

  • Do ear mites smell? 
    Ear mites themselves don’t smell, but they can cause a smelly discharge to form within your dog’s ears.

  • How do I prevent ear mites in dogs?
    Simple monthly dosing with NexGard® or NexGard SPECTRA® helps keep dogs healthy by treating and controlling ear mite infestations.

Want more information on the treatments available for your dog or puppy?

Learn more about NexGard® for Dogs and NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs® for protection against ear mites and other parasites



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