I used to think pets that walked in circles and attacked their ears were cute, until I did a little bit of research about getting rid of ear mites (Otodectes cynotis). Ear mites are a bit scary if they’re allowed to do enough damage to your pet. As it turns out, cats and dogs can get an infection from ear mites if they aren’t treated, which their middle ear which then throws off their balance and either causes them to not walk straight or to walk in circles constantly. Worse still, ear mites have been implicated as the cause of allergic reactions similar to those of dust mites. In fact, many people who test positive for dust mite allergies also test positive for ear mite allergies. Considering how many people own pets, the potential for chronic allergies to be caused by an ear mite infestation is pretty high…and it’s miserable for your pets.
Luckily for you, ear mites are relatively easy to treat yourself. The only reason you should be taking your pet to the vet because of ear mites is to confirm a diagnosis, or to cure them of a particularly bad ear mite infestation. Otherwise, you should be able to get rid of ear mites with plain old mineral oil. Below is a step-by-step guide for curing your pet of ear mites.
Ear Mite Symptoms
If you observe your dog or pet having behaviors different from the norm, you may want to consider ear mites as the cause. The symptoms are pretty easy to spot, and while they can be caused by other things as well, ear mites are often one of the more common causes.
Here is what to look for:
- Shaking Head
- Scratching Ears
- Loss of Balance
- Walking in Circles
- Buildup of Exudates
Do-It-Yourself Ear Mite Treatment
Vets are expensive and often inconvenient. You can often begin to treat ear mites on your own. Here are a few ways to do it.
Checking your pet for ear mites is the first step to successful diagnosis and treatment.
Things to look for when checking your pet for ear mites would be grey or black spots in the ear, otherwise known as exudates (blood, puss, etc.). Signs of ear mite infestation include persistent and excessive scratching of the ears, repeated shaking of the head (as if they’re trying to shake the mites loose), as well as fever and a generally lethargic attitude. The most prominent “telltale” symptoms of an ear mite infestation are the shaking of the head and the buildup of gunk in the ear.
Applying mineral oil to the pet’s ear with an eye-dropper or a special ear irrigation pump is the best way to get rid of ear mites.
Mineral oil is good for your pet because it does two important things. First of all, it helps to dissolve ear wax and the exudates that may be plugging your pet’s ear. Second of all, it smothers and kills ear mites. Use the mineral oil once a day for about three weeks and use enough to coat as much of the inner ear as possible. It’s more common for people to use too little than too much. If you do use too much, your pet will just shake its head to get rid of the excess. Problem solved and no damage done. If you don’t have mineral oil, it is pretty easy to find and it is not terribly expensive either. We like food-grade mineral oil (here on Amazon) because we think it is purer and safer than some of the rougher stuff which could potentially contain toxins.
It actually only takes the eggs about 4 days to hatch, but it’s best to be safe and go for too long, especially since there are so many places for potentially pregnant ear mites to hide. It’s hard to get them all quickly. You can get ear syringes to help with this at Amazon.
Once the mineral oil is applied, massage your pet’s ears to help spread the mineral oil while loosening and getting rid of ear mites and ear wax.
This is done by gently grasping the ear with your thumb inside and your fingers on the “furry” outside, giving you the leverage you’ll need to apply a slight amount of pressure to the inside of the ear. Don’t dig into the ear with your thumb nail or push down into the inner ear. Simply rub the thumb as far down as it naturally seems to go, making sure to spread the oil all over.
After massaging the oil into your pet’s ear, simply allow the pet to “shake” the oil out of its ears naturally.
There shouldn’t be any need for Q-tips or cotton swabs in order for the animal to clear the oil out. What you might want to consider is doing this project outdoors because if you don’t, you may end up with a bit of mineral oil, exudates, and ear wax all over your carpet or your furniture.
If you can still see ear wax or the deposits from ear mites in your pet’s ears, you may want to try wiping it away with a cotton ball.
Some people have suggested using Q-tips to briskly wipe away any remaining gunk, but I don’t trust anyone putting anything in my ear besides me—and I imagine your pet will feel the same way. It’s best not to chance doing any more damage to your pet’s ears than the ear mites may already have done.
Instead, read on as you might be a candidate for bringing your dog in to the vet. Better to do that than risk having a bigger problem from a botched invasive ear mite reduction effort.
Veterinary Ear Mite Treatment
You should only be bringing your pet to your vet if you can’t seem to get rid of the ear mites after 6-7 days, or if your pet is suffering from recurrent ear mite infections. You may also want to bring your pet to the vet for eat mite treatment and a check up if they seem to be suffering from the more severe symptoms of an ear mite infestation like a fever, lethargy, walking in circles or loss of balance. If your pet is a dog, your vet is likely to treat them with an oral or intravenous dose of ivermectin. If your pet is a cat, they are most likely to be treated with selamectin. Whatever you do, do not treat a cat with any medication that contains Permethrins. Permethrins are a common mite, flea, and lice treatment that are extremely toxic for cats
More Ear Mite Notes
It is believed that ear mites can last a few months in the environment without a host, so just because your pet is cured of ear mites now doesn’t mean they won’t come back. This also increases the potential for boarded and adopted pets to come home with an ear mite infestation. If you’ve recently treated your animal for eat mites, I would suggest steam cleaning and shampooing your carpets and washing any fabrics your pet has come into contact with in soap & hot water.
Natural Ear Mite Control
Honestly, mineral oil really is the best form of ear mite control, and the only natural remedy I can think of. There are other people who suggest using almond oil, olive oil, or even corn oil or vegetable oil, but I wouldn’t put that stuff in my ears, would you? Mineral oil has been used for quite a while to help loosen and remove ear wax. Go with what works and forget about it. Problem solved. You don’t need a huge jug of it, and Amazon sells Swan Mineral Oil in a 16 oz container.
Ear Mite FAQs
Do Ear Mites Smell?
Yes, they can. Actually, it is not the ear mites themselves that smell, but rather the dried blood in your dog’s ear canal. If you smell a foul odor coming from your dog’s ears, you should be on alert that ear mites might be present.
Are Ear Mites Contagious?
Yes. Dogs can transmit their ear mites to other dogs, from playing together, eating together, sleeping on the same bed or together, and other close-proximity activities. If you have one dog with ear mites, best to keep your other dogs away from it until the problem has been solved.
It is also a good idea to thoroughly clean the living quarters, including giving any fabric a good, thorough heated dry.
Do Ear Mites Bite Humans?
It is very rare, but it has been known to happen. While highly unlikely, it is best to take precautions with a dog that is known to be infected with ear mites, and probably best not to share a bed with it.
How Long Do Ear Mites Live?
Ear mites live for about 2 months. The problem is that while they are alive, they are constantly reproducing. That is really their one job on this earth. As a result, you cannot “wait out” ear mites or wait for them to pass. You need to get rid of them, they will not go away on their own.