Does Your Dog Have Ear Mites or an Ear Infection?

Picture of a Chow Chow

If you’ve noticed that your Fido seems not to want to be touched on one side of his head or you see him scratching one or both of his ears too often, you might be wondering what’s wrong.

Dogs can have yeast and bacterial infections in their ears, just like humans can. But they can also have parasites, ear mites, which is not something that usually shows up in people.

If you want to be able to make the difference between one and the other, keep on reading.


The reason ear infections, whether caused by bacteria, yeast, or even a parasite can happen so commonly in dogs is that most of them don’t get enough air in their ears. Long-eared breeds are more likely to have auricular problems than short-eared ones.

When the inside of the ear isn’t properly ventilated, there can be several things that can happen.

Either there is a normal microorganism inside your dog’s ear that can create colonies and begin to affect the ear in a pathogenic way or there could be a microorganism from the outside that finds this moist and unventilated environment and thrives in it by causing an infection.

Naturally, ear mites don’t usually live inside dogs’ ears, so they have to be transmitted by another pet or they can be caught from a place like the side of a door on which another infected dog rubbed his head.

Does Your Dog Have Ear Mites?

Ear mites, also known as ‘Otodectes’ feed on the oil and wax present in your dog’s ears. They can be quite small, so you might not even notice them. Most live for three weeks, but they are very prolific in terms of breeding, which is why if you don’t treat this health problem, your dog will never be able to get rid of ear mites only on his own.

The biggest problem that they cause is that they can even damage the middle and internal ear, which means that your pooch can eventually lose his sense of hearing.

But how can you tell if your dog has ear mites and not a bacterial infection, for example? Well, in most cases, you will notice dark debris. It’s not exactly common to see the same type of almost black, small pieces of skin and coagulated blood in bacterial ear infections.

When caught early, ear mites are typically easy to treat. Take your dog to the vet for a checkup and they will most likely recommend an ear solution that will kill the parasites (one of the most common ones is Milbemite).

Preventing ear mites isn’t hard, but you do have to occasionally check your canine friend’s ears and even clean them once in a while if you notice that they have a lot of oils and wax in them.

Does Your Dog Have a Bacterial or a Yeast Infection?

As previously mentioned, bacteria and yeast love moist and unventilated environments, so dogs that have floppy ears are more likely to be exposed to this type of health problem than others.

There can be a wide range of bacteria that can thrive in your dog’s ears, and because the microorganisms can get trapped in the ear canal, it can also be the perfect breeding environment for yeast, too. It’s actually uncommon for a dog to have just a yeast infection and for it not to be bacterially complicated, as well.

Some dogs don’t show any symptoms other than a reluctance to be touched on the affected ear. Others will have a red ear, inflammation, and pain, but they will also produce an unpleasant smell. Since the infection causes a lot of discharge, you might also notice something leaking from your dog’s ears.

What’s important to note is that bacterial and yeast ear infections are a lot more common in dogs that have food allergies and that tend to scratch their skin but also their ears. That happens because they effectively take the microorganism on their paws and introduce them into their ears and they do this merely to alleviate their itchiness.

What Can You Do at Home?

Even though there is this rumor going around according to which you can use vinegar to clean your dog’s ears, you do not have to do that. Vinegar can be too acidic and can cause more harm than good, especially if your dog already has an irritation in one or both of his ears (from all the scratching).

There are, of course, special ear cleaners that you can get even online, and many of them have been approved by veterinary organizations. Try to make sure that the product contains no hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as it can also irritate the dog’s ears.

The best piece of advice that we can give you would be to inspect your dog’s ears as often as possible. You don’t have to do it every single day, but once every few days or at least once a week you can and you should. As is the case with any other health problem, early detection can mean a lot when it comes to your canine friend’s full recovery.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

If you notice that your Fido’s ears are full of oils and wax, you might want to clean his ears even if you don’t have to. In fact, cleaning your dog’s ears too often can also be a mistake as it gets rid of the protective layer of wax, which covers the membrane and doesn’t leave it bare for germs.

However, if you have a dog with long ears, you should inspect them regularly, and you can clean them once in a while. You can use a special ear cleaning solution, but before squirting it into the ear, you have to clean and remove the wax and oils so as to make it easier for the medication to do its job.

Once you’ve gotten rid of all the gunk, you can add the solution into your dog’s ears, massage them thoroughly, clean them again, and then add more solution.



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