Ear mites under a microscope. Courtesy of Dr. Chris Adolph, Southpark Veterinary Hospital
Ear mites are tiny mites, barely visible to the human eye, that live on the surface of ear canal skin in dogs (and cats). They are barely visible to the human eye. An infestation produces brownish ear wax, similar in appearance to coffee grounds. Ear mites are contagious and can travel from the ears of an infected dog to any other dogs in close contact.
Dogs who are infected with ear mites typically have very itchy and irritated ears and frequently scratch at their ears or shake their heads. The ears can become red and inflamed, and rashes or other skin disorders can occur on the skin around the ears.
Ear mites are a very common problem in dogs, particularly in puppies. If your dog’s ears appear red, inflamed or irritated, or you see waxy debris inside their ears, consult with your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment options.
Ear mites are transmitted though social interaction with other infected dogs, which can include sleeping or playing together. All dogs should be checked regularly for any sign of ear mites.
Ear mites can be successfully treated with a number of medications. Because ear mites are contagious, all pets in the household (both dogs and cats) should be treated for ear mites. Your veterinarian can provide assistance in choosing the most effective treatment for your cats and other pets.
Ear mites are not generally considered a risk to humans.