Bugs in the Ears by Dr. David J. Kerr, DVM

Dirty, smelly, sore ears are a real pain for our dogs and cats. Often times ear infections there is an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast causing these painful ears but sometimes bugs are the cause. Otodectes cynotis is the proper name for ear mites. These microscopic eight legged mites are most often found in puppies or kittens who get them from their mother. Adult dogs and cats seldom have irritation caused by the mites but they can harbor them and be a source of infestation for others. Thankfully, ear mites do not like people.

These mites live in the ears and feed on the wax in the ears. To encourage an abundance of wax, the mites cause irritation in the ears which stimulates the wax producing glands. This irritation and the excess wax make a wonderful home for the mites and also for growing bacteria and yeast. All this leads to a very sore, itchy ear with lots of ‘stuff’ in it.

Cleaning the ear helps to remove the built up wax but does not effectively remove the mites or their eggs. To cure an ear mite infection, either ear drops or systemic medication is used. Once the mites are dead they no longer cause irritation and the natural ‘elevator’ in the ear canal will push the wax and the dead mites out.

Preventing ear mite infection focusses on the mothers of the puppies or kittens and ensuring they have no mites to pass on to their offspring. Generally ear mites are easy to treat as long as they are caught early.