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What are Otoacariasis?

Otoacariasis in dogs is easily treatable by your veterinarian and occurs when the mite, usually the Otodectes cynotis mite, has invaded the ear canal. This mite is categorized as an arachnid and is in the same family as ticks and spiders. They will feed on the oils and wax found in your dog’s ears. They do not actually bite your dog’s skin, but they do cause intense itching, causing your dog to scratch. Your dog’s scratching can cause your dog to develop open wounds behind or around the affected ear.

Otoacariasis in dogs is most commonly caused by the ear mite Otodectes cynotis. Otoacariasis will cause intense itching in the affected ear, this itching will cause your dog to scratch or claw at the affected ear. You will notice a thick, dark colored ear wax in the ear and there is usually a foul smell that accompanies the ear mite infection. You may also notice your dog’s ear drooping or hanging at an odd angle.

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Symptoms of Otoacariasis in Dogs

Otoacariasis will need to be treated by your veterinarian to ensure that all of the mites are eradicated. Any open wounds caused by your dog scratching will need to be treated to ensure that they do not become infected. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. 

  • Scratching at their head or ear
  • Dark, reddish-brown discharge from the ear
  • Scabs or abrasions near the base of the ear
  • Shaking their head
  • Foul smell from the ear
  • Dirty looking or wax filled ears

Causes of Otoacariasis in Dogs

Otoacariasis occurs when your dog comes into direct contact with another animal that is infested with ear mites. The most common ear mite that dogs become infected with is Otodectes cynotis. 

Otoacariasis can spread from species to species, so if you have a multiple pet home you will need to have all pets checked for ear mites and treated at the same time. This will ensure that the otoacariasis is eradicated in all of your pets so you do not have a re-infestation. Wild animals can also carry the mites to your dog if they come into direct contact. In rare instances, the Otodectes cynotis mite has spread to humans.

Diagnosis of Otoacariasis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will need your dog’s medical history as well as what other pets are present in your home. They will then perform a physical examination, paying close attention to the inside and outside of the affected ear. General diagnostic testing may also be performed including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam and a biochemistry panel. These tests will also tell your veterinarian what medications your dog will be able to tolerate.

A thorough examination of the ear canal of the affected ear will also be done. You may notice your veterinarian sniffing the ear to determine if a foul smell is present. They will also take a sample of the discharge from the affected ear. The sample will be analyzed under a microscope. The mites will be easy to identify under a microscope or an otoscope. 

Once your veterinarian has confirmed otoacariasis in your dog, they will discuss treatments and also the need to treat any other pets in the home.

Treatment of Otoacariasis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough ear cleaning and will use a specific solution that is made for cleaning ear mite infected ears. Once your dog’s ear has been cleaned thoroughly, another solution such as moxidectin, imidacloprid, or selamectin will be used in the affected ear. 

Your veterinarian will recommend daily ear cleanings and application of the prescribed solution for several days to ensure the mites and their eggs have been eradicated. Anti-fungal medications may also be given. Antibiotics may be prescribed, especially if your dog has caused severe abrasions or open wounds from scratching.

There are over the counter ear mite treatments available at many pet specialty stores or online. It is recommended that you do not treat your dog for otoacariasis without first consulting your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will discuss these options with you, but if the ear mite solution does not kill off the eggs of the mite there will be a re-infestation once those eggs hatch.

Recovery of Otoacariasis in Dogs

Preventing otoacariasis is relatively easy. Keep your dog’s ears clean. If your dog has upright or erect ears, you will want to clean them thoroughly once every two weeks. If your dog has ears that hang down, you will want to clean them thoroughly once a week. Also, you can apply an anti-parasite solution to your dog’s ears once a month to prevent an ear mite infestation. Speak with your veterinarian about the best solution to use to prevent otoacariasis from occurring.