How to Tell If a Dog Has Mites

By Tammy Dray

Ear mites are easy to identify because of the way they look and smell. Left untreated, mites also can cause secondary infections and cause a lot of pain and discomfort to your dog. If you suspect your dog has mites, talk to your vet as soon as possible so he can give you a proper diagnosis and choose the right treatment and course of action.

Signs and Symptoms

If your dog has ear mites, you might start to notice signs and symptoms of the problem even before you can see anything inside his ears. For example, common signs of ear mites include scratching at the ears, shaking the head and rubbing the ears on carpeting. If this continues for several days, your dog might start losing hair around the ears or show lesions or scratches.

What it Looks Like

Debris from ear mites has a typical look. If you suspect your dog has ear mites, search inside the ear for waxy secretion that's either dark brown or black. You also might notice that the ear canal -- the bottom of the ear -- has debris that looks like coffee grounds. The ear probably will be red and inflamed as well, and you also might have a strong odor coming from their ears.

Secondary Issues

Left untreated, ear mites can result in secondary ear infections. Ear infections can be painful and will require antibiotics to clear. As the problem gets worse and your dog keeps scratching, there's also the risk of him rupturing a blood vessel inside the ear. This can lead to further infections and swelling; it can be serious enough to require surgery.

Examination and Diagnosis

A veterinarian will diagnose ear mites by examining the ear canal through a digital otoscope or by viewing a sample of the ear debris under a microscope. Ear mites are tiny, eight-legged parasites that your vet easily can identify with a microscope. Once a definitive diagnosis of ear mites can be made, then proper treatment can be initiated and secondary infections can be prevented.