A mite-y infection driving dogs mad

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A by Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road, Spalding

My dog is shaking his head. Sound familiar?

First, a word of warning. There are many causes of ear infection in dogs and ear mite infection is not the most common, although it is regularly seen. If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, it is extremely important that you consult with your vet to obtain a correct diagnosis.

What are ear mites?

As the name suggests, ear mites are a tiny spider-like parasitic mite that infect the ears of dogs. They usually live in the ear canals, but can live on other parts of the dog’s body. They are a common cause of ear infection in dogs and in puppies under six months of age.

Ear mites feed on dirt in the ear and ear wax. They burrow into the ear, causing inflammation which the body responds to by producing more wax, resulting in more mites – and so the circle begins again.

They are are very contagious and can be passed on from dog to dog but not to humans.

What are the symptoms of ear mites in dogs?

Ear mites are terribly uncomfortable for your dog. We all know how it feels when those horrid little thunder bugs are crawling over our skin in the summer – we can wipe them off, but dogs can’t wipe mites off the inside of their ears.

Usually the first symptom you notice will be your dog scratching his ears or shaking his head due to the extreme itchiness that the mites cause. His ears may be painful to touch and he may cry in pain when you touch them or while he is scratching them. He may rub his face along the ground trying to relieve the itching.

You may also notice am unpleasant smell coming from the ears. Dogs may cause damage by scratching causing the ears to bleed.

Diagnosis of ear mites in dogs?

If you have a look inside the ear of an infected dog you will see dark reddish brown or black debris at the opening of the ear canal. (Please don’t insert Q-tips into your dog’s ear!) Ear mites are sometimes visible to the naked eye, but can be seen more clearly with a magnifying glass. They are seen as tiny white dots moving around in the dirt and wax.

Consult your vet

Your vet will look in your dog’s ear with a magnifying instrument called an otoscope and may inspect the debris from the ear under a microscope for a more definite diagnosis. Ear mite infections can be serious if left untreated resulting in damage to the ear canals and eardrums leaving deformity of the ears and possible deafness.

Secondary bacterial or yeast infections are also common, so it is important to consult your vet. Your dog may require antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.

Treatment of ear mites.

A word of warning. Over the counter ear mite treatments will be of no benefit to other types of ear infections that can commonly affect dogs. Ear mite infection may be misdiagnosed by the dog’s owner, often causing a delay in getting the correct treatment from your vet.

There are many affordable topical treatments available from vets that will prevent ear mites. These treatments are applied to the skin of the dog between the shoulder blades, not directly into the dog’s ear!

Our advice would be if you suspect that your dog may have ear mites make an appointment to see your vet and get the treatment started sooner rather than later... think thunderbugs!

In answer to Miss Reynolds’ question received last week:

My cat eats well but is losing weight. He is 14-years-old and my friend said he may have renal disease. What is this?

Many elderly cats can develop renal disease. This is when the kidney function is reduced and is often only seen after 75 per cent of the kidney has stopped working.

Please don’t be alarmed with this. The disease (condition) is easily managed and next week I will go into more depth about this.

My advice to you now is to get your cat diagnosed as having this condition first, it could be another reason for the weight loss. Diagnosing renal disease is done by a simple blood test and then you can start the treatment.