Let’s face it—we’d all like to think that our four-legged furry best friends are impervious to the ills of the world. Why wouldn’t we? All we want is for them to be safe and happy. 

Sadly, this isn’t always the case. As they frolic around, our furry friends can pick up issues that cause them quite a bit of discomfort. And if your dog appears preoccupied with itchy ears, the culprit might be tiny creatures living in them—ear mites. 

Of course, there are myriad issues that can cause itching and scratching. So how do you know if ear mites are the culprit of your pup’s ear problem?

Keep reading as we go over six potential signs of ear mites in dogs and what to do about them.

Ear Mite 101

Ear mites—or Otodectes cynotis—are tiny parasites that live in the ears of cats and dogs.1 While almost invisible to the eye, they can sometimes be seen as white specs. And as unsavory as it may sound, they survive off the blood in your pet’s ears.

Here’s the thing about ear mites that live in your dog’s ear—they’re highly contagious. Luckily, there are several signs that your dog might have ear mites so you can mitigate their ear problem right away. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the signs of ear mites.

#1 Strong Odor

As much as we love them, dogs aren’t typically the sweetest smelling creatures on the planet. And unless you bathe your pup daily, you’ve likely gotten used to that distinct dog scent (not bad, just doggy). If you notice that your dog’s ears smell bad, it’s a good idea to investigate further.

That being said, several things can cause your dog’s ears to smell:

  • Ear mites
  • Ear infection
  • The need for a bath

Keep in mind that just one sign doesn’t necessarily point to a definitive conclusion. Keep reading to see if there are additional signs of ear mites.

#2 Excessive Scratching

If there’s one thing dog owners know, it’s that our furry friends sure like to scratch. And who wouldn’t? Everyone has an itch they just have to scratch now and then—why wouldn’t it be the same for our dogs?

That being said, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to your canine companion’s behavior, especially if they have itchy ears.

If you notice them scratching at their ears constantly, take note. Excessive ear scratching is another of the signs of dog ear mites. And too much scratching can cause cuts and abrasions around their ears, leading to further discomfort and raising the risk of infection.

#3 Constant Head Shaking

Shaking is another common dog activity. Whether it be getting water off themselves (and all over you), responding to a chill in the air, spotting a Chihuahua, or letting you know that no, they don’t want that fishy-looking piece of cheese with a pill in it, dogs shake all the time. 

Once again, context and frequency are key here. 

If your dog is shaking their head constantly (and not when you’re trying to feed them pill-infused cheese), you might need to check for ear mites. However, it’s also important to note that head shaking is also a common symptom of a dog ear infection as well. And depending on the severity of the shaking, it could lead to further complications. Look for ear debris in the outer ear or any signs of mite eggs. 

Young female Bearded Collie dog with white and fur walking in the garden

Ear Hematoma

It’s important to note that if you notice your dog shaking their head too much, you should try to figure out what’s wrong quickly. Too much head shaking can lead to hematoma—a buildup of blood in the ear flap.2 If your pooch does have ear mites, you don’t want the discomfort to build. Contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned to learn about mite treatment options.

#4 Inflammation or Scratches

This might be an obvious sign that something’s wrong, but it’s important to note nonetheless. If you think your dog might have ear mites, pay close attention to their ears. If you notice any of the following, a trip to the vet is likely in order:

  • Red and inflamed ears
  • Scratches
  • Scabs
  • Crust around the ear
  • Hair loss

Ear mites are pesky, and they can cause a lot of discomfort for your pooch. Make sure you keep an eye out for visible issues during your daily cuddles and pets.

#5 Ear Debris

Coffee grounds might be essential if you want to make yourself a good cup of joe, but they definitely don’t belong in your dog’s ear. Black specs that look like coffee grounds can be another indicator that ear mites have latched onto your poor pooch. So if you happen to check your dog’s ear and see small lumps that look like coffee grounds, take note. 

#6 Fluid From the Ear

Imagine the tar monster from Scooby-Doo. Alright, maybe nothing that dramatic. But if you see dark, viscous liquid oozing from your puppy’s ear, it’s a sign something is definitely wrong. 

Make sure to keep track of any signs that you notice. That way you can give your veterinarian a comprehensive understanding of the situation should you need to take further action.

What Causes Ear Mites in Dogs?

But wait! You might think. How could my precious pooch have ear mites?

As we noted, an ear mite infestation is very contagious. And to make it worse, they can be contracted from two very common sources:

  • Infected Animals –  Dogs love socializing with each other. But unfortunately, this is the most likely way your pooch will pick up ear mites. Because of how contagious ear mites are, it’s incredibly easy for them to hop from one dog to the next. While your dog’s new buddy might just want to say hi, they might be unknowingly carrying quite the nuisance with them. If you notice symptoms start to show up in your pet’s ears, you might have a mite infection on your hands.
  • Outdoor Areas – Taking your dog out for a walk or letting them run around a park is a wonderful thing. But sadly, this is also where ear mites can lurk. Tall grasses, forests, bushes—all of these can transfer ear mites to your poor pup.

As you can see, ear mites are by no means rare. The good news is that ear mites are perfectly treatable. 

Treating Ear Mites

Your first order of business if you notice any combination of potential ear mite symptoms should be to set up an appointment with your veterinarian and learn about ear mite treatment options. When you do so, make sure to give them a full list of the symptoms you’ve noticed.

Your veterinarian will be able to do a comprehensive exam to determine if it’s an ear mite infestation. They’ll likely use an otoscope to see if mites are actually there.3 If they determine that ear mites are to blame, then they’ll provide a medicated treatment for you to administer at home. This can be anything from ear drops to ointments or creams—or a combination.4 It will probably take several weeks for the treatment to be completed as the medication addresses the full life-cycle of mites.

On that note, if there were any other wounds or complications, additional treatment might be required if there are significant scratches on the ear or your dog has developed an ear hematoma due to head shaking. 

Pay attention to what your vet has to say, and follow their directions to the letter.

Cleaning Your Home

During the time of treatment, you should also make sure to clean your house thoroughly.1 This includes:

  • Furniture
  • Bedding
  • Blankets
  • Floors
  • Toys

Make sure to pay special attention to soft surfaces and places your dog frequents. This will help make sure there are no extra mites crawling around in your house, getting ready to re-infect your puppy right after their treatment ends.

A black and white Siberian husky walking on a summer field

Can Ear Mites Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, unless you intend to keep your furry friend in a bubble, there’s no real way to prevent them from getting ear mites. That being said, all hope is not lost. 

While you might not be able to fully prevent them from getting ear mites, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of future infections.

  • Pay closer attention to where your four-legged friend runs off to. While it’s not feasible to anticipate every potential place ear mites can be, you can try to keep them out of locations that have a higher likelihood of ear mite transmission.
  • Another good practice is to check your dog’s ears when they get home from a dog park or other places where ear mites are commonly found.
  • One of the best ways to help mitigate ear mites is to regularly clean your dog’s ears. Not only will cleaning your dog’s ears regularly help promote good hygiene overall, but it will also help you spot ear mites sooner. And, ultimately, that will lead to a happier, healthier dog.

The Sound of Healthy Ears—Vetericyn

Scratching, shaking, and bad odor all point to one common enemy—the ear mite. Luckily, becoming aware of the signs and risks of ear mite infection is the first step to ensuring your pup’s long-term health.

And as easy as it is to contract ear mites, it’s also straightforward to make ear care a regular part of your dog’s grooming routine.

If you’re looking for a safe, effective way to keep your dog’s ears clean, look no further than Vetericyn Plus® Antimicrobial Ear Rinse. Vetericyn offers safe options to keep your pet in good health, no matter their need. 

Great for both routine ear care and helping alleviate irritation, Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Ear Rinse can help keep your four-legged best friend healthy during all stages of ear care.


  1. PetMD. How to Get Rid of Ear Mites in Dogs. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_ear_mites
  2. PetMD. Ear Hematoma in Dogs. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/ears/c_dg_dog_ear_hematoma
  3. Purina. Ear Mites in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment. https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/dogs/health/parasites/ear-mites-in-dogs
  4. Brekke Veterinary Clinic. What Causes Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats? https://www.brekkevet.com/blog/what-causes-ear-mites-in-dogs-and-cats.
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