Ear mites will cause your dogs to scratch and shake their ears very frequently. They live in their ear canal and cause itchiness as evidenced by frequent scratching. But can ear mites be transmitted to humans?
Simple answer is – YES. These pesky parasites spread rapidly and can be transmitted to humans through physical contact with the affected animal. It’s very rare for humans to catch ear mites. If they get into your body, they won’t survive for long since they are not adapted to live in a human host.
Demodectic mites and sarcoptic mites are common mites that can be transmitted from dogs to humans. So, you might be worried about ear mites being transmitted from your dogs to your family.
Can Humans Get Ear Mites From Dogs?
Dogs are prone to ear mites especially the Otodectes cynotis. They live inside the ear canal where they feed on skin oils and wax. You can only see them with the help of an otoscope or microscope.
They are associated with intense itching and redness on the ears of the affected animal. This causes the animal to scratch at the back of the ear, often leading to bruises and possible secondary infection.
Ear mites are however not a threat to humans. But since they are highly contagious, they can easily be transmitted from one dog to another or even to humans. When you interact with your affected dogs, these tiny creatures may crawl and find their way into your body. You are also likely to catch ear mites when your infected dog shakes its head near you.
Since ear mites feed on dead skin, it is possible to find them on your skin or underneath it. In rare cases they can get into your ear canal to feed on the waxy secretions therein.
Outdoor dogs are more likely to get infected with ear mites and may infect other pets or humans. But you don’t have to worry about ear mites. When they get on your body, they are not known to survive for long. They won’t even cause serious infection. In rare cases, ear mites can cause a temporary rush on your arms or other extremities.
Symptoms of Ear Mites in Humans
Dogs and cats happen to be natural hosts for ear mites. However, in rare cases the mites can be transmitted to humans. Since they don’t survive in humans for long, there may be no signs of infection. Usually the symptoms of ear mites appear to be similar to those of other species of mites. These may include:
- Skin irritation
- Redness on the skin
- Stained waxy inside the infected ear(s)
How Do Dogs Get Ear Mites?
Ear mites are tiny creatures but they move very quickly. When one of your dogs is infected, these mites can find their way into other pets in short period of time. Adult ear mites can live up to months and multiply rapidly. Eggs hatch after only four days and reach maturity after three weeks.
When your outdoor dog interacts and gets into contact with affected dogs, it becomes easy for them to contract ear mites. Although they don’t fly or jump, these mites crawl from the adjacent dogs to your dogs.
Alternatively, dogs may get the mites from a kennel that has been previously infested with ear mites. Fortunately, your dog might brush off ear mites with their paw or tongue. However, if the mites manage to get into the ear canal, your dog cannot remove them.
How Do I Know My Dog Has Ear Mites?
The earliest indicators that your dog has ear mites is frequent scratching and shaking of the ears. If you look closely inside the ears, the skin appears irritated and reddish. However, you need to rule out irritations and redness caused by yeast or bacterial infections.
You can perform a simple test to confirm whether the symptoms are due to ear mites.
- Using a cotton ball, remove the black debris from your dog’s ear canal. If the debris have already dried, you can loosen them with some mineral oil.
- Inspect the sample carefully for white dots, the size of a comma. A flashlight will help you observe the sample for ear mites. If you’re lucky, you will see them moving around.
- If you cannot ascertain, whether you dog has been infected with ear mites, consult your local veterinarian. He/she will insert an otoscope into the ear canal to observe any mite activity. Alternatively, a sample can be removed from the ear and observed under a microscope.
How Contagious Are Ear Mites?
Ear mites are small and contagious creatures almost the size of a comma. They mostly inhabit the ear canal of dogs and cats where they thrive on the secretions and dead skin therein. They breed and multiply quickly and can spread to the head and other parts of the body.
They are just as contagious as fleas and may cause fungal and bacterial infections. Inflammation in the ear canal is also very likely to occur. In very serious infestations, the ear drum can get ruptured and this may lead to permanent hearing loss.
Puppies and kittens are more vulnerable to ear mites because of their low body immunity. They catch the mites from their mothers or other dogs they interact with. If your dog goes outdoors, it’s very likely to catch ear mites and infect other pets in the compound.
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How to Treat Your Dog for Ear Mites
Treat your dog as per the guidelines of your veterinarian. Wrong medications can harm your pet. A veterinarian uses special equipment to examine and recommend the correct medications.
If there’s more than one pet in the compound, have them checked for ear mites. This will ensure that all the affected pets are treated to avoid re-infestation. Ear mite treatment will entail the following:
- With the help of a cotton ball, clean the inner ear of all the affected dogs or pets to get rid of debris. They appear as dark and waxy substances often resembling ground coffee. If the substance tends to stick to the walls of the ear, you can loosen it with mineral oil.
- Once the ears are clean, apply the prescribed parasiticide directly into the dog’s ear to kill and remove ear mites. In case of a very severe infection, some antibiotics may be prescribed to help in the recovery process.
- Your veterinarian will also include a prescription for subsequent treatments. You’ll be informed on the frequency of administering the medications.
- Washing your dog regularly can help in remove ear mites from their body even before they get into their ears. Veterinarians encourage washing pets with shampoo and water at least once a week to disinfect them.
- Clean your pet’s house regularly to keep mites at bay and reduce re-infestation.
- Usually, your veterinarian will ask you to return for regular check-ups to monitor the effectiveness of the remedy.
How to Prevent Ear Mite Infections
So you want to keep your dog free from ear mites! But how does your pet get these pesky creatures?
Well, dogs will catch ear mites when they get into direct contact with affected pets or surfaces. Whether at home or at the dog park, any infected pet is likely to infect your dog with ear mites. They can be picked from the surfaces or hurled at them when the infected dog shakes its head.
Another place your dog is likely to pick ear mites is an infested kennel or bedding. However, you can keep your dog free from ear mites by following these strategies:
- The first and most important approach is to limit your dog movement to public places that pose a risk of ear mites.
- In case your dog gets into contact with affected pets or visits their kennel, wash the animal with shampoo and treat it with parasiticides.
- Regularly check your pet’s ears and clean any accumulated waxy. A veterinarian can help you check the interior of the ears. Cleaning also helps in depriving ear mites of their favorite food.
- You don’t want to keep your dog in restriction for fear of ear mites. So, you can apply some topical repellents behind their shoulders to keep ear mites at bay. These repellents work effectively against other parasites like ticks and fleas.
You’re however required to use them on a regular basis to keep these parasites away from your pets. For the safety of your pets, ensure you get a prescription from a qualified veterinarian before using these products.
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Ear mites can be transmitted from dogs to humans through direct contact or when the animal shakes it head. Unlike in dogs, ear mites won’t survive in human hosts for long.
So you don’t expect them to have any symptomatic effects on humans within the short stay. Compared to other mite infections, ear mites are less serious. Their effects on dogs and other pets will depend on the severity of the infection.
However, with proper animal husbandry and expert treatment, you can easily get rid of them and prevent future infestation.