What are Mites & How To Get Rid of Them

What are Mites & How To Get Rid of Them

Mites are nasty little creatures that cause skin irritation and inflammation in dogs and cats. Infections can be very contagious, with the mite eggs often transferring between dogs. They are a common health concern and can lead to a range of issues such as skin irritation, hair loss and ear infections.

Here, I will talk about recognising the symptoms of a mite infestation in dogs, how to check for them, and most importantly, how to get rid of them!

Dr Carol Doyle Veterinarian

Carol Doyle, BSc VN DVM

Carol DoyIe is a small pet veterinarian in a practice in Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is the human companion to her cats, Nala and Donal, two horses - Indie and Bella, and her dog Phoebe.

As a guest blogger and advisor, Carol shares her professional advice with pet owners, answering many of the questions that she gets asked regularly in-clinic.

What are the Types of Mites?

The three most common mite species in dogs are Demodex mites, Sarcoptes mites and ear mites.

Demodex Mites

Demodex mites are a harmless inhabitant of your dog’s skin; they mites live in the hair follicles and are passed from a female dog to her pups during nursing. Your dog’s immune system can controls the number of mites, therefore rendering them normally harmless.

Sometimes young or malnourished dogs can develop signs of disease (known as demodectic mange) if their immune system is unable to control the mite population. It can also appear in dogs with a compromised immune system. It’s important to see a vet in order to get the mite population under control.

Sarcoptes mites

These mites cause a disease called sarcoptic mange in dogs. They can easily pass from an infested dog to other dogs in close contact. They can also be transmitted to humans. If your dog is infected with these nasty critters, you may notice intense itching, hair loss, and skin infections. Confirming a diagnosis of Sarcoptes mites can be difficult as the mites live within the skin, so it’s important to bring your dog to your vet so they can conduct a full examination.

Ear Mites

An ear mite infection will cause your dog’s ears to itch, which often results in excessive head shaking or scratching their ears with their paws. Ear mites can also produce wax and irritation, causing your dog’s ears to appear red and inflamed, as well as producing a dark and waxy discharge. An ear mite infestation may also allow for a secondary bacterial or yeast infection to develop in your dog’s ears. Your vet can identify ear mites by inspecting at a sample from the ear canal under the microscope.

Symptoms of Mite Infection

Some common signs that your dog has mites include;

  • Hair loss in patches or all over the coat
  • Dandruff
  • Excessive scratching
  • Red or irritated skin
  • Crusty patches of skin
  • Mites appearing on the skin when you part the fur.
  • Secondary infections, either bacterial or fungal infections

How to Check for Mites

You might be able to tell if your dog has mites by carefully inspecting their skin. If they’re excessively scratching, biting, or chewing themselves, there’s a chance they have mites. If you suspect they do have mites, I recommend consulting with your vet for confirmation, as they will be able to tell what kind of mites your dog has, and the best course of treatment.

Your vet will usually diagnose mites by studying a piece of skin or hair under a microscope. This way, they can identify the type of mite affecting your dog.

dog sitting on the grass scratching himself due to skin sensitivity

How to Get Rid of Ear Mites

It is essential that your dog is examined by a vet if you suspect a mite infestation. Your vet will need to possibly perform tests to confirm the diagnosis, and determine whether any more problems have developed as a result of the mite infection. Your vet may also provide you with medicine or a spot-on to help get rid of the infestation. Mites, if left untreated, can lead to bacterial infections, swelling of the ear canal, and even deafness.

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