I constantly see dogs with the presenting complaint, “He was shaking his head so I used some ear mite drops that I bought at [insert retail outlet], and it isn’t any better.”
Of course there’s a reason for that. In about 80% of my patients, it isn’t ear mites at all. The biggest demographic in my practice with mites is kittens and puppy mill bred puppies (Yorkies, ShihTzus and other small or toy breeds).
Fact is, it is rare for me to see an adult dog with ear mites. The most common ear disease in my practice area is otitis externa, an itchy inflammation of the external ear canal, with or without a concurrent yeast or bacterial infection. Allergies and poor ear hygiene are the most common causes.
The best way to describe how a dog with otitis externa feels is to ask you to remember the worst case of poison oak you’ve ever had and imagine having it deep down inside your ears where you can’t reach it to scratch. It’s miserable.
There are two simple diagnostic tests that veterinarians do to rule out ear mites and diagnose yeast or bacteria infections. Both tests are quickly done by your veterinarian, who also will examine the ears with an otoscope.
The veterinarian will then likely prescribe an otic medication to be applied into the ears based on her exam and the test result. Sometimes she will add a routine cleanser, oral antibiotics or other anti-itch medications such as corticosteroids and/or antihistamines. And sometimes even a cortisone shot is needed to quiet very inflamed and swollen ears to allow then to be medicated.
For more information, view my educational slide presentation “My Dog Has an Ear Infection! Now What?” There are even training tips as to how to get your dog to accept having his ears medicated.