Ear mites or yeast ear infections – how can you tell?

Does your pet have an ear infection or ear mites? Here’s how to distinguish between these two common issues.

There he goes again – you can tell by the constant jangling noise of his collar that your dog is scratching at his ear and shaking his head. He’s miserable, and so are you, just watching him suffer! Two typical causes are the most likely suspects: an ear infection or ear mites.

Ear infections

Ear infections in dogs are common and can be very painful. They are typically caused by an overgrowth of yeast and/or bacteria in the ear canal, which is deep and moist, providing the ideal conditions for yeast (which is a fungus) to grow. An infection due to a yeast build-up has a terrible odor, is especially itchy, and is often accompanied by a brownish/grey greasy discharge.

There may be many causes for your dog’s yeast or bacterial ear infections. For instance, dogs with long, floppy ears are prone to these types of infections, as well as dogs that spend a lot of time in the water. The environment inside a dog’s ear canal is warm and moist by nature, and dogs with floppy ears experience limited airflow, setting up a perfect storm for fungus (yeast) to grow in abundance. Dogs that spend a lot of time in the water may experience the same issues due to repeatedly wet ears.

Likewise, some food allergies are thought to foster excessive yeast/fungus growth by containing too much sugar or related products. Other dogs may develop ear infections because of accumulated dirt. The good news is that weekly cleanings and/or diet modification can go a long way towards prevention or total elimination of an ear infection.

Ear mites

Ear mites (ugh!), on the other hand, are tiny parasites that feed off wax in your dog’s ear. They are very difficult to see with the naked eye, and may look like dark, grainy specks that resemble coffee grounds. For some dogs, an infestation of ear mites might just be a slight irritation, but for others, ear mites can become a raging battle with more serious symptoms such as mange. Not only can ear mites lead to ear infections, they can move on to attack other parts of your dog’s body in short order. Ear mites are often seen in puppies and kittens due to their weaker and developing immune systems.

Thankfully, ear mites don’t like humans. But they are highly contagious to other animals. If one of your pups has ear mites, your other pets may contract them, and all of them will require treatment. Since ear mites are transmitted socially, you’ll need to clean the environment as well. To be sure you’re on the right track, wash pet bedding in hot water with bleach and dry it in a hot dryer; vacuum all common areas thoroughly and as many times as needed.

The solution for ear troubles

Be sure to consult with your veterinarian if your dog is showing signs of either of these conditions.  The vet can likely diagnose the problem with a quick swab of the ear canal.  For a bacterial (not fungal) ear infection, the vet may prescribe an antibiotic. For ear mites, the vet may prescribe an easy-to-administer, anti-parasitic formulation to get rid of them swiftly. But either way, follow up by using an infection fighting remedy on your dog’s ears. Look for something that’s easy to administer and can be used as an everyday ear cleaner to help prevent future issues.

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