Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats
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Ear mites are a common problem that can affect dogs and cats of all ages and breeds. Learn how to recognize the symptoms and protect your pet.

Ear mites can cause a number of symptoms, mostly just by irritation of the skin. Some symptoms of ear mites include constant scratching of the ear, hair loss, and inflammation. Often the animal will push the infested ear around the carpet or furniture, in an attempt to relieve the itching. It is possible that the ear mites produce enough waxy discharge, that the ear canal becomes partially or entirely blocked. Blockage results in lessened hearing ability and irritation to the animal. Dogs and cats will scratch the area so consistently that scabs form. Odor may also accompany an ear mite infestation.

Brown Coffee Ground-like Particles

These particles are left behind from the ear mites, as a discharge from ingesting skin cells and earwax. While the mites themselves are difficult to see, since they are white, the discharge makes the canal look dirty, indicating an infestation.

Otitis Media and Otitis Externa

This means a swelling or infection in the middle ear canal and the outer ear. Ear mites cause irritation to the ear canal, and when bacteria mingle with the irritation, infection can occur. Ear mites are the most common cause of ear infections in dogs and cats, especially very young ones all the way until young adulthood. Unfortunately, ear infections can become very serious, and need veterinarian intervention to prevent further damage of the canal or hearing ability.

Head Shaking

This is a common symptom of ear mites, the way an animal shakes their head to get water out of their ears. It is a natural instinctive reaction to the feeling of something inside the ear canal. If the head shaking becomes more and more constant, it is a good indicator that the ears need attention, and possibly ear mites have infested the canals.


Scratching on and around the ear is a common symptom of ear mites, but as animals tend to do this whether they are infested or not, it often is overlooked as an indicator. Scratching can make the situation worse, by breaking the skin and introducing bacteria into the wound causing infection.


Odor is often associated with ear mites. Because of the infestation, there grows an increased amount of brown waxy buildup, which emits a foul odor. Odor may also be from an ear infection caused by the ear mites. Sometimes the animal will scratch at the ear, and then lick their paw to investigate the odor transferred from the ear.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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