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Ear Mites

Issue Description
Ear mites spread rapidly, and can be transmitted from even brief physical contact with other animals. In pets, ear mites most commonly affect cats and ferrets, and to a lesser extent dogs. Very rarely, humans can also be affected. Infected animals have a large amount of crumbly dark brown material in their ears. On close inspection, tiny white mites can be seen in the debris. Ear mites do not burrow as some mites do, but live within the ear canal.


Causes
Dogs most typically contract ear mites from other dogs who are already infected with the parasites. As these mites are quite contagious, it's not difficult to pick them up from another canine. For this reason, homes with multiple dogs will often find that all of the canines in the household end up with an infestation of ear mites, rather than just one. Yet, it is not necessary for dogs to actually live together in order to transmit these mites from one body to the other. Simply socializing or playing with other animals is often enough to spread this condition. As a result, it's important to keep uninfected dogs away from infected ones in order to control and prevent the spread of these infection-causing mites.

Dogs that are most susceptible to ear mite infections include young dogs and those that live in shelters or that have been abandoned. Puppies and other young canines tend to be more susceptible because they have not yet built up any resistance to these insects. Adult dogs, on the other hand, generally have developed a resistance which helps to protect them from these troublesome and irritating infections.


Symptoms
The most common behavior exhibited by canines with ear mites is shaking of the ears and head. Dogs may also scratch at their ears and try to rub them with their paws, on the ground, or against an object. Afflicted animals behave in this way because the ear mites cause severe itching. However, although shaking and scratching are the most typical warning signs that canines with ear mites display, these parasites can still be present even in a dog that does not show these signs and behaviors. It is believed that this can occur because the intense itching sensation results from a hypersensitivity reaction to the presence of the ear mites. Dogs that do not experience this hypersensitivity reaction will not suffer from the troublesome itching symptoms that other dogs do. Yet, it does seem that the majority of infected canines do indeed suffer from severe itching and thus will shake and scratch at their head and ears.

If you are concerned that your pet might be suffering from dog ear mites, there are other signs and symptoms to look for as well. Dogs suffering from this affliction may also have scratches and sores in and around their ears. Also, an infection by ear mites often produces a dark discharge from the afflicted pet's ears. Sometimes compared to coffee grounds in appearance, this discharge consists of earwax, blood, biochemicals, and the actual ear mites. Often, this discharge will develop an odor. A dog's continued scratching at its ears can lead to secondary infections which then cause an unpleasant smell that accompanies the dark excretions from the ears. If your pet is displaying one or more of these signs and symptoms, dog ear mites may be the cause.


Diagnosis
Dog ear mites are relatively easy for a veterinarian to diagnose. However, it's very important to you do not try to diagnose and treat this condition yourself. The symptoms commonly caused by ear mites, including discomfort and discharge, can also be caused by other types of ear infections. Trying to treat your pet's ear infection with the wrong kind of medication will not only prolong your dog's discomfort, it can actually make things worse. Therefore, if you believe that your dog might be suffering from an ear infection of some type or another, be sure to take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

In order to make a diagnosis of ear mites, a veterinarian will examine a sample of the dark discharge of earwax and blood to check for the presence of mites and eggs. This is quite simple to do and often only requires the use of a lighted otoscope. The light from this tool attracts the mites, which will then emerge from the wax and move around. The otoscope itself magnifies the insects and makes them easier to see. If mites are not visible with the use of a lighted otoscope, an examination can then be carried out under a microscope. A low-power magnification will reveal any mites that are present.


Treatment
There are several products available to treat your dog's ear mites and to reduce your pet's discomfort. Conventional treatments involve the use of certain drugs, either by prescription or those that are freely available. There are several over-the-counter medications which will kill ear mites, including medications used for killing ticks and fleas. Many of these pharmaceuticals contain insecticides which will not kill the mites' incubating eggs. Therefore, such treatments must continue for at least three or four weeks in order to get rid of all of the insects. Other medications used to combat ear mites include antibiotics, which also need to be used for at least ten to fourteen days.

There are also some natural remedies available that can help to relieve the irritating symptoms caused by an infection of ear mites. Certain natural products such as tea tree oil and marigold have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce inflammation in the ears and to sooth irritated skin. These natural products also have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which can help to promote the healing of infections within the ears. Other natural herbs and substances also have healing and soothing properties. For example, rosemary is known to act as an antiseptic and to provide topical pain relief. Thus, many natural substances can be of great help when it comes to relieving irritating symptoms and increasing the comfort of your dog.

When treating your dog's ear mite infection, or any other condition for that matter, it's imperative to do so under the monitoring of a veterinarian. A qualified animal doctor can help you to determine the best course of treatment for your individual pet and its specific condition. With dog ear mites, it's important to make sure that all the insects are killed in order to prevent a reoccurrence of the infection which will cause more trouble, discomfort, and stress for your beloved pet. As result, any treatment option you choose should first be given the green light by a veterinarian.


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