Dog Ear Mites vs. Ear Wax: All You Need To Know

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When it comes to keeping your pup healthy and comfortable, being aware of potential threats to their ears is important. While there are some minor ear issues that can be handled on your own, if you suspect your pup has ear mites or an abundance of ear wax, then it’s time to take them to the vet. Dog ear mites and ear wax can both lead to discomfort and long-term damage if left untreated. In this article, we will take a look at what causes ear mites and excess wax, the warning signs of both issues and the diagnostic and treatment processes. With the help of a veterinarian, your pup can have a comfortable and healthy pair of ears in no time.

Dog Ear Mites vs. Ear Wax: All You Need To Know

Dog Ear Mites: 

Dog ear mites are microscopic parasites that generally live in a dog’s ear canal. These mites feed on the oils and wax produced by the dog’s ear glands and typically cause inflammation. Symptoms of ear mites in dogs may include head-shaking, itching of the ears, and a dark wax-like discharge from the ears. In severe cases, the mites can cause infection of the ear, leading to more serious issues. If an infection is present, the ears may have an odor or there may be redness and tenderness in the ear. In order to treat ear mites, a veterinarian may prescribe an ear cleaner or mite-killer medication to be used directly in the ear canal.

Ear Wax: 

Ear wax, also referred to as cerumen, is a normal substance produced by glands in the outer ear canal. Ear wax usually works to protect the ear canal from dust, dirt, and microbes. It also helps keep the ear canal lubricated. Ear wax typically accumulates in the ear and may be removed as it hardens and builds up. Cleaning the ear too forcefully or too often can damage the sensitive skin of the ear canal while over-cleaning can lead to dry and itchy ears. Wax should never be removed by using a Q-tip or any other object inserted into the ear, as this can cause a build-up of wax. Ear wax can be safely removed from the ears through a professional wax removal treatment.

What Are Ear Mites?

Ear mites (Otodectes cyanosis) are tiny parasites that live in the ears of cats, dogs, and other animals. They feed on dead skin cells, oil, and wax and reproduce in the ears of their host animals. These parasites cause an itchy, irritating sensation in the ears and can lead to a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. A pet with ear mites may show signs of excessive head shaking, scratching, and accompanying redness and odors. In extreme cases, untreated ear mites can lead to permanent deafness. Ear mite infestations can be effectively treated with medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

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Ear mites are incredibly contagious and are often spread through close contact with other animals. If your dog spends any time in an area where other animals have been, such as a kennel or dog park, they can easily contract ear mites from the other animals. These tiny parasites feed off the wax and oils of the ear and can cause intense itchiness and inflammation, as well as discharge from the affected ear. If left untreated, they can cause significant damage to the ear canal.

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Signs And Symptoms of Ear Mites in Dogs

  • Excessive itching, scratching, and/or head shaking
  • Brown, waxy buildup in and around the ears
  • Redness, irritation, and inflammation of the ear canal
  • Discharge from the ear (may be yellow, tan, or bloody)
  • An unpleasant odor coming from the ear
  • Pawing or rubbing at the ears
  • Loss of balance or poor coordination
  • Hearing loss or decreased hearing

How to Diagnose Ear Mites in Dogs

To diagnose ear mites in dogs, start by checking the inside of the ear flap for debris, brown waxy build-up, or a foul odor. If present, the debris should be examined and tested for mites through a microscope. Additionally, close inspection of the ear flap for signs of inflammation, redness, and irritation, and the presence of dark specks which might indicate parasites are also signs of ear mites. If these symptoms are present, further tests such as skin scrapings, cultures, blood tests, and microscopic examinations may be needed to confirm the presence of mites.

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  1. Cleaning the Ear: Most veterinarians recommend that the first step in treating ear mites is to clean the ear to remove any debris and discharge. Cleaning is important because ear mites feed on debris, oils, and wax that accumulate in the ear canal. To do this, warm mineral oil can be instilled into the ear and lightly massaged into the skin and fur of the ear. After a few minutes, the oil should be gently wiped away with a cotton ball or gauze.
  2. Medicated Ear Drops: After cleaning the ear, many veterinarians will prescribe medicated ear drops. These ear drops may contain ingredients that kill the mites such as pyrethrin, ivermectin, or otomidazole. These drops are typically applied directly to the ear canal 2-3 times daily until the mites are eradicated, usually within 14-30 days.
  3. Oral Medication: For severe infestations, a veterinarian may also prescribe oral medication. These medications may include ivermectin or milbemycin, which are typically given as a single dose.
  4. Topical Medication: In some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe topical medication, which is applied directly to the skin and fur surrounding the ear. These topical medications may contain ingredients such as pyrethrin or permethrin, which kills the mites upon contact.
  5. Environmental Treatments: In addition to treating the affected pet, the environment should also be treated. This may involve scrubbing or vacuuming the rugs, furniture, and other surfaces with a pet-safe cleaner to remove mites and eggs. Any bedding or toys that have come in contact with the ear mites should also be thoroughly cleaned.

Home Remedies for Ear Mites in Dogs

  • Coconut oil treatment: Rub some coconut oil on the inside of your dog’s ears to suffocate any ear mites living there.
  • Garlic: Crush some garlic and mix it with water to create a paste. Apply the paste to your dog’s ears, being careful not to get any in their eyes.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and apply it to your dog’s ears. Leave it on for a few minutes then rinse it off.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Create a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water. Apply it to your dog’s ears and massage the base of their ears. Let them shake off the excess solution.
  • Olive oil: Warm some olive oil and apply it to your dog’s ears. Gently massage the base of their ears. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe it away.
  • Goldenseal: Prepare a paste of goldenseal powder and warm water. Apply the paste to your dog’s ears. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
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How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs?

  • Regularly brush and groom your dog’s coat and skin, focusing on checking around the ears.
  • Keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Check their ears for any signs of crusty, waxy buildup, and use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleanser to clean their ears as needed.
  • Avoid sharing collars, bedding, toys, etc. between animals in your house.
  • If your dog is diagnosed with ear mites, your veterinarian may prescribe/recommend a topical or systemic anti-parasite medication.
  • Consider using a natural repellent for your pet. Tea trees, neem, cloves, and garlic are often recommended by holistic veterinarians.
  • If you notice any signs of ear mites in other pets in your home, have them treated and monitored by your veterinarian

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Earwax in a dog is a normal, waxy substance produced by glands in the ear canal. It helps to moisturize and protect the ear, trap dust and other particles, and provide a protective barrier against infection. Excessive earwax can be a sign of an ear infection or allergies. For this reason, it’s important to check your dog’s ears regularly for excessive wax and/or a bad odor, which may be a sign of an underlying problem.

Normal Dog Ear Wax: What Does it Look Like?

Normal dog ear wax is a soft, yellowish-brown wax that is similar to human ear wax. It typically has a soft texture that is semi-solid. When wiped away from the surface of the ear, it may have a slight odor.

Treatment Options for Earwax

  • Removal with an Ear Cleanser: Your veterinarian can recommend an at-home ear cleaning solution that can help soften and remove impacted earwax. Follow the directions provided by your veterinarian when using any ear cleaner and don’t hesitate to reach out if ever in doubt.
  • Manual Removal: Your veterinarian may perform manual removal of earwax by using a saline solution to flush the ear canal or by lightly using tweezers to remove the wax.
  • Medication: In more serious cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or a medicated ear rinse to help reduce inflammation and fight off any secondary infection that may have been present.
  • Surgery: If manual removal and medicated solutions don’t provide the desired outcome, surgery may be necessary. A veterinarian may remove the impacted wax through a process called a bulla osteotomy. This procedure is done under anesthesia and may require sutures.
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How to Clean Dog Ear Wax

  • Flush the ear with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser such as an ear-cleaning solution specifically for dogs.
  • Use cotton balls or gauze to gently remove any debris or wax from the ear.
  • Allow your dog to shake its head to remove any excess wax.
  • Dry the inside of the ear with a cotton ball or towel.
  • Check the inside of the ear for any infection, redness, or irritation. Contact your veterinarian if any of these signs are present.
  • Massage the base of the ear to help move any remaining wax and debris from the ear canal.
  • Apply a few drops of dry oil, glycerine, mineral oil, or ear cleaner into the ear canals.
  • Massage the base of the ear once again to help move the oil and any solids into the external ear canal.
  • Allow the dog to shake its head and wipe off any excess oil with a cotton ball.


Q. How to tell the difference between ear mites and ear wax in dogs?

A. Ear mites will often cause irritation and redness in the ear, excessive itching, and a brown, waxy, or crusty discharge; wax buildup is usually yellow or tan and is usually not itchy.

Q. Should I clean my dog’s ears if he has ear mites?

A. Yes, you should clean your dog’s ears if he has ear mites, to help reduce the amount of mites living in the ears and reduce your dog’s discomfort.

Q. Can you flush out ear mites in dogs?

A. Yes, ear mites in dogs can be flushed out with the help of ear cleaners and medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

Q. What kills ear mites?

A. Ear mites can be killed using medicated topical ointments such as ivermectin.

Q. What kills ear mites instantly?

A. Oils, medicated treatments, and household remedies, such as mineral oil, vinegar, garlic, or olive oil, can all kill ear mites instantly.

Q. Can humans get ear mites from dogs?

A. No, humans can not get ear mites from dogs.


In conclusion, dog ear mites and ear wax are both quite common in dogs. When deciding on which problem is causing your dog’s ear issues, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Both conditions can cause discomfort and irritation to your dog, so it is essential to treat them as soon as possible. Although ear mites can often be treated with over-the-counter medication, it is important to consult your veterinarian for the best treatment advice. Likewise, excessive ear wax is often caused by underlying ear infections and should be treated with specific medicated and/or cleaning procedures. Whatever the situation, it is always important to keep your dog’s ears clean and inspect them on a regular basis.

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