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Ear Mites vs. Ear Infections

Little puppyEar mites (otodecte cynotis) can be seen in cats and dogs, usually in puppies and kittens. The mites cause an irritation to the inside of the ear and cause a dark, flaky, dry substance to appear. The outside of the ear can also become dry and flaky. The hair may fall out, and the ears may look a little scaly. Ear mites are easily diagnosed by taking an ear swab on the pet and looking at it under the microscope. Ear mites are much more treatable than they used to be, thanks to topical medications like Revolution®.

Ear infections can look like ear mites from the outside, but on the inside it is a whole different story. The infection is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and/or yeast in the ear. Bacteria and yeast like dark, warm spaces to grow in, which makes dogs such as the Golden Retriever, Basset Hound, and Cocker Spaniel prime candidates for these infections. These infections have a very moist, goopy appearance and can become a problem very quickly. Unfortunately, as many as 80% of the dogs that develop ear trouble, do so secondarily to having allergies. This is why so many individuals never seem to be completely cured and the problem always eventually comes back.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose what kind of infection, a swab can be taken from the ear canal.  We look at the slide created under the microscope. It is possible to have both bacteria and yeast in the ears, and some even have ear mites with a secondary infection. Once it is determined what is going on in the ear, then treatment is begun. Usually this includes ear drops or ointment and, in some bad cases, this can include oral antibiotics and other medicine. In some severe cases, animals require surgery because the infections are so bad they cannot be controlled any other way.