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Dog Mange
An Itchy Nightmare For Your Pet!

dog scratching Dog mange is a skin disease caused by an infestation of parasitic mites that live on a dog's body. The mites are a severe health concern for many dogs because they can lead to many health issues.

A dog with mange often looks a sorry sight because mange generally causes the coat to look pretty bedraggled and bald in spots. And it doesn't help that there's a lot of itching and scratching that goes hand in hand with mange.

How To Recognize Mange Mites

There are a few types of dog mange, each of which is characterized differently. The most common types include demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange also known as canine scabies, or cheyletiella mange also known as walking dandruff. Different breeds of dogs are prone to different types of mange.

The mange mites themselves have different appearances. For example demodectic mange, is caused by a mite so small that it can only be seen under a microscope. On the other hand, the cheyletiella mites are large and reddish in color and can be seen on the skin of a dog by simply looking at it. And lastly Scarcoptic mange is caused by mites that are very tiny and spiderlike in appearance.

dog mange

What Are The Causes

To a lesser or greater degree, puppies, adult dogs, senior dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems are all susceptible to dog mange. In fact most dogs are host to a small population of mange mites all the time and do not cause any trouble if it stays that way!

Puppies are more susceptable to demodectic mange which they mostly acquire from their mother shortly after birth. Because this is a pretty normal condition, it doesn't usually present any concerns unless the mites suddenly multiply in large numbers.

In adult or senior dogs, a compromised immune system can often be the reason behind a proliferation of demodectic mites. Also, certain breeds of dogs seem to have an genetic tendency to be more at risk.

Signs And Symptoms Of Dog Mange

If you see your pet scratching wildly at both ears, it is more than likely related to ear mites.

With only a few mites, a severe reaction can be produced especially for hypersensitive dogs. This reaction will lead to itching, scratching, and dogs violently shaking their heads. The flaps of the ear may look crusty, very red and/or swollen. The canals could have a waxy discharge which is dark brown and appears dry and crumbly. It looks very similar to coffee grounds and in light of a secondary infection, can have a bad odor.

Causes of Ear Mites In Dogs

  • The primary cause of ear mites is simply the gift of the insect from one dog to another, such as might occur at a dog park, dog beach or dog kennel!
  • Dogs that are not in good condition or whose immune system may be weaker as a result of some other problem, are more at risk for a mite invasion.
  • Another cause can be insufficient grooming - ears that are dirty or have built-up debris, are more likely to draw parasites. Regular ear cleaning can definitely help to keep bugs away.
  • The shape of a dog's ears, while not exactly being a cause, can be a contributing factor! Dogs with long or large folded over ear flaps provide more attractive places for parasites to hang out. It's just the way these microscopic creatures like it, moist, warm and well-concealed. Plus, there's not much air circulation to dry out these type of ears.

Treatment For Ear Mites In Dogs

After it is confirmed that your dog has ear mites, do yourself a favor and treat all the small pets you have in your home including any ferrets or bunnies, even if these pets don't appear to have the problem. You may save yourself a lot of grief down the road by avoiding cross-contamination if it turns out that these other pets actually have been invaded by mites.

  • First of all, your dog's the ears should be cleaned properly because dirty ear canals will shelter the ear mites with the cellular debris and excess wax. Debris also makes it challenging for the ear medications to reach the mites and destroy them.
  • Quite likely your vet will have provided a miticide ear preparation to be applied after the ears have been cleaned. These preparations often contain thiabendazole and pyrethrins. The most common treatments are Mitox, Cerumite, Nolvamite, Tresaderm, and Acarex. Some medication may contain antibiotics to treat infection and/or steroids to relieve any itching. They should be used according to the instructions from the manufacturer and the veterinarian.

    There are also flea control products which may be prescribed to effectively protect your dog against ear mites, while also offering treatment options.
  • Tougher cases of ear mites in dogs can be treated with stronger medications. The most important thing is to continue with the treatment for the duration of the prescription. Stopping before the treatment is meant to finish can allow the existing mites to reinfest the dog, stronger and more resilient to the medications.
While the dog is being treated, there might be mites which escape from the canal and reside temporarily on the dog elsewhere. This will result in scratching and itching. Any dog or animal which came into contact or comes into contact during the treatment process should also undergo treatment once per week for four weeks with a shampoo based in pyrethin. This is a type of flea powder which will remove the mites.

Home Treatment Options

If you decide to treat ear mites in dogs yourself, following are a few home remedies you might try clear them out. If however, there are signs that something more serious might be going such as discharge or swelling, or you are just not sure, you would want to take your dog to the vet for an evaluation.

  • Groom the pet, especially around the head and tail area - these are places the mites might also have infected or move to once treatment of the ears is started. Deal with any mats you see in his coat. These not only trap moisture, but provide the ideal breeding ground for parasites.
  • Put on your raincoat and get ready to flush out your dog's ears. Use a 2-to-1 vinegar and water solution. Heavily soak cotton balls with the solution then release it into the ear. Massage for a minute or two, then stand back to let your dog shake out the mess - aren't you glad I mentioned the raincoat! Use dry cotton balls to finish the job. Repeat this every other day until you see some improvement and then about once a week.
  • In conjunction with keeping the ears clean, oil treatments can often help in sending the mites packing while also reducing the itching they cause. Massaging oil into the ears works by clogging up the mite's breathing apparatus - speeding up their demise. Olive oil infused with Mullion leaves (available online) is one such treatment.

    This can be made by placing about four ounces of the leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker, covered with a cup of olive oil. Let it infuse for 6-7 hours on the low setting, then strain into a suitable container when it has cooled off. Massage some drops of this oil into your dog's ears every day for three days, skip two days, then repeat. Use up to 10 drops in each ear (depending on the size of your dog's ears).
  • Bathe the head and tail area more frequently during the treatment time to assist in drowning a few more mites that may have escaped. Use a nice and soothing organic shampoo to relieve itchy skin.

If you treat ear mites in dogs with home remedies and they do not show any signs of clearing up in a few days, or appear to be getting worse, it's time to call your vet.


It is important to realize that even after we have successfully ousted the mites from our dog, we can take steps to prevent ear mites in dogs.

  • One way to do this is to improve and maintain good health in our pets. Add supplements to strengthen the immune system making them less vulnerable to parasite invasions. Enchinacea in one herbal source that can be used for this purpose.
  • Review their diet. Make sure it is providing the optimum nutrition for whatever stage they are at in their life.
  • Give them a weekly check-up to monitor their condition and look for any warning signs of problems. You can learn how to do that on this page.
  • Establish and keep up the habit of good grooming to prevent mats from forming which can induce parasites and start the itching cycle.

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