How to spot mites on dogs

The three mite species most commonly infesting dogs are Demodex mites, Sarcoptes mites and ear mites.

Mite infection
Mite infection

Demodex mites

Demodex mites are actually a normal inhabitant of your dog’s skin. These mites live in the hair follicles of dogs and are passed from the mother to her pups during nursing. The dog’s immune system normally controls the number of mites, so that they cause no harm. Dogs can develop signs of disease if their immune system is unable to control the mite population. This most commonly occurs in young or malnourished dogs, or those with other diseases that compromise their immune system. Signs of disease due to Demodex mites include hair loss, thickening of the skin, and skin infections.

Sarcoptes mites

Sarcoptes mites not only affect dogs, but can also be transmitted to humans. The mites easily pass from an infested dog to other dogs that are in close contact. The Sarcoptes mites burrow into the skin, leading to intense itching, hair loss, and skin infections. Confirming a diagnosis of Sarcoptes mites can be difficult as the mites live within the skin. Your vet may need to examine a skin scraping under the microscope to identify the mites.

Ear mites

As their name suggests, ear mites inhabit the ear canals and surrounding skin. Signs of infestation typically include skin irritation; scratching around the ears, head and neck; head shaking; the presence of ear discharge that is dark and waxy (resembling coffee grounds) and an unpleasant odour from the ears. Ear mite infestation may also allow for a secondary bacterial or yeast infection to occur in your dog’s ears. Your vet can diagnose ear mites by looking at the sample from the ear canal, under the microscope.


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