For the love of you pet: Multiple types of mites can cause multiple types of problems

By John Beck
March 15, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 14, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.

I have a question concerning mites in dogs, which turns into Sarcoptic mange . I have three dogs and they are all outside. They have never had this problem for eight years. I have always used a prescription flea and tick monthly topical medicine on them. My older dog, which I stopped using the flea and tick on her in December because I felt it was doing more harm than good, has this mite issue. The worst is her hair on her ears is missing. I have used rubbing alcohol 90 percent on her and washed all the dogs with oatmeal shampoo. So my question is, is there anything I can put on her ears? Should I dip them? If so, what should I dip them in?

Well, that is a lot of questions in one . I will start from the beginning and break it down as we go along. There are multiple types of mites that can live on your dog. Sarcoptic mange or scabies is a mite that can live on the skin throughout the body. It is contagious to all other animals, including humans. Severe hair loss, scabs and itching throughout the body are all clinical signs. Demodectic mange has very similar symptoms but is not contagious to anything or anybody else. It is often referred to as the hereditary mange. This mite lives on a dog's skin naturally but some puppies inherit the inability to fight off an overgrowth of this pest. Ear mites are typically found in cats and puppies. They do not extend outside of the ear canal and can cause a buildup of dry, black debris in the ear. They also cause the ears to be very itchy. It can be hard to tell the difference between a skin infection or problem caused by Demodectic mange, Sarcoptic mange and bacterial or yeast infections. The only way to truly tell the difference is by taking a skin scraping and taping and examining these samples under the microscope.

The second part of your question mentions the discontinuation of prescription flea and tick prevention. Most of the prescription, topical flea and tick medications are non-systemic. This means the medication that kills the parasites is not absorbed into the blood stream. It is stored in the hair follicle and is wicked out when the flea runs through the hair, coating the flea with medicine which then causes the flea to become paralyzed, fall off and die. The use of these medications is typically very, very safe regardless of your dog's age.

The last part of your question mentions hair loss on the ears. True, this is typically caused by ear infections. Whether your pet has an ear mite infection or more likely a yeast and bacterial infection, the symptoms are identical. Both cause head shaking, scratching or rubbing at the ears, brown or black debris in ears and sometimes an odor. The only way to differentiate between mites and a yeast or bacterial infection is again by sampling the ear and examining it under a microscope.

Your use of alcohol on the ears can help dry an ear out if it is trapping moisture which is a contributing factor to yeast or bacterial ear infections. But alcohol alone will not kill the yeast or bacteria that are growing in the ears.

If your pet has ear mites, alcohol might help a little but only by killing some adult mites, but new ones will quickly hatch out. Lastly, a dip will only be beneficial if you have a skin infection caused by mites. If this is true, a veterinarian can send the dip and instructions home with you or perform the dips in their office.

Hopefully I have addressed your concerns. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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