Ear mites are microscopic, eight-legged insects that are passed by direct contact from dog to dog. Although usually found in the ear canal, these mites can also be found on other parts of your dog's body and are contagious to other household pets.
The mites feed on the lining of the ear canal, causing irritation and the production of a brownish-black, waxy discharge. This wax can be seen by shining a small flashlight into an infected dog's ear. Another indication of ear mites is scratching at the ears, inflammation and head shaking. When your veterinarian looks into your dog's ears with an auroscope, the mites will appear as tiny white dots moving across a field of dark wax.
If your veterinarian determines that your dog has ear mites, he or she will give you an insecticidal preparation, usually in a liquid form, to rid your dog of the mites. In most cases, these preparations also contain an earwax solvent, since the mites can hide under the waxy debris. To medicate, hold your dog's head slightly to one side. Put a few drops into the ear canal and massage the outer ear to work the preparation down the ear canal. Wipe away any excess with a clean, dry cloth. Be sure to treat both ears.
Since ear mites are highly contagious, you will also need to medicate the ears of other dogs or cats in your household. You may also need to treat the dog's entire body with an insecticial powder or spray, since ear mites can live on other parts of the body. In most cases, treatment must be continued for several weeks.