Mites on Dogs: Types of Bugs You Should Know About

dog scratching due to mange
© MDV Edwards/

Written by Katelynn Sobus

Published: April 12, 2023

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As a dog guardian, the worst thing is to see our fur babies sick. Something that comforts me is having knowledge about common ailments, like mite infestations, so that I know what to look for.

This can help you to get your dog treated sooner, which saves them from the itchiness and suffering that can come alongside mites.

Mites on dogs that you should know about include Sarcoptes and Trombiculidae mites, which cause mange, Cheyletiellosis mites (also known as walking dandruff), ear mites, and Demodex mites (which are usually not harmful, but can be if they become widespread).

Mites on dogs can range from not harmful at all, to causing severe and deadly illness. Some mites are very contagious and can even be transferred to humans.

The best way to prevent mites is to keep your dog on a parasite prevention medication year-round.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about the most common mites on dogs, their symptoms, and how they’re treated.

Sarcoptes mites

Dog with Sarcoptic mange

mites can cause dogs to suffer from sarcoptic mange.


These mites are too small to see with the naked eye, so a veterinarian needs to take a sample and view it under a microscope to make a diagnosis.

You’re most likely to notice these mites because they cause one of two types of mange in dogs. Symptoms of sarcoptic mange include:

  • Intense itching, likely caused by mite droppings rather than the mites themselves
  • Small bumps that break open and turn into large sores as the dog itches
  • Oily dandruff
  • Skin thickening
  • Crusty skin
  • Pus
  • Emaciation

You’ll likely notice the first signs of mange on your dog’s chest, stomach, legs, elbows, or ears. They might also develop skin infections from open sores.

Occasionally, a dog might not show symptoms from these mites. In this case, they’re still carriers who can transfer the mites to other pets or humans they come into contact with.

When left untreated, mange can be deadly. It’s important to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice signs of a mite infestation on your dog.

Sarcoptes mites have a life cycle of 17-21 days. Females will make tunnels in the skin and bury their eggs, and larva is typically born on a dog or other host.

While they’re usually spread through direct contact, other animals and humans can also be infected through shared bedding or other items that contain the mites. The incubation period ranges from 10 days to eight weeks.

Demodex mites

Beagle with demodectic mange

Dogs with a suppressed immune system can develop large demodex mite infestations which can be very serious.

© Seangsuriyapone

All dogs have small numbers of Demodex mites in their hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Typically, they pose no issues.

However, some dogs will develop large infestations that cause problems. This typically occurs in dogs with a suppressed immune system, either due to genetics or an underlying illness. Young puppies and older dogs tend to be most susceptible.

A reaction can be either localized to a few areas, or generalized to the whole body. Localized infestations typically go away on their own, though they can worsen – so seeing a vet is still a good idea to prevent this.

Generalized infestations are more serious and, according to Merck’s Veterinary Manual, have a “guarded prognosis.” This means that death can occur even in dogs who are treated. It’s important to seek treatment immediately to give your dog the best chance.

Symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Darkened skin
  • Acne-like lumps
  • Scabs
  • Inflamed paw pads
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Pus and inflammation in deep layers of the skin

The mites themselves are not visible to the naked eye, so your veterinarian will diagnose your dog based off of deep skin scrapings observed under a microscope.

Ear Mites (Otodectes cynotis)

A dog suffering from ear mites

A dog suffering from ear mites may have redness and swelling in its ear and other signs of infection.


Ear mites are mites that typically live in the ear canal, although they can sometimes be found on the body as well. This is most likely with severe infestations.

Symptoms of ear mites include:

  • Head shaking
  • Itchiness
  • Redness or swelling of the ear
  • Coffee ground-like, dark discharge
  • A typically upright ear drooping
  • Pus
  • Torn eardrum

Your dog might also cut their ear open while itching, or develop an ear infection secondary to the ear mites.

Cheyletiella mites

Cheyletiella mites are also known as walking dandruff because of their appearance. These mites are visible, though small. They look like dandruff, but if you watch them you’ll see that they move around in your dog’s fur.

Symptoms include scaly skin and intense itching. However, some dogs will itch less intensely or not at all, and scaly skin or presence of the mites might be their only symptom.

Mites and symptoms are usually first seen on your dog’s back. Some dogs are asymptomatic, but will still be carriers of the mites.

Unfortunately, these mites are very contagious and can also be transferred to humans. If your dog has them, it’s important to seek treatment for yourself as well as anyone else (human or pet) in the household.

Cheyletiella mites have a three week life cycle and can live up to 10 days without a host, meaning they can remain in the environment even after your dog is treated.

Trombiculidae mites

Trombiculidae mite larvae will feed off of dogs for a few days before moving on

mite larvae will typically stay and feed off of dogs for a few days before moving on.


Trombiculidae mites cause a type of mange called Trombiculosis. The adult mites typically live on rotting material, but a dog can catch their larvae by coming into contact with them. These young mites are what cause illness.

They look like small, stationary orange or red dots that gather in clusters on your dog’s skin. They’re most commonly seen on a dog’s head, ears, feet, or stomach.

Symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Itchiness
  • Hair loss
  • Crusty skin

Larvae will typically stay and feed off of dogs for a few days before moving on. Adults look like small spiders.

Symptoms can persist even after the larvae are gone, and in this case your veterinarian may rule out other ailments, like allergies, before diagnosing your dog with Trombiculosis mange.

How Are Mites in Dogs Treated?


Mites in dogs are treated, and can also be prevented, using parasite prevention medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

Your vet might also recommend bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo or dip and trimming long fur so that removing the mites is easier and more effective.

For ear mites, ointment or drops may be prescribed to treat the ear itself. Full-body parasiticides are also effective.

Your dog’s ears will also need to be cleaned regularly using a dog ear rinse recommended by your vet.

With some mites, your veterinarian might need to recheck your dog by taking repeat samples and viewing them under a microscope. This will tell them if the infestation is improving and when it’s gone.

Lastly, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for any infections caused by the mites. 

Dog medicated shampoo

Your vet might recommend bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo to help resolve skin conditions caused by mites.


Preventing Spread and Reinfestation

It’s important to clean your dog’s environment, as many mites can survive in your dog’s items, your furniture, and carpeting for over a week.

All pets in the household should be treated at the same time, as treating them one by one can cause them to pass the mites back to one another. This will make treatment take longer and cost more.

Humans in the household might also need to see a doctor, depending on the type of mite, as you may also need treatment.

I hope this article has helped you learn more about mites on dogs, how to prevent them, and how they’re treated.

Remember that some mites can cause extreme illness or even death, so it’s important to see a veterinarian for treatment if you notice mites or symptoms. Treating other pets and humans in the household, when applicable, is also vital so that they aren’t spread back and forth long-term.

But most importantly, keeping your dog on the right parasite prevention medications, as prescribed by your veterinarian, is the best way to prevent mites in the first place. 

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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