Dog Ear Mites vs Yeast Infection – How Can You Tell?

Ear problems in dogs are the worst because they cause extremely painful symptoms that cause the dog to be in excruciating pain. The worst part for dogs is that the itching caused by mites and yeast infections is especially difficult to relieve by itching with the hind legs. 

Fortunately, both of these issues are easily resolved with the right medication prescribed by your veterinarian. It is critical to understand which your dog has because it will help you communicate more effectively with your vet, resulting in better and faster treatment. 

Although your dog appears to be in excruciating pain, it’s reassuring to know that it can be resolved in a matter of days after your dog starts the medication. Make sure you look at other causes of the symptoms your dog is experiencing too. 

In some cases, it could be something as simple as fleas or allergies. Allergies can be promptly treated with a single monthly shot from your veterinarian. 

Both have a lot of symptoms in common, so it can be difficult to tell which is which, especially if there is no discharge from the ears. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities between these two conditions and how you can tell which is causing your dog distress if any.


The Most Common Traits of Mites

1: Skin Lesions

Dogs with mites in their ears are more likely to have skin lesions as well. Part of this is because the mites are eating away at the dog’s ear to call the area home. This can result in a variety of symptoms such as ear canal bleeding, scabbing, and discoloration. 

Skin lesions can also cause pain, primarily because the dog will attempt to itch the area, which is why, if at all possible, itching should be avoided unless necessary. After the medication has had time to work on the area, skin lesions usually clear up fairly quickly. 

Fortunately, skin lesions are unlikely to cause long-term or eardrum damage. It is critical to remember not to put any human-made ointment into the ear. 

This is because it may aggravate the situation or even cause an allergic reaction or worse in your dog.

It’s important to remember that if the skin lesions are bleeding badly to contact a vet. While it’s incredibly rare, bleeding may not only cause distress, but it may also cause the infection to get into the broken blood vessel and cause sepsis. 

2: Dandruff

Dandruff is commonly associated with areas of the body such as the head. It can, however, be found in the ears of dogs, especially if mites are present. Dandruff is made up of dead skin cells, so it stands to reason that it would be found nearby. 

Dandruff is a common symptom of mites, so if it is present in moderate to heavy amounts near the affected area and not on other parts of the body, mites may be to blame. Dandruff caused by mites will disappear quickly once treatment is initiated. 

Because dandruff is simply dead skin cells, it is unlikely to cause actual ear canal damage. Avoid cleaning the area unless directed by your vet or unless doing so would cause further discomfort to your dog’s ears. 

Always avoid inserting anything deep into the eardrum, if at all. It has the potential to rupture the eardrum, push debris deeper into the ear, or cause other types of damage.

3: Itching

Itching is much more common with mites in dogs’ ears than with yeast infections, though it can occur with either. The difference between it and a yeast infection is that the itching will be much more intense. 

If your dog simply cannot keep his leg away from his ears and exhibits the symptoms listed above, mites may be the source of the problem. There are various methods for treating itching, but unless the underlying cause is addressed, the itching will return with a vengeance. 

Itching can aggravate itching in some cases because it irritates the mites and causes them to move around, causing even more irritation and itching. As a result, try to keep your dog from itching, especially if you notice any blood or scrapes near the ear. 

To relieve the itch, he may be ignoring any damage caused by his nails and itch anyway. Itching is likely to subside after a few hours of not being itched. Itching can cause irritation, which leads to even more itching.

The Most Common Traits of Yeast Infection

1: Ear Discharge

Because yeast infections have very distinct symptoms, it is usually much easier to determine whether or not your dog has this type of infection. The most noticeable symptom is ear discharge. This is most likely a darker discharge, like brown. 

Blood is usually not seen until it is severely infected, at which point a vet should be the priority over anything else, under any circumstances. Despite this, ear discharge is a common symptom of a yeast infection. 

This is actually a good thing because it allows the ear to discharge small parts of the infection rather than allowing it to build up pressure and cause even more pain. 

This discharge is likely to clear up quickly once treatment is initiated. Never put anything into your dog’s ear to clean it. Only use a soft cloth to clean the outside of the ear if necessary.

2: Inflammation

Inflammation is another tell-tale sign of an ear yeast infection. Because, as the name implies, the ear is infected, swelling will result. Infections are caused by bacteria in a specific location, and when this occurs, various inflammatory hormones rush to that location to inflame the infected area. 

This increases the amount of oxygen and white blood cells in the affected area, allowing the bacteria to be killed. However, it does not always imply infection. Swelling can be a sign of allergies in some cases, which can also cause discharge and swelling. 

Allergies, on the other hand, are unlikely to cause severe distress in the majority of dogs. So, if your dog’s ears are discharging normally and swelling, an infection should be taken seriously.

Anti-inflammatory medications are toxic to dogs even in small amounts, so never give them to your dog. Vets can prescribe medication to treat both the infection and the swelling and pain.

3: The Smell

Yeast infections are certainly unpleasant to smell. It may smell similar to rotten eggs or garlic breath, but worse, which is not surprising. While this may appear to be frightening, it is a normal part of any infection. 

Bacteria, after all, are commonly unpleasant in terms of not only their infectious properties but their appearance too. This is why breath can stink. Nonetheless, this foul odor is not usually associated with allergies or other minor ear problems. 

If your dog’s ears are swollen, smelly, and discharge fluids, he or she has likely has a yeast infection. Remember that the smell is caused by bacteria, and when the bacteria are killed, the smell goes away. 

As previously stated, never attempt to clean the ear unless it is on the outside. This is especially true with an infection, as it may push its way into the ear even deeper, intensifying the situation.

Key Points To Remember 

  1. Mites and yeast infections have many crossover symptoms, such as itching, redness, pain, and even wax build-up.
  1. Yeast infections can evolve into a worse matter if it is not treated promptly, so even if it may not be the issue at hand, consult a vet anyways.
  1. Mites will not cause a discharge as long as it is not a rare case. Discharge is more common with infection or allergies.
  1. Both of these conditions require treatment from a vet. Never try to treat either of these by yourselves, as you may mistreat the issue at hand, or make it worse.
  1. Never stick anything into the ear to clean it. Only clean outside of the ear. Sticking foreign objects into the ear can make it worse. 


Mites and yeast infections are both unpleasant experiences for dogs. They both have the potential to cause severe symptoms. There are a few symptoms that overlap between the two, such as itching, redness, and swelling. However, mites alone are unlikely to cause discharge. 

So, if you suspect your dog has one of these conditions, check to see if there is any discharge. If there is, it is similar to a yeast infection. If he does not have discharge, mites are the most likely cause. 

However, just because your dog meets the criteria discussed here does not imply that he has one or the other. Many different things can affect the ear, including the previously mentioned allergies, fleas, and many others. 

The only true way to find out is to consult with a veterinarian to ensure your dog is properly diagnosed and treated. Finally, keep in mind that infection can spread quickly and even be fatal if not treated promptly, so have your dog checked by a vet as soon as possible.

Written by Brian Rucker

Brian Rucker has been a dog lover since childhood. He has had his Lab Mix with Hound for over 10+ years now! They enjoy playing outdoors together. Brian loves sharing his knowledge about all things dog on this website. Read more of Brian's articles.