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Ticks on Dogs’ Ears: Everything You Need to Know

This is not medical advice. For medical advice regarding pets, see your veterinarian.

Ticks that attach to your dog’s ear or anywhere else on its body have to be removed immediately because they can transmit dangerous diseases to your pet. Their removal from the ear area should be done with caution, as it is a sensitive region.

Ticks are external parasites. They are active most of the year, especially in regions with mild winters. They wait on grass blades, shrubs, or trees for a host to pass by and then climb aboard to feed.

Ticks can transmit dangerous diseases, no matter where they attach to the body. All dogs can be bitten by ticks, so their prevention is vital.

They prefer places with thin and sensitive skin, such as the ears or the groin area. In these areas, ticks can easily feed on blood.

In this article, we will focus on dogs’ ears, what ticks look like on dog ears, how to tell if your dog has a tick inside its ear, and if they are dangerous.

What Do Ticks Look Like on Dogs’ Ears?

Ticks vary in size depending on their biological stage. They also vary in color depending on how much they’ve fed. In short-haired breeds, ticks can be easily noticed when attached to the dog’s ears. In long-haired breeds, you should check your pet ears after each walk.

Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva (six legs), nymph (six legs), and adult (eight legs).[1] 

Besides the egg, all stages feed on blood until they become full engorged. They then drop off the host to molt and evolve or lay eggs.

Engorged Ticks

A tick larva is as big as a grain of sand[2]. Even if it is attached to your dog’s ear, where there is less fur, you still won’t be able to see it. They are light in color, but as they feed, they become darker.

Although nymphs are as big as poppy seeds when they are unfed, you can still notice them if you closely inspect your dog’s ears. Their color is dark-brown or reddish-brown, depending on their species.

Engorged tick nymphs are double the size of unfed ones and are more visible on your dog’s ears. Their color can be silver, green, or even black (deep red).

Related: What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Tick type Color Size Shape
Unfed Dark-brown, black, or reddish The size of a sesame seed or an apple seed. It depends on the species. Oval
Partially fed Green, silver, or with a white hue Double the size of unfed ticks Semi-globular with a wrinkly appearance
Engorged Green, silver, white, pink, or yellow hue Double or triple the size of unfed ticks Globular 

Tick vs. Mole on Dog’s Ear

Engorged ticks can be confused with raised moles, especially when they are of a dark color.

Moles can’t be confused with ticks on your dog’s ear as moles don’t grow out overnight. The ear is also not an area where moles are commonly found on dogs.

There are several differences between ticks and moles to look for:

  • Moles may have tiny hairs.
  • Moles have a large support base, while the tick’s base is narrow.
  • Moles have irregular shapes, while ticks are oval.

There are other situations where ticks can bury themselves in the skin, but only partially. In this case, the mouthpieces are buried in the dog’s skin and can have the appearance of a mole or skin tag. Upon careful inspection, you should see the tick’s feet or notice movement.

Tick vs. Skin Tag on Dog’s Ear

Skin tags are usually 2-5 millimeters but can grow larger. An engorged adult female tick can grow up to 12 millimeters.[3]

Skin tags typically don’t grow on a dog’s ears. They also do not grow overnight, as with moles. It can take up to seven days for an adult tick to become engorged, while a skin tag takes much longer to grow to the same size.

Here are the main differences to distinguish skin tags from ticks:

  • Skin tags are of soft consistency compared to the hard bodies of ticks.
  • Skin tags are of irregular shape, while ticks are oval.
  • Skin tags are much smaller than engorged ticks.
  • Skin tags are usually colorless, while ticks are dark-brown or reddish (unfed ticks) or gray, silver, pink, or yellowish (engorged ticks).
  • Skin tags are of soft consistency compared to the hard bodies of ticks.
  • Skin tags are of irregular shape, while ticks are oval.
  • Skin tags are much smaller than engorged ticks.
  • Skin tags are usually colorless, while ticks are dark-brown or reddish (unfed ticks) or gray, silver, pink, or yellowish (engorged ticks).

Related: Tick or Skin Tag on Dogs: How to tell the difference

Tick vs. Skin Tag on Dog’s Ear
Image Source

Tick vs. Tumor on Dog’s Ear

Skin tumors are also part of the skin growths category. Unlike moles or skin tags, tumors can appear on a dog’s ears and can seem like they grew overnight. Most of the time, tumors are skin-colored or reddish, have a large base, and are round or irregular.

Whether it’s a mole, skin tag, tumor, or tick, inspect your dog’s ear carefully and look for legs or movement.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Tick inside Its Ear

Ticks can enter your dog’s ear canal. Here they are the most protected from scratching or biting, and the skin is thin and hairless, making it easy for them to attach and feed. To tell if your dog has a tick inside its ear, look for small, dark bumps sticking up. If it’s moving, it might be a tick.

Ticks don’t just stick to the outside of dogs’ ears. They can also enter your dog’s ear, especially when your pet is playing in places with a lot of grass.

Because they are not as visible as the ones that attach to the outside of your dog’s ear, you should look for ticks in your dog’s ears after each walk.

Symptoms

If you don’t notice any tick during a superficial check of your dog, but your pet is still scratching or behaves strangely, look into its ears.

A dog that has a tick in its ear can show the following behavior:

  • It scratches that ear more.
  • It paws at its ear.
  • Shakes its head.
  • It keeps its head down, especially on the ear side.
  • Yelping in pain.

Related: Ticks on Dogs Symptoms

symptoms of dog has a tick inside Its ear

Are Ticks on Dog’s Ear Dangerous?

Ticks can be dangerous regardless of where they attach themselves, especially if they carry diseases. Ticks have to be removed as soon as you find them to reduce the risk of infection or transmitting diseases.

The places where ticks usually like to attach and feed are:

  • Face area (around the eyes, on the ears, and inside the ears).
  • Groin area.
  • Armpits.
  • Between the toes or skin folds.

Ticks infected with various pathogens can transmit them to your dog, no matter where it attaches – on its ear, inside its ear, on its belly, etc.

They can transmit several tick-borne diseases:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Bartonellosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Hepatozoonozis

When a tick feeds on blood, it transmits pathogens for these diseases through its saliva. The saliva combines with the dog’s blood and enters its bloodstream.

Are Ticks on Dog’s Ear Dangerous

How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog’s Ear

Removing a tick from your dog’s ear or inside its ear must be done with caution. The tick’s mouthparts can break and remain on your dog’s skin. This can cause an infection or granuloma. It is recommended to use tweezers or special tick removal tools for removal.

Removing a tick from your dog’s ear is easier than removing one from the inside of the ear.

Use the following tools and products for removal:

  • Gloves to protect you
  • Flashlight
  • Tweezers or tick removal tools
  • Disinfectant

Tick on Dog’s Ear Removal

Follow these steps to remove a tick from the outside of a dog’s ear:

  • Put on the gloves.
  • Make sure your dog stays still.
  • Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Make sure you don’t pinch your dog.
  • Pull up with the tweezers.
  • Do not twist the ticks.
  • Dispose of the tick.
  • Disinfect the area.
  • Monitor your pet for the following week or two.

Tick in Dog’s Ear Removal

Do the following to remove a tick from the inside of a dog’s ear:

  • Put on the gloves.
  • Grab the flashlight and illuminate the area.
  • Grab the tick close to the skin.
  • Pull up.
  • Dispose of the tick and disinfect the area.

The skin is much more sensitive inside the ear, so you have to make sure you don’t pinch your dog as this can cause pain, swelling, and bleeding.

Related: How to Remove a Tick From a Dog

Tick on dogs

How to Prevent Ticks on Dogs’ Ears

The best protection is prevention. Prevent ticks on your dog’s ears by regularly applying antiparasitic products, such as collars and pipettes, or by administrating tablets.

Ticks are annoying little pests that can carry diseases and infect you or your pet. To make sure you lower this risk, it is recommended to take preventive measures.

The most effective products are spot-on pipettes, collars, or chewable tablets.

You can use more natural tick treatments, such as essential oils, to prevent ticks. Keep in mind that the application of essential oils isn’t always succesfull.

Never use 100% essential oils. Dilute them with water or carrier oil (coconut, olive, or jojoba oil) before use – the maximum concentration should be 2% but preferably 1%.

Always test essential oils on a small skin area to see if your dog develops an allergic reaction (some dogs are more sensitive).

You can mix 6-7 drops of the following essential oils[4] with one cup of water and spray the solution on your dog’s ears every other day:

  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Citronella
  • Tea tree
Peppermint Essential Oil for Fleas on Dogs

Do You Need to Contact a Vet?

You should always contact a vet when in doubt about your pet’s health. It is best for your pet to be examined by a doctor if you are not sure the lump on your dog’s ear is a tick or other skin growth. You can do more harm than good if you try to remove a mole or a skin tag instead of a tick.

Contact a veterinarian whenever you are in doubt. The vet will help you remove the tick properly.

It is always best to seek advice and guidance rather than taking things into your own hands, especially when you do not know what you are dealing with.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.