Dog Scratching Ears, Reasons Why and Home Remedies

Dog scratching ears
Dog scratching ear

Dogs are known to scratch their ears when itching. This though is occasional. When you observe a dog scratching ears consistently, it is likely that he is experiencing an ear problem. With this in mind, why do dogs scratch their ears and what can you do to relieve the itch? Itchy dog ear remedies are dependent on what the cause is. Below we explore various causes of dog and puppy ear scratching and their respective remedies. Also discussed are various pointers on when to have your pet checked by a professional.

Dog Scratching Ears

While a dog scratching ears occasionally are normal, intensively itchy ears are irritating for any pet. In most cases, this will affect both ears causing untold misery. In some cases where it is left unchecked, the pet will scratch too much, shake their head and may leave raw skin from the scratching. This will in the long term lead to excruciating pain and discomfort.

Dog scratching ears
Dog scratching ear

To deal with the scratching in the best way, it is important to first understand what the cause of puppy or dog itchy ears is. This will help in adopting the best form of itch management, may it be topical treatments or otherwise.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Ears?

There are different causes of itch in dog ears. These include both medical and non-medical causes. Individual dogs have different reactions to different triggers and therefore something that leads to one dog scratching ears may not have the same effect on another. Some of the common causes are as discussed below.

Allergic Reactions Resulting in Dog Constantly Scratching the Ears

Where a dog is having allergic reactions to something, his ear flaps may become inflamed. This form of scratching may result from allergens that have been inhaled or absorbed leading to the dog’s immune system fighting the same.

As a result, there is excess wax production plus other secretions. This brings about a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria and yeast. With the presence of these organisms, there is greater inflammation leading to an ongoing cycle of itchy ears until the allergens are eliminated or the reaction suppressed.

Yeast and Bacterial Infections Causing Dog Itchy Ears

Like mentioned above, yeast infections can be a secondary effect of allergic reactions. This though is not always the case and at times there are just the right environmental conditions for them to thrive even where there no allergens are present.

Just like with yeast infections, bacterial infections are mostly secondary effects of allergic reactions. They, however, can occur independently. These infections are known to be notoriously itchy.

Excessive Dog Scratching Ears from Ear Mites

Ear mites are known to thrive in dog ears because they feed off on the wax. They infest both the horizontal and vertical canals and are known to cause great irritation which makes the ears of the host pet very itchy.

These highly contagious organisms are known to cause inflammation in the ears of pets. Dog ear mites if left untreated could lead to serious consequences such as hearing loss. Once inside a dog’s ear, they will cause them misery. A dog that has ear mites will scratch relentlessly.

Scratching Behind the Ears Caused by External Parasites

Apart from the parasites discussed above, external parasites could also be a cause of dog ear scratching. These include ticks and fleas.

dog ear scratching from tick infestation
Ticks can cause dog ear scratching

They will affect different parts of the ear with the part behind the ears being most vulnerable to ticks.

Fleas are especially known to cause a lot of itching in dogs and some pets may even have allergic reactions to them.

Foreign Bodies Causing Itchy Dog Ears

Dogs are always playful and snoopy. At times they end up in places they should not be at. This could cause them to end up with things that are not meant to be in the ear. Foxtails, grass pollen, and grass lawns are some of the things that could cause itching in dog ears.

It is also possible for you to leave some bits of paper towels or cotton swabs during ear cleaning sessions or for them to get bits of their toys into their ears.

These will lead to the dog itching and scratching excessively in the ears. It may be accompanied by vigorous dog ear scratching, shaking of the head as well as pawing.

Dog Dry Ear Skin Causing Constant Scratching

When your dog has dry skin, they are easily inflamed. Other than the scratching, your dog will also exhibit flaky skin. This may be caused by environmental factors, nutritive deficiency and products used in grooming them. To stop the scratching, the dry skin has to be dealt with.

Dog Ear Scratching from Aural Masses

These include things such as cancerous tumors and polyps in the ear canal. The dog identifies them as foreign bodies and reacts by scratching.

Caution for Puppy Scratching Ears

Puppies are delicate and when they scratch it can be indicative of infectious or non-infectious conditions. In most cases, the itch is what leads to the scratching. With their immune system has not fully developed, these young pets require extra attention to protect them from health hazards.

Since it might be hard to tell if your puppy scratching is as a result of developing an infection and if so what the cause might be, always have him checked as soon as you notice constant excessive scratching. This will help to avert any ear problems from advancing and more so protect your puppy from impending hearing loss.

Itchy Dog Ears Remedies

In some cases, itchy dog ears can be treated at home. This is more so where the scratching is not severe. To administer the right remedy though, you need to examine your dog and decipher what the cause of the itch is. To keep ear itch at bay, try the following:

How to Prevent Dog Ear Scratching

Examining the Dog’s Ear as a Preventive measure to ear problems is important. This can be adopted as a preventive measure as well. Always check the ears of your dog every week. Try to check inside for anything foreign when you see your dog scratching.

Healthy inner dog ear
A healthy dog ear

A normal ear canal will have a smooth shiny surface. In case you notice some redness, any kind of discharge or anything out of the ordinary, have your dog checked by the veterinarian.

To protect your dog from wax buildup and save him from potential itch, clean their ears at least once in a week.

Some pets require a regular ear cleaning procedure carried out to protect their ears while others may get away with no cleaning. Learn what works for your dog and offer it to him. Clean ears will reduce the chances of infections, itch, and scratching.

For very hairy dog ear canals, regular grooming is necessary. This is most important during the hot season. Dogs that enjoy regular water play also need regular grooming.

With less hair, less moisture is trapped in the ears. This reduces chances of infections and thus reduces scratching. Also, ensure that the dog ears are well dried up after water play and bathing.

If despite taking these steps dog scratching ears is still unstoppable, try the following home remedies.

Antihistamines

When the cause of ear itch is allergies, you will probably notice an itch that comes and goes. It will not only be on the ears but the skin as well. His ear flap will appear red and inflamed before the onset of the itch. There will be no excess wax or discharge.

With this kind of itch, antihistamines can be used to combat it. The histamine will act as a mediator of the inflammation and works by blocking the trigger of the inflammation. The dosage of most common antihistamines depends on the body weight. Follow manufacturer directions for the best results.

Non-Prescription Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are great anti-inflammatory agents and are great at relieving ear itch. They work by inhibiting the acceleration of chemicals responsible for inflammation in the body.

Over the counter steroid products will contain up to one percent concentration. Anything beyond that should only be prescribed by your vet. You can settle for creams in case your dog has inflamed ear flap and to soother the base of the ear as well.

CAUTION: Steroids are only suitable for use as short-term itch relief products. Their long-term use can cause skin thinning as the steroid inhibits production of cells responsible for structural fiber.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has for long been used in treating infections. It has anti-microbial properties that will help in healing inflammation. This remedy though ought to be used with a lot of care. Dogs can only tolerate up to one percent tea tree concentration. It should thus be used in very low concentrations.

CAUTION: Tea tree contains terpenes which are known to be toxic to dogs and cats. Signs of toxic effects include vomiting, nausea and paralysis, and seizures in severe cases. Use it with caution.

Anti-Parasitic Products

Where you are certain that your dog’s itchy ears are caused by ear mites, settle for products containing selamectin. These have been known to show the effect on the elimination of ear mites and other parasites found around and in the ear.

Vinegar

Vinegar contains antiseptic properties which allow it to effectively fight bacterial and yeast infections in dog ears. This remedy is acidic, it alters the pH in the ear. Since bacteria and yeast thrive most in alkaline environments, the change hinders their growth.

vinegar for dog scratching ears
Vinegar for dog ear itch

To use it, dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal portion of water. Use a dropper or a syringe to administer up to 100 milliliters into the dog’s ear canal. Once done, use a clean piece of cloth to wipe off any residue as well as dry the ear. Repeat the procedure each day for seven days.

Ear Drops

Ear drops normally contain a broad spectrum antibiotic, an anti-fungal and steroid. These all work out great to decrease inflammation as well as get rid of bacteria. You may ask your veterinarian for prescription on the same so they can give you instructions on how frequently to use them as well as the duration of time for which they should be used.

Foreign Object Removal

When a dog has a foreign object, it develops sudden itching and will end to tilt his head on the affected side. To examine for a foreign body, lift his ear flap and check if you can see anything. Objects that have not gone too deep into the canal will be easily visible. If you can see the object, use a pair of tweezers to grip it and get it out. If you don’t, take the dog to the pet for further examination and removal of the object.

When to See a Veterinarian over Dog Ear Scratching

At times, the home treatments and preventive measures for dog scratching ears episodes may not be enough. Your dog may continue to have itchy ears despite the home treatments. It is also possible for other symptoms beyond the itch to manifest. Below are some pointers that you should visit a vet for further analyses on a dog scratching ears.

  • Intense scratching till bleeding
  • Smelly dog ears accompanying the itch
  • Bloody, yellow or brown ear discharge
  • Scabs and crusts in the ear
  • Hair loss and raw flesh around the ears
  • Shaking or tilting of the head while scratching
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Hearing loss
  • Crying, whining and licking as they scratch

My Dog Keeps Scratching His Ear, What should I do?

Most dog parents complain when a dog keeps scratching the ear. As discussed above, to help your always scratching dog get relief, you have to know what the cause is. Once you do, it becomes easier to apply the relevant remedy.

In case your choice of home treatment does not seem to work on the constant itching and your dog seems to continuously scratch with no improvements, it is best to take him to the hospital. Do not wait beyond a week if the scratching does not get better.

Where right from the onset of a puppy or dog ear scratching your dog also cries, howls and whines, it is probable that he is in pain. In such situations, seek immediate professional help. The same applies to where you are not certain what the cause of the scratching could be.

Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 351 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

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