why is my dog scratching their ear?

Dog hearing

Ear scratching is (usually) normal

Dogs typically scratch their ears a few times a day, give themselves a good shake, and then go about their regular routine. But if you spot your dog constantly clawing at their ears, there may be a problem that needs medical attention.

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In addition to lots of scratching, keep an eye out for unusual head-shaking, ear discharge, and ear pain. These are all signs your doggyBFF needs to see the vet.

What Makes It Itch

What makes my dog’s ears itch?

Dogs get little tickles just like you do, but sometimes it’s more than just an itch.

  • Ear infections
  • Ear infections are caused by overgrowth of bacteria or yeast, which inflame the ear canal and get super irritating and itchy. See more about ear infections

  • Ear mites
  • Ear mites are actually teeny little bugs, and they cause huge itchiness as well as secondary infections deep inside the ear.

  • Something stuck in their ear
  • Barbed grass awns or seeds, or other objects, can get stuck in the ear and cause your poor pupper to paw and scratch as they try to get it out.

  • Fleas and ticks
  • Fleas and ticks don’t usually infest dog ears, but they cause so much itchiness it’s always worth ruling them out. See more about fleas and ticks

What Will Help

How to help your dog stop scratching

Step 1: See the vet

The best way to help itchy ears is to see the vet. Home remedies or over-the-counter “cures” typically don’t help, and may even make the situation worse.

Your veterinary team will examine your dog’s ears, check their eardrum for damage, and take an ear swab to examine under a microscope.  Infected dog ears are very tender, so your vet may recommend a light sedative to make getting this sample easier on both people and pet.


Step 2: Treat the cause

Depending on the cause, your veterinary team will recommend a few courses of action. Carefully follow any instructions for at-home care to help ensure that your dog’s ear scratching gets back to normal.

  • Ear infections
  • Your dog’s ears will need to be regularly cleaned and, depending on the cause, treated with an antibiotic or antifungal medication.

  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Dogs are usually understandably unhappy about probing in their ears, so your veterinary team will likely need to sedate or anesthetize them to remove any foreign crud in their ear. They may also prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and treat any infection.


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