Dog ear infections: your dog’s itchy ears explained

by | Dog Care |

Just like we get an itch that needs scratching from time to time, so do dogs. But when that itching becomes more frequent, there might be underlying issues. There are a number of possible reasons behind continuously itchy ears in dogs. Today we’re going to focus on four. Check out this great information from Dr. Julia Hughes, Shelter Health & Wellness veterinarian at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

1. Possible ear infection

A common reason for excessive head scratching in dogs is a possible ear infection. Ear infections can be painful, itchy and uncomfortable for your dog. There are a number of factors that may cause or predispose your dog to ear infections such as:

  • Breeds with long hanging ears
  • Allergies
  • Hair within the ear
  • Foreign object (such as grass) in the ear
  • Frequent swimming dogs
  • Mass within the ear
  • Ear medications, if your dog is sensitive to them
  • Aggressive cleaning of the ears
  • Underlying health issue
  • History of chronic ear infections

Whatever the cause may be, it is very important to address the signs as early as possible to avoid damage, inflammation and scarring of the ear. Dogs of any age or gender can get an ear infection.

For treatment, a vet may need to sedate your dog to properly examine the ears with a specialized instrument and/or​ swab their ears to assess the material under a microscope ​to help determine the cause. ​After your dog has received treatment, you ​may need to continue support at home ​by giving medication directly into your dog’s ear and/or medication by mouth. Gentle ear cleaning may also be recommended longer term. ​Your veterinarian will advise on the best treatment plan for your dog.

Once the discomfort is assessed and treated, additional long-term maintenance such as grooming your dog’s hair ​in and around their ears, managing potential food and/or environmental allergies, as well as managing underlying health issues may be needed.

2. Dental concerns

While you might not think scratching their head would mean trouble in their mouth, it is important to have your vet rule out an overt dental concern, Your dog may be indirectly scratching or shaking their head to soothe dental discomfort.

3. Hearing loss

The aging process or damage to a dog’s ear may result in hearing loss and cause your dog to scratch or shake their head in response to not being able to hear as well out of that ear.

4. External parasites

External parasites such as fleas can also result in excessive scratching. Fleas are tiny bugs that don’t grow much larger than the tip of a pen, and they range from light brown to almost black in color. They don’t have wings, so they get around by jumping from host to host. Learn more about fleas and flea treatment here.

We encourage you to contact your veterinarian if your dog has persistent itching or head shaking to determine an underlying cause and receive treatment.