Why Does My Dog Have Itchy Ears?

French bulldog scratching its ears

Some owners may think ear scratching is just a normal part of dog behaviour. And while many dogs will scratch their ears casually, itchy ears can mean something’s wrong with your dog's ears. Ear infections aren’t too rare in dogs, so it’s a good idea to learn the symptoms and how to properly maintain your dog's ear health. Find out why your dog has itchy ears and what to do about it. 

Why Does My Dog Have Itchy Ears?

Most dogs will scratch their ears every once in a while, but constant and excessive ear scratching is often a sign of a deeper issue. Ear infections and other ear problems can lead to irritation and pain that causes your dog to scratch at his ears. So it’s important to monitor your dog's behaviour when you see him scratching his ear. Don’t assume it’s just itchy. Dogs' skin health, as well as inner ear health, play a part in itchy ears. Your dog may have an itchy ear because of an infection, skin irritation problem or parasites.  

How to Know If Your Dog Has an Ear Problem

Knowing dog ear infection symptoms can help you catch problems early. The biggest red flags to look for are brown and green fluids, redness, unusual smells and itchiness. Your dog’s behaviour may also hold clues. Excessive head shaking and tilting his head could mean your dog feels something wrong with his ear and is trying to get it out, just like you might do when you have water stuck in your ear. Rubbing the side of his head on the carpet is also a sign something is wrong. Dogs will generally only do this when scratching with their foot is not enough.

Severe ear problems can also cause balance problems because, as with humans, dogs' ears help them orient themselves in space and stay upright. If you notice balance issues, it’s best to see a vet immediately as many underlying issues or diseases could be causing it. The vet can diagnose and help solve the issue causing your dog’s balance problems.

The important thing is to just be mindful of any changes your dog exhibits. Ear problems and infections will likely be painful for your dog and they will probably try to let you know. Learn to recognize dog body language to understand when they’re trying to tell you something's wrong. 

How to Prevent Ear Problems

The first step to keeping your canine’s ears healthy is to know what causes ear problems. Dogs are generally more prone to ear infections because their long ear canals trap dirt particles and moisture, which become a breeding ground for bacteria. Some of the most common reasons your dog is having ear problems include bacterial and yeast infections, parasites like ear mites, trapped particulate matter or objects like grass or seeds and growths or tumors. Dogs with long, floppy or fluffy ears may be at higher risk of developing ear problems. Dogs that swim frequently or like to dig also may need more ear care.

Though many ear problems aren’t easily preventable, there are ways to lower the risks and catch problems early. You should be regularly cleaning and inspecting your dog’s ears to keep them healthy. Dogs' ears are very sensitive so it’s important to clean them gently and with the right solution. You want to make sure you don’t dry out your dog's ears or perforate their eardrums. Ask your vet for the best cleaning method and what cleaning solution will be best for your dog. It's typically not a good idea to use cotton swabs in your dog’s ear outside of vet directions. 

You may also want to consider getting dog suntan lotion to ensure your pup doesn’t get a sunburn on their ears. This is a problem short-haired dogs, dogs with alopecia and dogs with white-tipped ears may have, and it's important to prevent because it may lead to skin cancer. Dry skin or other skin problems can cause ear problems like itchy ears.   

Getting regular checkups is the best preventive measure you can take. Vets can find and fix many problems before they become more serious. You can also make ear cleaning and inspection part of your dog's grooming schedule. If you get your dog groomed professionally, consider asking them about ear cleaning and how your dog's ears look.

How to Treat Ear Problems

Treatment for ear infections can range from easy quick solutions to long-term treatment plans. Your vet will be able to diagnose any ear problems and prescribe the best treatment plan for your dog's individual needs. It’s best to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible when you discover signs of an ear infection or other ear problem. You shouldn’t give your dog any medications or try any treatments without consulting a vet because you may do more harm than good. Maintaining good grooming, however, is always a good idea.

Deafness in Dogs

Unfortunately, deafness in dogs has a variety of causes and is usually not preventable. Keeping your dog’s ears clean and healthy can keep them from developing ear problems that could lead to deafness, but there are some things you just can’t do anything about. Hearing loss affects many types and breeds of dogs, but most dogs cope with deafness and can continue to live fulfilling lives. Owners of a hearing impaired dog will have to adapt how they care for their dog, keeping in mind that their dog can’t hear approaching traffic or audible commands. 

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