My Dog Scratches Its Ears a Lot: Is it Normal?

If your dog scratches its ears a lot and you're concerned, check them out for foreign bodies, parasites, wounds and other common causes that you'll find here.
My Dog Scratches Its Ears a Lot: Is it Normal?

Last update: 16 January, 2022

You may have observed that your dog scratches its ears a lot, but it’s often difficult to determine if they’re doing it more often than usual. In general, this behavior is usually detected after you’ve noticed an increase over a period of time.

However, the ears are a delicate part of this animal’s body, and so it’s a good idea to monitor them. If you suspect that your dog is scratching more than necessary, it may be due to some pathology. In this space, we’ll tell you how to examine your dog’s ears and what warning signs to look for. Don’t miss it.

How to tell if a dog scratching its ears too much

It may seem like a small matter, but noticing small changes in your dog’s behavior (such as excessive scratching) can mean the difference between a veterinary emergency or simple treatment at home. As the saying goes, the best approach in all cases is prevention before the condition worsens.

There’s no specific number of times that can tell us a dog is scratching its ears too much. However, some signs that accompany this behavior are significant. We can highlight the following:

  • The dog always scratches the same ear
  • The dog shakes its head before scratching (or has its head cocked to one side)
  • They show signs of hearing loss
  • There are wounds or dermatitis on the ear that they’re scratching.
  • The number of times they scratch increases i.e. it isn’t only occasional behavior.

What should you do if you suspect that your dog is scratching its ears too much? The answer is simple: go to the veterinarian. Only professionals in animal medicine have the necessary means to detect the underlying causes of this behavior and solve them.

If you examine your canine’s ears, you may find signs that something is wrong, such as excessive earwax, foreign bodies, inflammation, wounds and others.

A dog scratching.

The most common ear problems in dogs

The causes of excessive scratching behavior include a wide range of ailments that, in general, can be easily solved if you go to the vet in time. Here are the most common ones.

External parasites

Parasite infestations usually cause intense itching and even pain, so it’s normal for dogs to scratch their ears often. Many of these invertebrates settle in the ears because it’s a spot where they feed easily and the dog has difficulty getting them off. The most common are these:

  • Ticks: There are many species of this arachnid, such as those belonging to the genera Ixodes, Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, and Dermacentor. These arachnids bury their heads under the skin of the animal to feed on its blood, so they must be removed carefully. If you don’t feel confident enough to do this, go to the clinic.
  • Fleas: These parasites, on the contrary, are spread all over the animal’s body, so you won’t see your dog scratching only its ears, but all over the body. They’re visible without a microscope and you’ll see them running all over the dog’s fur and jumping. The animal (and also your home) will require flea treatment.
  • Mites: There are 2 species of these parasites that almost always affect dogs’ ears, Otodectes cynotis and Demodex canis. Both cause localized mange that produces excessive secretions of dark earwax, scabs and makes the dog shake its head a lot. It requires veterinary treatment.

Mycoses

The most distinctive sign of mycoses is alopecia. In the case of ringworm, for example, the bald patches are of a characteristic rounded shape. These conditions require veterinary treatment, and this is usually lengthy, as it’s difficult to remove the spores from surfaces. In addition, many of the fungi that infect canines also affect humans.

Fungal infections are usually treated with topical antifungals, either in the form of cream or drops.

Otitis and ear infections

This is an inflammation of the ear canal, usually caused by a bacterial infection. It can also be caused secondarily by allergies, parasites, or foreign bodies. Treatment requires the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, so you should see a veterinarian.

Presence of foreign bodies

The intrusion of a foreign body into the ear causes pain and itching, so the dog will often scratch the ear for relief. If the foreign element is very deep in the pinna, you may not be able to see directly what has gotten into it. This is why the best option is, again, to go to the veterinarian.

Some of the most common foreign bodies are the dreaded spikes, which cause infections and wounds if not removed promptly.

Injuries and trauma

Pain is more frequent in these cases than itching, although you’ll also see the dog scratching their ears insistently. A fight with a dog, a fall, a blow, or any other accident are common causes of wounds.

The problem is that these wounds attract opportunistic infections, so you should thoroughly disinfect the area on a regular basis. Likewise, try to prevent your dog from scratching too much, as it’ll probably itch during the healing process, and delay it by removing the scabs.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This type of dermatitis is characterized by excessive secretion of sebum or grease. Fungi, parasites, inadequate nutrition, or autoimmune diseases are the most frequent causes of this skin inflammation.

This production of body fat is joined by earwax, which is also created in excess and causes itching in the ears. If you examine the canine’s ear canal you’ll be able to see it easily, and it’ll also have a bad odor. It’s important to find the cause of the dermatitis in order to give appropriate treatment.

A person stroking a dog's ears.

Finally, remember how important it is to inspect your dog’s ears regularly. In addition, it’s also good to clean them, especially if their ears are droopy, as these types of ears ventilate worse. With basic care, your pet is sure to enjoy good health and great times together at your side.

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