No one likes to see their beloved canine companion in discomfort or pain. Our dogs are like our family members, but they can’t always tell us when they aren’t feeling their best, unlike our human family. This is especially true when our dog has itchy ears. Ear infections and other ear issues are common in dogs, especially those with ears that hang down, called drop ears. As many as 20% of dogs have some form of ear disease at any given time. If your dog has itchy ears, here are the symptoms and potential issues you might be dealing with.

3 Reasons A Dog Has Itchy Ears

Here are the most common reasons your dog has itchy ears.

Ear Infection

There are 3 types of ear infections that plague our canine companions. These are:

  • Otitis externa: characterized by inflammation of the external part of the ear canal. 
  • Otisis media: concerns issues with the middle part of the ear canal.
  • Otisis interna: involves an infection of the inner ear canal.

Otitis externa is the most common type of ear infection. Infections in the middle or inner ear canal often result from bacteria from an untreated infection of the outer ear. Otitis media and otitis interna can be severe, potentially leading to facial paralysis or hearing loss. 

Symptoms Of Ear Infections In Dogs

Ear infections aren’t as easy to identify as other health problems your dog might experience. Unlike a cut or rash, ear infections can sit deep in your dog’s ear and may be difficult to notice. Some dogs have almost no symptoms other than slight wax buildup or ear discharge. Here are a few signs that indicate your dog has an ear infection:

  • Head shaking or tilting to one side
  • Incessant scratching at the infected ear
  • Dark-colored discharge
  • Yeasty odor
  • Redness or swelling of the ear canal
  • Pain or sensitivity to touch
  • Scabs in the ear
  • Itchiness
  • Pain

If you notice a combination of the above symptoms, assume your dog has developed an ear infection. Schedule a visit to a licensed veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment. Most ear infections in dogs are easy to treat and quickly resolved when caught early on. Read more about ear infections in dogs here.

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Parasite Infestation

Another common cause of a dog with itchy ears is a parasite infestation. Ear mites are the most common parasitic infestation for dogs’ ears. These pesky critters are tiny parasites that cause significant irritation in your dog’s ear canal and can cause infections too. Ear mites are easily transmitted between pets, so it doesn’t take long for other dogs or cats in the household to get them too once one pet has them. This ease of transmission is why it’s essential to treat your dog for ear mites as soon as you notice the signs of an infestation. 

Ear mites often cause a strong odor to emit from the ear and are accompanied by a dark, waxy discharge. This discharge can also obstruct the ear canal. In addition to obstruction and odor, ear mites cause intense irritation and itching that can lead to your dog shaking their head so hard that they rupture blood vessels. This condition leads to painful swelling that may even require surgery.

Though ear mites are the most common parasitic infection that causes a dog to have itchy ears, fleas, ticks, and mange mites can cause similar symptoms and ear issues. When you notice your dog has itchy ears, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out and diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. 

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Many dogs suffer from allergies, and these skin issues can affect their ears. The allergy could be something your dog has eaten, something in the environment, or something he or she has breathed in. More often than not, any allergy issue affecting your dog’s ears will also affect their skin in other areas. However, if your dog has a long or thick coat, you may only notice the issue around their ears.

The most common ear-related symptom of an allergic reaction in dogs is a waxy discharge, though it isn’t as dark in color as that from a parasitic infestation. Allergies can affect dogs of all ages, but you’ll usually see them in younger dogs under 3 years. Here are a few common allergies your dog might have:

  • Outdoor grasses, weeds, pollen, pesticides
  • Indoor carpet cleaners, shampoo, soap, carpets
  • Dog Food
  • Fleas
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Know the Signs Your Dog Has Itchy Ears 

Our dogs can’t tell us their ears are itchy. Familiarizing yourself with the signs of an ear issue is essential to identify the issue quickly. Ear issues are usually relatively easy to treat when they’re caught early. Know the signs and when to take your dog to the veterinarian for treatment. Do not treat your dog’s ear infection with home remedies. With the help of your vet, you can identify ear issues so they can get back to being their healthy, happy selves.

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