Why Is My Dog Scratching His Ear

As a devoted dog owner, observing your furry companion incessantly scratching their ear can be concerning and puzzling. Is it just a harmless itch, or could it indicate an underlying health issue? Understanding why your dog is scratching its ear is essential for ensuring their well-being and addressing any potential problems promptly.

Why Is My Dog Scratching His Ear

Dogs scratch their ears for various reasons, ranging from benign irritations to more serious health conditions. Understanding the root cause of your dog’s scratching behavior is crucial for effective management and treatment. Let’s delve into some common reasons behind this behavior:


1. Ear Infections

Ear infections, particularly otitis externa (inflammation of the external ear canal), are a prevalent cause of ear scratching in dogs. These infections can be triggered by bacteria, yeast, or even mites. Symptoms often include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor emanating from the ear.

2. Allergies

Dogs can develop allergies to various environmental triggers such as pollen, dust mites, mold, or certain ingredients in their food. Allergic reactions can manifest as itching, including scratching of the ears. In some cases, the ears may also become inflamed and produce discharge.

3. Ear Mites

Ear mites, such as Otodectes cynotis, are tiny parasites that infest the ears of dogs, causing intense itching and irritation. Dogs infested with ear mites often scratch vigorously at their ears and may shake their heads frequently. A characteristic dark, coffee ground-like discharge may also be present.

4. Foreign Bodies

Occasionally, foreign objects like grass awns, seeds, or small insects can become lodged in a dog’s ear canal, leading to discomfort and prompting scratching. These objects can irritate the ear and cause inflammation, resulting in persistent scratching behavior.

5. Ear Trauma

Trauma to the ear, such as scratches or cuts from rough play, fights with other animals, or accidents, can cause pain and irritation, prompting a dog to scratch at the affected ear. Additionally, excessive scratching can exacerbate the injury and lead to further complications.

6. Ear Anatomy

Certain breeds with floppy or hairy ears, such as Cocker Spaniels or Golden Retrievers, are more prone to ear issues due to reduced airflow and increased moisture within the ear canal. This environment creates a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, predisposing these dogs to infections and subsequent scratching.

7. Skin Conditions

Dogs suffering from underlying skin conditions like eczema, seborrhea, or dermatitis may experience itching and irritation not only on their skin but also in their ears. Scratching the ears provides temporary relief from the discomfort associated with these conditions.

8. Behavioral Issues

In some cases, excessive scratching of the ears may stem from behavioral issues such as anxiety, boredom, or compulsive behavior. Dogs may scratch their ears as a form of self-soothing or as a repetitive habit, even in the absence of any underlying medical cause.

What To Do

Once you’ve identified the potential cause of your dog’s ear scratching, taking appropriate action is vital to alleviate their discomfort and prevent further complications. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Consult Your Veterinarian

If your dog is scratching its ears excessively or showing signs of discomfort, schedule a veterinary examination promptly. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough examination of your dog’s ears, identify any underlying issues, and recommend appropriate treatment.

2. Ear Cleaning

Regular ear cleaning is essential for maintaining your dog’s ear health and preventing infections. Use a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner to gently remove dirt, wax, and debris from your dog’s ears. Be cautious not to insert anything deep into the ear canal, as this can cause injury.

3. Medication

Depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to treat your dog’s ear condition. This could include topical ointments or drops to alleviate inflammation and combat infections, as well as oral medications such as antibiotics or antifungals.

4. Allergy Management

If allergies are suspected as the cause of your dog’s ear scratching, your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing to identify specific triggers. Once identified, allergen avoidance, dietary modifications, or allergy medications may be prescribed to manage your dog’s symptoms.

5. Parasite Control

In cases of ear mite infestations, your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate antiparasitic medications to eradicate the mites and alleviate your dog’s itching. Additionally, treating your dog with regular preventive flea and tick medications can help prevent future infestations.

6. Environmental Management

Take steps to minimize environmental factors that may contribute to your dog’s ear issues. Keep your dog’s ears clean and dry, especially after swimming or bathing, and avoid exposing them to excessive moisture or irritants.

7. Address Behavioral Issues

If your dog’s ear scratching appears to be driven by behavioral issues, such as anxiety or boredom, work with a professional trainer or behaviorist to address these underlying issues. Providing mental stimulation, regular exercise, and positive reinforcement training can help redirect your dog’s focus and alleviate compulsive behaviors.


Scratching of the ears in dogs can be indicative of various underlying issues, ranging from mild irritations to more serious health conditions. Understanding the potential causes of your dog’s ear scratching is crucial for effective management and treatment. By consulting with your veterinarian, implementing appropriate preventive measures, and addressing any underlying medical or behavioral issues, you can help keep your furry friend happy, healthy, and free from ear-related discomfort.