Dog Itchy Ears

Dog Itchy Ears: What You Need to Know

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Why is My Dog Itching Their Ear so Much?

Dog Itchy Ears: What You Need to Know

Dog itchy ears can be the result of many things, including:

  • Yeast Infections. Usually characterized by red or brown ear discharge, a yeast infection can cause significant irritation and ear scratching.
  • Bacterial Infections. This is one of the most common causes of itchy ears. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, redness, swelling, scratching, head tilting, and in severe cases, walking in circles or disoriented behavior.
  • Ear Mites. Also known as Otodectes cynotis, ear mites are tiny arachnids are in the same family as spiders and ticks. Symptoms include ear itching, dark and crumbly ear discharge, and self-inflicted scratching wounds.
  • Ear Wax Buildup. Ear wax is a yellow or reddish-brown ear discharge and can be a sign your dog has an ear infection. This can be a result of allergies, mites, polyps, overproduction of ear wax, excessive bathing or swimming, or other ear problems.
  • Dog Allergies. Both environmental and food allergies can cause dog itchy ears. Dogs can be allergic the pollen, grass, dust, as well as specific proteins found in meat, milk, and fish. Some dogs are also allergic to grains.
  • Foreign Object. Although uncommon, it is possible for your dog to get something lodged in its ear canal. Perhaps a stick, foxtail, or grass awn stuck in the fur around the ear has found its way into the dog’s ear and is irritating.
Zymox Otic Ear Solution with 1% Hydrocortisone
  • Ear care for dogs and cats - soothes ear infections, redness and inflammation for pets of all ages
  • Gentle, no-sting formula helps ease painful ear infections caused by germs, fungi and yeast
  • Solution provides a safe, natural alternative to oral medication with 1% Hydrocortisone for itch relief

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching His Ear and Shaking His Head?

There are a number of reasons your dog may be scratching its ears and shaking its head. We have listed some of the most common reasons below:

  • Allergies. Environmental and food allergies play a big role in a dog scratching its ears or shaking its head. This is often accompanied by a foul odor and ear discharge.
  • Waterlogged Ears. In dogs that swim a lot or are bathed frequently, it is possible for water to get lodged in the ear canal. Excess moisture in the ear causes head shaking and ear scratching as the dog tries to remove the water.
  • Parasites. Ear mites are the most common ear parasite found in dogs, and most dogs come into contact with them over their lifetime. Fleas can also find their way into a pet’s ears.
  • Dirt or Debris. If dirt or debris is caught in the hair inside the ear or in the ear wax inside the dog’s ear canal, it can be annoying. Making sure your dog gets to the groomer regularly is one of the best ways to prevent this. A dog groomer will clean the inside of the dog’s ears and remove excess dirt and ear wax. This is more common in dog breeds with floppy ears like Retrievers and Spaniels.

How Can I Soothe My Dog’s Itchy Ears?

Dog Itchy Ears: What You Need to Know

There are several over-the-counter ear solutions, drops, and meds that pet owners can use to manage dog itchy ears at home.

Zymox Otic Ear Solution with 1% Hydrocortisone. This dog ear solution helps fight ear irritation, inflammation, and redness. It contains 1% hydrocortisone to provide a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-itch effect.

It requires no pre-cleaning of the dog’s painful ears; just fill the ear canal with the solution and let it work. This formula contains a patented LP3 enzyme system that helps to clear a dog’s ear of secretions and promotes healthy ears.

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Vet’s Best Dog Ear Cleaner Kit Multi-Symptom Ear Relief. The treatment this product provides offers dogs relief from raw, itchy, and smelly ears. It is made to be fast and effective and reduce greasiness and redness in infected ears.

Made with natural ingredients to be safe for cats and dogs of all ages, it uses chamomile, clove oil, and aloe vera to soothe irritated ears during the treatment. It is manufactured in the USA, and both formulas in this kit are alcohol-free and non-stinging.

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PetHonesty OTIC Dog Ear Cleaner & Ear Health Support. This formula is very simple and easy to use, only requiring a little bit to be squirted into the dog’s ear canal. It is made to stop ear itching and remove odors caused by infection.

In order to balance the pH inside the ear, this formula uses salicylic acid, which prevents itchiness and smells and removes unwanted gunk from inside the ear. This formula is safe for regular use to prevent ear infections and keeps ears clean and dry, even for dogs who swim regularly.

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NaturPet Ear Drops for Dogs. These ear drops are made with 100% natural herbs and oils to keep the ear clean and in optimal health. The warm drops help to soothe painful ears inflamed by an infection or constant pawing. The natural oils help to soothe skin and moisturize ear flaps. It is safe for sensitive skin and can be used before swimming and for regular ear cleanings as a preventive measure.

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Pet MD Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes Otic Cleanser for Dogs. Made with an advanced formula, this product is designed to gently clean, deodorize, and dry your pet’s ears. It is safe enough for regular use and effective in preventing infections, reducing ear wax, and removing debris around the ear.

It comes in a pack of 100 individually soaked wipes that are easy to use by simply wiping the affected area to treat and prevent ear problems. Safe enough for dogs over 12 weeks old, this product was made in the USA in federally regulated facilities to ensure high quality and safety standards.

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BEXLEY LABS Dog Ear Infection Treatment. As an antiseptic flush, this ear wash was made to remove dirt and bacteria from inside a dog’s ears. It prevents ear odors, sticky discharge, and accumulated biofilms using a formula that is safe for routine ear cleaning, especially after baths or swimming.

The no-sting formula is safe for kittens and puppies as well as cats and dogs. It is made in the USA in small batches for great quality control and safety. Plus, the product is very easy to use.

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Fitter Critter Anti-Itch Dog Ear Wipes with Cleaning Ketoconazole. The two main ingredients in this formula are chlorhexidine and ketoconazole. They provide powerful relief to dog itchy ears in an easy-to-use wipe.

Aloe vera, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E all provide a soothing effect that helps calm the dog while moisturizing the irritated skin around the ear. The product is made in the USA and provides an antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and nourishing benefit to any dog.

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Can I Give My Dog Benadryl for Itchy Ears?

Yes, you can use Benadryl for dog itchy ears.

However, Benadryl will only be effective on ear scratching if it is a symptom of an allergy. Seasonal allergies, food allergies, and allergies brought on by insect bites can be treated with Benadryl.

In contrast, Benadryl will not help if the dog itchy ears are caused by bacterial or yeast infection in dogs ears.

When Should I Go to the Vet for Itchy Dog Ears?

Dog Itchy Ears: What You Need to Know

You should go to the vet for dog itchy ears if they are accompanied by the following signs:

  • Excessive Wax Buildup. When a dog’s ear is covered in wax, it can catch dirt, sand, and debris and attract parasites that live on the wax and oils a dog’s ear produces. Treatment is simple, however. A good ear cleaning with a cotton ball or Q-tip swab can be a great home remedy to fixing this problem before it escalates.
  • Signs of Parasites. Often times you will be able to see the parasites. Fleas, for example, can be seen with the naked eye and can find their way under the ear flap and down into the inner ear. Although it is much more likely ear mites are causing the ear issues. Either of these problems can be taken care of by a vet with simple treatments.
  • Wounds/Scabs around the Ears. If a dog is experiencing discomfort and pawing at their ears, it can cause scratches that, if left open and untreated, can become infected and lead to something much more serious.
  • Ears are Hot to the Touch. Hot ears are a sign of fever and can be caused by an infection that has been left untreated. This is most often a sign of an underlying cause like an infection or illness.

How do I Prevent Itchy Dog Ears?

  • Clean the Ears. There are many over-the-counter dog ear cleaners. They effectively and safely clean the ear canal and protect the inner ear and eardrum from otitis and health issues caused by foreign objects (foxtails and grass awns) in the ear.
  • Support the Immune System. Supporting a dog’s immune system with vitamins, minerals, and probiotics can be a great way to ensure your dog can fight off an infection before it becomes a real problem. Products like Honest Paws Pre+ Probiotic are great at performing this function.
  • Reduce the Allergen Exposure. Reducing your pet’s exposure to allergens can be beneficial in preventing itchy dog ears. Allergies can be food related, like when a dog is allergic to an ingredient in dog food, or environmental. Environmental allergens include chemicals, dust mites, and pollen.
  • Regular Vet Checkups. Make sure your dog gets checked by a vet regularly. Not only will this highlight any potential issues, but a vet will be able to treat any potential ear problems as they arise as well. During the ear exam, the vet will use a device called an otoscope.