Ever caught your dog in a head-shaking, ear-scratching frenzy and wondered what's up? As many of us know, itchy ears are pretty common in the doggy world, and they can be super annoying for your pooch. Plus, since itchy (what veterinary sources call pruritic) ears are usually a sign of an outer ear infection (otitis externa), they are one of the most common reasons for a vet visit.

From the whisper of allergies to the crawl of ear mites, there are a handful of reasons your pup's ears might be driving them nuts. Keeping an eye out for the telltale signs of itchy dog ears is key. You'll want to be on the lookout for that non-stop ear-scratching or head-shaking so you can swoop in with some TLC. Let's decode those itchy ear clues together and figure out how to flip your dog’s frown upside down!

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  1. Signs of Itchy Ears in Dogs
  2. Causes of Itchy Ears in Dogs
  3. How to Help Your Dog Itchy Ears
  4. How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

Signs of Itchy Ears in Dogs

If your dog is going to town on their ear, something's bugging them. Here’s the scoop on what to watch for when your dog’s ears seem to be on their last nerve:

  • The Scratch-a-Thon: If your pup's ear-scratching marathon could set a world record, chances are their ears are itching like crazy.
  • Head-Shaking Hoedown: Spot your dog shaking their head more than they wag their tail. Yep, that's their version of saying, "These ears are itchy!"
  • Puffy Ears: Keep an eye out for any puffiness – swollen ears are a big red flag for irritation or infection.
  • Stinky or Gunky Ears: A weird smell or gunk in the ears? Yuck. That’s often ear-speak for “Help, something’s wrong!”
  • Red Alerts: Peek inside those ears. If they’re looking redder than a ripe tomato, it’s discomfort central there.
  • Scabs and Crusties: Scabs or crusty bits by the ears are like breadcrumbs, leading to an itch fest your dog’s been having.
  • Missing Fur: Hair loss around the ears isn’t a new fashion statement—it’s a sign of way too much scratching.
  • Grumpy Pup: If your normally sweet-tempered doggo is acting all kinds of moody or just agitated and restless, their ears might be the culprits.
  • The Lean: A head tilt might look cute, but it could also mean your dog is trying to outmaneuver the itch and discomfort in their ears.

If you're starting to notice a few of these itchy ear signs and can't always be there to keep an eye on your furball, consider a Petcube Cam. It's a nifty gadget that lets you monitor your dog's antics and check in on their ear-scratching habits when you're not home. With this techy sidekick, you can watch for those itchy ear symptoms and even talk to your pooch, offering a soothing word until you can get home and deal with those pesky pruritic ears together.

Causes of Itchy Ears in Dogs

When your four-legged friend starts shaking their head or scratching at their ears, it's not just a casual itch; it's a sign that something's up. The infamous itchy ear saga in dogs is usually rooted in an ear infection known as otitis externa, a common condition that veterinarians see. But what exactly causes these infections and the subsequent itchiness?

Let’s look at the primary causes of pruritic (itchy) ears in canines, according to MSD manuals research.

Ear Infections

Both yeast and bacterial infections are notorious for making a dog's ears itchy. The warm, moist environment of a dog’s ear canal can be the perfect breeding ground for these organisms, especially if your dog loves swimming or has floppy ears that trap moisture.


Just like humans, dogs can have allergies too. Allergens in the environment or their diet can lead to inflammation and itchiness, particularly within the ears. Scratching because of allergies can, unfortunately, also create opportunities for infections to develop.

Ear Mites

These tiny parasites are a common issue, especially in puppies. They're highly contagious and can lead to severe itching, resulting in scratching and head shaking.

Contact Dermatitis

Sometimes the very things meant to clean or treat a dog's ears can irritate them. Contact with irritants or allergens can cause dermatitis, which leads to — you guessed it — itchy ears.

Ear Hematomas

Vigorous scratching or head shaking due to the itch can lead to blood vessels breaking, forming a hematoma. This condition not only causes swelling but also further itchiness and discomfort.

Insect Bites

Those pesky fleas or ticks can also target the ears, causing bites that itch and swell. This is most common with flea-bite dermatitis.

Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies)

This is caused by a mite that burrows into the skin, causing intense itching and inflammation, often starting in the ears.

Metabolic Disorders

Conditions like Cushing’s disease can alter a dog's bodily functions and lead to general itchy skin issues that can also affect the ears. Dogs with hypothyroidism or diabetes are also far more prone to ear infections.

Immune Disorders

Dogs with immune system abnormalities can develop various skin conditions that result in itchy skin that may sometimes also affect the ears. It’s always worth having your dog checked out for problems like pemphigus or lupus that can look a lot like allergies, including ear issues.

Understanding the "why" behind your dog's itchy ears means recognizing these common culprits. If the scratching persists, it's wise to consult your vet because the sooner an accurate diagnosis is made, the sooner your dog can find relief from their itchy woes.

How to Help Your Dog Itchy Ears

When your canine companion can't stop fussing over their ears, it's both heartbreaking and concerning. No pet parent likes to see their dog in discomfort. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help alleviate their itch and get them back to their happy, tail-wagging selves.

Check and Clean Regularly

Establish a routine to examine and clean your dog's ears. This doesn't mean daily wash-outs, but rather a gentle wipe with a damp cloth or a dog-specific ear cleaner to remove any debris or excess wax. However, it's crucial not to overdo it, as too much cleaning can lead to irritation.

Consult Your Vet

If you suspect that your dog's ears are more than just a little itchy, it’s time for a vet visit. They can determine if it’s an infection, allergy, or something else and will prescribe medication or treatment accordingly. It’s important to see a vet rather than wing it with a home remedy.

If your dog has Malassezia dermatitis, the most common type of ear yeast infection, then using an antibacterial ointment you may have at home won’t do anything to help. This kind of yeast is pretty resistant too, and it needs a targeted veterinary antifungal treatment.

Medication and Treatment

Follow the vet’s instructions meticulously. If they've prescribed ear drops or an ointment, make sure to apply it as directed. Finish the full course of treatment even if the ears seem better sooner.

Diet and Supplements

Sometimes, itchy ears can be a sign of a food allergy or deficiency. Discuss your dog's diet with your vet to see if a change in food or the addition of supplements like omega-3 fatty acids could help.

Preventive Measures

Keep your dog away from known allergens as much as possible. If swimming causes ear issues, use ear protection or ensure that their ears are dried thoroughly afterward.

Comfort and Distraction

While your dog is recovering, keep them comfortable and distracted. This can mean more playtime, new toys, or extra cuddles. Anything that keeps them from fixating on their itchy ears will help in the healing process.

Maintain a Stress-Free Environment

Stress can exacerbate health issues, including skin conditions. So, make sure your dog is living in a calm, loving environment.

By being proactive and attentive, you can help ease your dog's discomfort and possibly prevent future episodes of itchy ears. Remember, keeping an eye out for early signs of ear issues can make a significant difference in your dog's overall well-being.

How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment

When your pup is shaking their head at 2 AM, those itchy ears can't wait for the vet’s office to open. Enter the Petcube Emergency Fund, a pet parent's digital safety net. The real magic of this service is the peace of mind it offers, granting you 24/7 online access to professional vets who can guide you through any pet health scenario, including those pesky itchy ears, regardless of the hour.

Imagine this: Your dog is incessantly scratching their ears, and you're not sure if it's something that can wait until morning. With the Petcube Emergency Fund, a qualified vet is just a few clicks away to advise you on immediate steps to comfort your furry friend and to determine if a midnight trip to the emergency clinic is needed.

While most itchy ear cases in dogs aren't critical, they can occasionally escalate into serious complications. For instance, a friend’s French Bulldog had a Staph bacterial infection that initially seemed like a regular ear problem, but as the bacteria moved deeper into the ear, it turned into meningitis, an acute emergency. The Petcube Emergency Fund is designed to assist in such dire situations, offering up to $3000 for emergency cases to help cover those unexpected veterinary expenses.

To sweeten the deal, blog readers get a special 27% discount on the service. Just use this link. It's a small price for 24/7 reassurance and could mean the difference between quick relief and a long, uncomfortable night for your itchy-eared pooch. With the Petcube Emergency Fund, you're never alone in caring for your dog's health, no matter the time of day or night.


Why does my dog keep scratching their ears and licking their paws?

If your dog is scratching their ears and licking their paws persistently, it could indicate an allergic reaction or dermatitis. Paws and ears are common places for allergies to manifest. A vet check is advisable to rule out infections or parasites.

What does it mean when my dog is scratching their ear and shaking their head?

Frequent ear scratching and head shaking are telltale signs of discomfort, often associated with an ear infection or the presence of ear mites. It’s a signal that your dog is trying to relieve irritation or remove something from their ear canal.

What should I do if my dog's ear is red and itchy?

A red and itchy ear is a sign of inflammation, possibly due to an infection, allergy, or mite infestation. It's important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan to alleviate your dog’s discomfort.

My dog is scratching their ear and whining, what's wrong?

When a dog scratches their ear and whines, it suggests they're experiencing significant discomfort or pain. Ear infections, injuries, or foreign bodies can cause such distress. Immediate veterinary attention is recommended to diagnose and treat the underlying issue.


Navigating the world of itchy ears with your dog can be tricky, but understanding the signs and causes is the first step toward relief. From head shaking to relentless scratching, it's important to keep an eye on any ear-related discomfort your dog may exhibit.

Remember, while some home remedies might provide temporary relief, nothing replaces professional advice. If the scratching persists, it's always best to reach out to your vet. After all, our dogs rely on us to be their advocates for health and happiness.

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