A dog scratching its ears outside.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Ears?

7 mins |

Dogs are prone to a variety of health issues. Sometimes, as a result of these health issues, a dog will scratch its ears. So, what causes dogs to scratch their ears and why?

Dogs often scratch their ears because of bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections. Dogs also scratch their ears if they suffer from an ear injury or have a foreign object trapped inside their ear. They might have dermatitis or allergies as a result of consuming allergic ingredients in their diet. If these issues are happening, consult with your veterinarian.

What Causes Dogs To Scratch Their Ears?

A dog scratching its ears while sitting on some grass and dirt.
Hope that’s just an itch!

Dogs scratch their ears for a variety of reasons, including allergies, injuries, mites, infections, trauma, and foreign bodies. Dogs frequently have ear infections, and when they do, they scratch. Yeast, fungi, or bacteria can all cause an infection. If any of these issues occur, consult with your veterinarian.

Ear Infection

Dogs get ear infections when they’re exposed to bacterial contamination. A dog’s outer ear pinna, auditory canal, middle ear, and inner ear can all become infected. A sick dog appears dull and lethargic and scratches its ears or rubs against the floor.

Injury or Trauma

Dogs with large, flat ears are more prone to injury. Immune cells proliferating in the wounded area bring on inflammation. Dogs scratch their ears to ease the irritation.


Dogs’ ears get itchy and irritated due to ear mites, which puncture the blood vessels and draw blood. So, dogs scratch their ears to get rid of the mites and reduce their discomfort.


A dog could have allergies to certain foods, dust, or sources of animal protein. Consuming allergens can therefore trigger ear allergies that result in head shaking and scratching. But unlike infections, ear allergies can cause hair loss where they are present.

Foreign bodies

A foreign object may occasionally become lodged in a dog’s ear, which can be uncomfortable. So, to get rid of the foreign object, a dog will scratch its ears. If there is a foreign object in the ear, you should check it out and see a veterinarian. 

Dog Ear Infections

Bacteria and fungi are always the cause of dog ear infections. They multiply in the ear canal, resulting in the production of foul pus. The dog’s ear gets pus and a yellowish viscous substance discharged from it. The pus discharge has a nasty odor that irritates both the dog and the owner.

Signs Of Dog Ear Infections

The signs of a mild ear infection include ear pain, scratching the ear, and being lethargic due to difficulty hearing. If not treated promptly, the infection might spread to other areas of the ear.

The signs of a severe ear infection include pus discharge from the ear, a red or swollen ear pinna, deafness, loss of appetite, loss of body balance, and walking in circles.

Why Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?

Bacteria, fungi, parasites, and respiratory infections also cause dog ear infections. The dog ear mites produce an infestation in the external ear. Dogs acquire the parasite from sick cage mates or their surroundings, and they are plainly visible to the naked eye. 

Dirty and contaminated surroundings contain bacteria like Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. When these bacteria invade the inner ear, they can cause ear infections. They can also infect the respiratory tract, which can lead to infection. The common bacterial ear infections are otitis interna, otitis media, and otitis externa. Otitis media and Interna are serious conditions that require quick attention.

Diagnosis Of Dog Ear Infections

Most people can easily identify the signs and symptoms of dog ear infections. A veterinarian, on the other hand, will inspect and test the pet thoroughly to determine the kind of infection. A veterinarian will use a bacterial culture or a blood test to determine the source of the infection.

The pus/fluid discharge from the dog’s ear can readily be used to diagnose bacterial infections. Blood samples and ear examinations can be used to identify and confirm mite infections. As a result, correct identification of infection aids in therapy.

How To Treat Ear Infections In Dogs?

Ear infections in dogs can be treated using veterinary-prescribed ointments and ear drops. Antibiotic ointments are prescribed by veterinarians for infections or inflammation of the external ear. Dogs with middle or inner ear infections are given antibiotic ear drops. 

Anti-inflammatory and antihistamine medications also control inflammation. Along with these medicines, vets recommend washing the ears with antiseptic or antibiotic solutions.

Dog Ear Infection Home Remedies

It is possible to use home remedies to avoid dog ear infections. Applying specific oils to the external ear might also help reduce inflammation. Infection and inflammation are prevented and controlled by massaging the dog’s ears with oils such as oregano essential oil. 

However, we don’t recommend using home remedies. Instead, you should see a veterinarian, who will prescribe antibiotic drops and solutions to use.

How Do Vets Treat Dog Ear Infections?

Antibiotic drops, anti-inflammatory medicines, ointments, and antiseptic solutions are all used by veterinarians to treat dog ear infections. The infection’s condition and severity determine the use of these medications.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat A Dog Ear Infection?

If an ear infection in a dog is not treated, it can lead to deafness, difficulties walking, confusion, and nervous disorders. Bacteriostatic or bactericidal medications are used to control and prevent bacterial growth in the inner ear.

If bacteria and mites have unrestricted access to the ear, they can cause damage to the nervous system. Through the eardrum, bacteria can infect the nerves in the skull. The dog will start scratching the ears aggressively due to pain. It becomes difficult to recover from a severe infection if it is left untreated.

How To Prevent Dog Ear Infections?

Ear infections in dogs can be prevented. Bacterial infections are caused by unsanitary housing conditions. Cleaning the living area of the dog on a regular basis will help prevent ear infections. Dog ear infections can also spread from one dog to another if they come into contact. So, you should regularly disinfect the area and keep infected dogs in separate rooms. Ear infections can also be avoided with regular grooming and a well-balanced diet. To prevent microbial and parasite growth, make sure the dog living rooms are sufficiently ventilated and moisture-free.

Have more questions about dogs that scratch their ears? Here are our answers.

How do you treat ear infections in dogs?

Ear infections in dogs can be treated by using topical ointments, antibiotic drops, and antihistamine drugs. Because ear infections can spread to the inner ear and brain, appropriate treatment is required. Severe ear infections are difficult to cure at home, so seek medical help as soon as possible.

How do I know if my dog has ear mites?

You can see ear mites with your naked eye. They suck blood from the ear’s arteries and veins while also releasing a chemical into the bloodstream. Mites cause hair loss around the ear and weaken the fur at the spot where they are found.

Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Ears?

A dog loses its equilibrium due to an eardrum infection. Depending on the severity of the infection, veterinarians can prescribe ointments, antibiotic drops, and pain relievers. It is necessary to take precautionary measures to prevent ear infections. If your dog becomes infected, get emergency medical attention from a veterinarian.

Did you think dogs scratching their ears was such a complex issue? What are your thoughts on why dogs scratch their ears? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!

Dr. Dilber
Dr. Dilber
Dr. Dilber is a veterinarian, who studied veterinary medicine at the Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam. After completing the degree, he worked as a veterinary surgeon in different vet surgeries and clinics in Pakistan. He is also working for Animal Welfare and Animal Rights in Pakistan. Besides this, he is giving lectures, some of them at the University of animal sciences, Lahore, and publishing articles about pet health, nutrition, diseases, and animal welfare issues. As an expert and animal rights activist, he often has to be at court of justice to support lawsuits regarding animal welfare.