Puppy constantly scratching at their ears? Settled one minute then the next scratch, scratch, scratch at their ears? These pups are such a worry, we hate to see them uncomfortable and it might easily make you think there’s something seriously wrong.

Don’t panic just yet, it’s pretty common for puppies to be scratching or itching at their ears, and there can be a few causes. Luckily it’s usually just harmless irritation, but read on to make sure your puppy hasn’t got anything more serious going on with their ears.

Here at Zigzag, we’re always here to help. So, in this article, we’ll tell you all about possible reasons your is puppy scratching their ears, what signs to look out for when your puppy is itching their ears, and also what you can do to help if your puppy is scratching their ears.

While we’re here, does your puppy have any other worrying behaviours? Perhaps they’re jumping up or eating everything? Never fear, the Zigzag puppy training app is here! We have a team of expert puppy coaches to talk you through any of the trials and tribulations you might be going through with your puppy, and we know there are plenty!  We’ve even personalised our training programme, based on your puppy’s age and breed type to ensure they receive the best training possible at the right time. 

Dog side profile showing ears
Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Why is my puppy scratching their ear?

So back to those ears, why might your puppy be so itchy? Puppies scratch their ears for a few different reasons; sometimes we just love an itch, and it’s totally harmless. But consider the reasons below and take a look at why your puppy might be scratching their ears.

Puppy scratching ear can be caused by ear mites 

Sounds gross, we know, but ear mites are really common in puppies. They cause a lot of itching, scratching and often shaking of the head! Ear mites are a parasite that live in the ear canal and feed on ear wax and oils and will often cause an ear infection.

Puppy itching ears due to having an ear infection

Ear mites, yeast, bacteria or fungus can all cause an ear infection and make your puppy scratch at their ears. Bacterial infections are the most common reason puppies get ear infections and are often preventable by good hygiene, cleaning and regular grooming.

Allergic reactions can make a puppy itch their ears

If your puppy is having an allergic reaction to something such as their food, it can cause skin irritation, wax build-up, swelling of the ear canal and cause intense itching of the skin, making your puppies ears itchy. 

If you think your puppy has a food sensitivity, it’s worth talking to your vet and possibly considering a food exclusion diet, or trying a raw or home cooked diet. 

Too much ear wax

A puppy scratching or itching at their ears is often a sign that they have wax buildup inside the ear. Ear wax can be a feast for ear mites and cause dirt and debris to become 

lodged in the ear, a breeding ground for bacteria and infections!

Ear hair can cause puppy ear scratching

Many breeds of dog have their ear hair trimmed or plucked as a regular part of grooming. While experts may disagree on whether you should trim your puppy’s ear hair, pluck the ear hair, or not remove it at all, it is crucial to keep the ears clean either way! 

A cut in the ear, will cause your puppy to scratch at their ears

A puppy with a cut ear ends up in a bit of a vicious circle. They lick or scratch at it, because it’s irritating and sore, this then causes the cut to cause more irritation, so they scratch it…and, can you see where this is going? 

Healing skin is often very itchy, so you might find your puppy scratching an ear even when it’s getting better. 

Foreign body in the ear

If you had something stuck in your ear, wouldn’t you be itching and scratching your ear? Of course you would, and so would your puppy! It’s worth checking to see if they have a grass seed, fleas or ticks, or anything else lurking inside their ear that shouldn’t be there! 

Puppy ear scratching can be behavioural

Sometimes ear scratching has a behavioural element, and scratching the shoulder can be what we call a displacement behaviour. A puppy ear scratching can be where the dog is thinking about something, or that they are feeling stressed or worried. Dog body language is a fascinating subject, we would love to tell you more about it in the Zigzag puppy training app. Who doesn’t want to speak dog?

Pay attention to what is happening around them when your puppy is scratching. It’s often displacement behaviour, but yeah it could be fleas too! 

Dog with green fur around neck looking at camera
Photo by Alexandra Novitskaya on Unsplash

What signs do I look out for when puppy is scratching their ears?

If your puppy is just having a good old scratch every now and again, it’s probably nothing medical to worry about. It might be them communicating with their own funny way of telling us or other dogs what they’re feeling and thinking with their body language. But if you see any of the following signs when you check over your puppy’s ears, then it’s a good idea to take a closer look or consult your Vet.

  • Redness
  • Smell
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Oozing
  • Swelling
  • Scabs around the ears

To look inside your puppy’s ears, you might need to do some work on teaching them to be comfortable with handling, use plenty of rewards so that having their ears checked is a nice thing. 

What can I do to help my puppy itching their ears?

If you have a puppy scratching ears, or it seems like their ears are itching them, then we recommend you do the following

  • Check your puppy’s ears for signs of infection or soreness – signs of this are outlined above. Ears should not be smelly! 
  • Make sure the ears are clean – we recommend using a dedicated ear cleaner like Epi-Otic and some cotton wool balls, plus plenty of treats and probably a loaded up lickimat or puzzle toy to get you through all of this! 
  • Don’t go too far down into the ear. You risk pushing any debris or wax further into your puppy’s itchy ear!
  • Take advice from your groomer on whether you should be plucking or trimming the ear hair. 
  • Make sure your puppy’s ears are cleaned and dried after they go swimming or have a bath., You want the area to stay clean and dry, and not be left warm and moist as mites love that kind of home! 
  • If in doubt, ask your Vet. They will best advise you on how to help your puppy stop scratching their ears.
  • In severe ear infections, your vet may want to fully clean your puppy’s ears out under a general anaesthetic or sedation.
dog with banana top showing their ears to camera
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

We hope you’ve learnt some more about why your puppy scratching ears is happening in this article. As you can probably tell, a lot of this will be down to prevention and keeping everything nice and clean! 

Not all dogs like being handled, and this is generally due to not being trained properly when puppies. You can work on consent-based handling and grooming lessons inside the Zigzag app. We also have an article on how to clip a dog’s nails for you that will also help with other handling exercises. 

If you have any questions or you need help with your puppy, don’t forget to get in touch with the expert puppy training coaches inside the Zigzag puppy app. They have decades of experience between them and will do everything they can to help.