Occasionally scratching and itching is normal in pets. You probably notice your beloved pet spending a fair bit of time scratching, licking, and biting at various areas of his body. However, if your pet seems to be paying more attention than usual to his ears, there could be something going on that requires veterinary intervention.

Some of the most common causes of itchy ears in pets include:

  • Ear mite infection
  • Yeast or bacterial infection
  • Other external parasites
  • A foreign body or mass inside the ear

Let’s take a look at these causes and what you can do to help your pet.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are common and highly contagious parasites that can be found on both cats and dogs. While they are not life-threatening, they are unpleasant and can make life pretty miserable for your pet while he is experiencing this problem.

The mites themselves are tiny and virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. However, the effect that they create is much larger. Living primarily inside the ear canal, they feed on skin debris to survive. Their life cycle is short, and it takes just three weeks for eggs that have been laid by an adult mite to hatch. This means that an ear mite infestation can grow considerably and, in some cases, even become so large in number that they block the ear canal of your pet, impairing his hearing and balance.

If you suspect that your pet might have ear mites, we will be able to confirm a diagnosis by assessing his ear debris with a microscope. Topical medications for ear mites are widely available, fairly inexpensive and successful.

Ear infections in pets

Cats and dogs can be just as prone to getting ear infections as humans can. This is especially true for canines who have very long ear canals that bend at such an angle. It is easy for dirt, debris, and bacteria to become trapped inside them. Yeast infections are fairly simple to spot since they are accompanied by a waxy residue and scabbing around the opening of the ear. Bacterial infections can be harder to diagnose, but you may notice his ears look red, swollen, or have a foul odor or discharge. The best way to determine which bacteria are causing your pet’s infection is to examine the debris under a microscope.

Treatment for ear infections usually involves topical ointments, although your pet may also be prescribed oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

Other external parasites

Ear mites aren’t the only parasites that might affect your pet. Fleas and ticks are common problems, and both have irritating saliva that causes an allergic reaction that includes intense itching. Ticks are fairly easy to spot, but they do bury themselves into your pet’s fur, so you will need to check closely to find the culprit if it is a tick causing your pet’s itchy ears. Fleas are more difficult to identify, but the presence of dark insect or what looks like dirt (and is actually flea feces) may indicate an infestation. There are plenty of treatments available and your vet will be happy to help you find the most appropriate one.

A foreign body/mass inside the ear

Whether it is something innocent such as a leaf, some grass, or even some tissue left behind when you cleaned your pet’s ears, or something more serious, something inside your furbaby’s ear can be extremely irritating and cause intense itching. We will need to investigate the cause of the problem before we can recommend the best course of action.

If your pet has itchy ears, we strongly recommend that you seek veterinary advice rather than deal with the problem yourself. A dog and cat’s ears are delicate, so poking around yourself could damage your pet’s hearing. If the ears are the problem, please do not clean the ears for 24 hours prior to your appointment so the vet can get a good idea of what is going on in the ear canals.  Need to schedule an ear exam for your pet? Call Pet Wellness Clinic today.