Pug dog with ear mites.

The occasional itchy ear is one thing, but when your pet is digging and scratching incessantly it is a different story. Excessive scratching in dogs and cats can be caused by a few things. Shiloh Veterinary Hospital has the information you need to find out if your pet might have an ear infection or you need to be looking for signs of ear mites instead.

Excessive Scratching in Cats and Dogs

Animals cannot just reach up and scratch an itch when their ear is bothering them. Itchy ears may look like they are scratching the ear with their back feet, rubbing the ear on the ground, or holding the ear at an awkward angle. If you rub or touch the itchy ear, you might also get some groans, moans, or a paw ready to help your efforts.

Itchy ears in dogs or cats can be caused by:

  • An external ear infection (otitis externa)
  • Irritation or allergic reaction
  • Ear mites
  • A foreign object in the ear
  • Tumors or polyps in the ear canal

In order to know exactly what the cause of excessive scratching in dogs or cats may be, it is often best to contact us so that we can examine your pet and determine the cause. This way treatment is most likely to be effective.

Signs of Ear Mites 

Perhaps the yuckiest cause of ear irritation in pets is ear mites. Ear mites are very tiny parasites, barely visible without a microscope. While there are several species of this ectoparasite, in cats and dogs we are most often dealing with Otodectes cyanotis.

Ear mites live in the ear canals and feed themselves by indulging on ear wax. This results in a dark brown crumby waste that they deposit in the ear. They also cause inflammation and itching.

Otodectes like spending most of their time in the ear canal itself, but at times they will crawl out onto the skin outside the ear. It is during this time they can spread from animal to animal, so close contact is required for a pet to become infected.

Signs that ear mites might be an issue for your pet include:

  • Shaking their head
  • Scratching or rubbing the ears
  • Dark, coffee-ground like debris in the ears
  • History of recent close contact with other animals

Most often pets with ear mites have come from being strays or have been in a shelter-type environment. It would be extremely unlikely that a dog or cat that has been well-cared for in a home to contract ear mites. 

Thankfully, once ear mites are diagnosed, they are very easy to treat!

Don’t hesitate to ask us for help if you think your pet’s ears may be bothering them. Ear problems in pets can be very irritating and painful, and we are happy to provide relief for our patients in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties.