Scratching is natural behavior for Frenchies (as it is for all dogs). Sometimes they will just have an itch they need to scratch. Whilst this is very normal behavior, I would err on the side of caution if you see your French Bulldog constantly scratching his ears. It could be the sign of something more serious than a simple itch; in other words, an ear infection.
However, it could be something you don’t need to worry about at all, but with any ear scratching or pawing, I recommend you take a closer look. Here’s what it could be:
Why does my French Bulldog keep scratching his ears? If your Frenchie is constantly scratching his ears it could be the sign of an ear infection, fleas, mites, allergies. If it’s just the occasional scratch for 30 seconds, it’s probably just an itch that needs to be scratched.
When to be concerned about Frenchie ear scratching
As our beloved Frenchies don’t have arms and hands, they will often pose in that comical position where they hook their back leg up to get to their ear. It’s entirely natural, and we will see our boy Claude scratching and pawing at his ears at least once a day – but just for a few seconds at a time.
However, if you have noticed that your Frenchie is repeatedly scratching at his ears for a longer period of time, then it could be a sign of something wrong. Those possibilities include ailments such as ears infections or skin irritation and allergies.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet but am an experienced French Bulldog owner. In this guide I am going to explain more about all I’ve learned about Frenchie ear infections. However, for professional advice, you should always consult with your own vet.
French Bulldogs are very prone to ear problems. Last year I researched into all the different health problems that Frenchies can have, and ear infections accounted for 14% of all issues you might encounter during their lifetime.
An untreated ear infection could potentially lead to your Frenchie becoming deaf if not taken care of as soon as you or your vet diagnoses it.
If you are concerned and your French Bulldog’s ear scratching appears to be paired with some visible discomfort and an unusual regularity, then take them to see a vet as soon as possible.
But what kind of ear infections and problems are Frenchie’s prone to? And are there ways to help prevent and treat them before they become a more serious issue?
Reasons why Frenchies scratch their ears
If you notice your French Bulldog is scratching at his ears, it could be for a number of reasons. I won’t include the most obvious and common one; which is that they just have a quick itch that needs to be scratched.
Below are the more serious reasons, including ear infections.
1. Fleas or ear mites
Some dogs will be extremely allergic to fleas and mites. Flea allergy dermatitis is quite common, and you can read more about it on the VCA Animal Hospital website.
This condition will make your Frenchie’s ear very itchy as the flea’s saliva can cause an allergic reaction. It just takes one flea to bite your dog’s ear to get them scratching furiously.
To eliminate fleas, talk to your vet about medication including flea collars and a spot-on treatment. You should also wash their bedding thoroughly to get rid of any flea eggs.
Ear mites are a little different, as they will physically invade the ear to make it a nice and warm home. You might even be able to see them moving around if you can get your Frenchie to stay still long enough.
2. Skin and ear allergies
Skin irritation can occur due when your Frenchie has an allergy to a certain material, food or ticks or fleas as already discussed. Some of these are seasonal and others can be easily removed from their environment or their diet.
A skin allergy or irritation can occur anywhere around the body, with their chewing and scratching causing hairless patches of enflamed skin known as ‘hot spots’. Some of the more common areas for skin allergies are around their bellies and their ears.
If allergies are the cause of your Frenchie ear scratching, your vet will be able to help to identify what your dog is allergic to and what you can do to help treat it and prevent it from occurring again.
Handy Hint: I wrote a guide to the most common Frenchie skin allergies, which includes details on what each one means and potential treatment options.
3. Ear infections
French Bulldogs are more prone to ear infections than most breeds. Their excessive ear scratching can often cause hematomas to develop. Hematomas are blood-filled blisters that occur when a blood vessel in the ear bursts. Not only does the itching cause the hematoma, but can then lead you to your Frenchie scratching or excessively shaking their heads (an obvious sign of an ear infection).
French Bulldog ear infections are usually quite easy to spot. Check for discoloured swellings that your Frenchie finds painful when you touch. They can also exhibit a high fever and temperature. You can read how to diagnose these in my guide to Frenchie fevers.
Whilst some infections can heal on their own by discouraging your dog from scratching (either by bandaging their ears or using a cone) some may need more medical attention to drain them or even a possible surgical procedure.
4. The weather and heat
During the colder months we all have to turn our heating up, but a consequence of this is dry air in the home which can cause doggy problems. It could result in dry skin in the ear which becomes extremely itchy.
Pay more attention to your Frenchie’s ears, and possibly even consider bathing then less in the winter months. Here’s how often I recommend bathing Frenchies.
Handy Hint: If the winter season is approaching, you will find my Frenchie Cold Weather guide helpful as it includes all the methods we use to keep our dog safe from extreme temperatures.
5. Your choice of grooming products
The products you use when bathing your Frenchie could also be the cause of ear scratching. Using a human shampoo is a definite no-no, but even some specialist dog shampoos you need careful consideration too.
We use a combination shampoo and conditioner which you can buy on Amazon. It’s designed to help dry and itchy skin.
Handy Hint: Watch this video where we show you how we bathe our Frenchie and explain the washing / cleaning process step by step.
Why do French Bulldogs get ear infections?
All breeds of dog are at risk of ear infections, but as a breed, Frenchies tend to suffer more. A lot of this is down to them having small skulls which result in narrower ear canals.
These small and compact ear canals can become easily built up with wax, creating the perfect environment for yeast infections to develop. If left untreated, can become incredibly painful and can even result in long-term damage to your dog’s ears.
Types of French Bulldog ear infections
There are three different types of ear infections in Frenchies, classified by the part of the ear canal that has become infected:
- Otitis Externa: The most common type of ear infection. Caused by the inflammation of the external ear canal, the area between the eardrum and the outer ear. It often presents itself as redness and painful swelling.
- Otitis Media: Affecting the middle part of the ear just behind the eardrum, it is less outwardly noticeable as it is further within the ear canal, with the symptoms more being to do with behaviour; including loss of appetite, lack of sleep and signs of ear pain.
- Otitis Interna: The inflammation of the innermost part of the ear, it is also known as labyrinthitis (read more on PetMeds.org). Because of this part of the ear aiding with balance and coordination, inner-ear infections often cause dizziness and unsteadiness on their feet, as well as pain around their jaw muscles making them unwilling to bite or chew. In Frenchies this can be because of yeast infections or ear mites causing damage to the inner ear.
How do I know if my French Bulldog has an ear infection?
Dogs obviously can’t tell you that they have an ear infection, but thankfully they are very good at communicating to us physically when something isn’t quite right.
Frenchie ear infections can be uncomfortable, if not painful for them, making the symptoms rather easy to spot, as they don’t tend to hide their discomfort from us.
What does a French Bulldog ear infection look like?
The symptoms of ear infections in dogs include some of the following signs to look for. If I can find a photo of what a French Bulldog ear infection looks like, I will update this blog post in the future.
1. Head shaking and whining
Ear infections will often feel like they have something lodged in their ear canal, meaning dogs will often shake their heads to try and dislodge whatever it is causing them discomfort. As it is the ear itself that is causing the discomfort, this can cause further problems, including burst blood vessels.
The head shaking will often be combined with a low whining. If you see both of these signs combined, get a vet appointment quickly.
2. Pawing and scratching at the ears
The most obvious sign of a French Bulldog ear infection will be when they paw and scratch at their ears.
Don’t confuse a normal itch that needs to be scratched though; only be concerned when you see your Frenchie pawing at his ears on a more frequent basis.
3. Brown or yellow discharge
Check for any dark discharge. These will typically be yellow or reddish brown colors. This can be caused by a number of things, including bleeding within the ear, the overproduction of earwax or allergies.
4. Redness inside the ear
I also recommend that you check inside of your Frenchie’s ears to check for redness and sores. Most Frenchie’s inner ears will look like the photo you see below of a healthy Frenchie inner ear.
5. Nasty odor and smells
Yeast infections can often smell quite bad and usually accompanies off-colour discharge from the ear.
If you get a whiff of something nasty near your Frenchie’s ear, it’s very likely that he has an ear infection.
Handy Hint: Did you know that smells can often be a signal of your Frenchies well-being? For example, the way their breath smells could signal various different illnesses.
6. Difficulty balancing
Because of the inner ear helping with balance, an inner ear infection can cause your dog to be unsteady on their feet. You will see them leaning to one side, falling over or walking around in circles.
Don’t confuse a difficulty in balancing with a limping back leg; the two things could be down to very different reasons.
7. Head tilting
Along with a difficulty in holding their balance, your French Bulldog could also tilt his head to the side of the infected ear in order to aid with their balance.
If both of their ears are infected, they may also swing their head from side to side repeatedly. It can be described almost like a waddle as they walk and is the sign you need to take them to the vet.
8. Scabs or crusty ears
Because of excessive scratching at their ears, your dog’s ears might become crusty from the damage caused by the scratching, as well as dried out earwax or discharge.
This is one of the most common resultant problems of a French Bulldog ear infection… they can’t stop scratching their ears so end up creating a secondary issue as well.
9. Visible hair loss
Another obvious sign of an ear infection, which is part in due to the scratching, will be visible hair loss. Look out for patches or dull hair that easily pulls away with a little tug.
Dull hair that falls out from the ear area could also be a sign of a more serious condition such as bacterial infection, cancer, lymphoma, mange, ringworm, skin cancer, or another illness.
How to cure a French Bulldog ear infection
If you think your Frenchie does have an ear infection, please take them to see a vet sooner rather than later. While some ear infections may go away on their own, it is better to catch it before it grows any worse.
If not treated, a Frenchie ear infection can continue to cause your dog pain and distress for a longer period of time and can even lead to permanent damage to their ears or their hearing.
Your vet will be able to properly test for and diagnose the type of ear infection and prescribe a treatment to soothe the pain and get rid of the infection as quickly as possible.
These kinds of treatments include topical creams to treat outer ear inflammation and cracking, antibiotics to treat infections further into the ear canal, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the swelling. All of them should stop your Frenchie scratching or shaking their head to try and dislodge the blockage in their ear.
After you have visited the vet and they have made a proper diagnosis, they could sedate your Frenchie in order to treat the ear infection. This is very much the worst-case scenario though.
Your vet could also give you treatments for your Frenchie’s ear infection to do at home. Typically, this will be a cleaning solution in tandem with a cotton ball. Don’t push too far into the ear canal though and take strict instructions from your vet.
There are also some home remedies that can be used while you wait for your vet appointment. These include:
- Water and apple cider vinegar: spray a 50/50 mix onto the infected part of your Frenchie’s ear. This mix works as both an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory. Some dog owners also recommend using a witch hazel solution.
- Warm flannel compresses: you can also wet a flannel or towel with warm water and apply that to the infection. Repeat the compress 4 to 5 times daily as it can help with pain, inflammation, and the melting of ear wax, making it easier to clean up.
- Cut longer inner ear hairs: if you can get your Frenchie to stay still, try to trim down any long hair inside of his ears. Long hair can stop the air flowing into the ear, leaving it dry and more prone to infection.
- Add vitamin C to their diet: this vitamin is said to help boost a dog’s immune system plus encourage the adrenal glands to work harder, helping to fight off ear infections. Don’t give them orange juice though (here’s why)! You can buy chewable dog vitamin tablets on Amazon to supplement their intake.
However, for any remedy that involve dropping any mixture or oils directly into your Frenchie’s ear, please consult your vet first either over the phone or in person at your appointment.
Doing so incorrectly can cause pain and further damage to your dog’s ears and hearing. Always do your research when considering herbal or home remedies.
Because of their complicated history as a breed, French Bulldogs are more susceptible to ear related problems, including ear infections and skin conditions that could lead to discomfort, pain and even prolonged health issues if left untreated.
If your Frenchie is suffering with an ear infection and scratching like crazy, the cause of the itching should be addressed quickly.
However, most French Bulldog ear infections can be treated very easily, so in most cases your Frenchie will stop his ear scratching given a little time and treatment.