Why Does My Dog Have Ear Scabs and What Can I Do?
Crusts and sores on the outer ear flaps are common, but they can also be an indication of more serious problems. Dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections and trauma.
Find out how to recognize and treat some conditions that lead to ear problems so that your dog will feel better.
Some Causes of Scabs and Crusts on Your Dog's Ear Flaps
- Fly Strike
- Other parasites (like mange, ear mites)
- Allergies (that cause otitis aka ear inflammation)
- Trauma (Bites from other dogs, lacerations)
- Trauma secondary to aural hematoma, ear fissures, or ear margin seborrhea
- Autoimmune disorder
Conditions, Symptoms, and Treatment
If you can determine what is causing your dog to have crusty ears, there is a lot to do at home. It is best, however, to make sure you get the right diagnosis from a vet, especially if the condition is persistent.
Fly Bite Dermatitis
Fly Strike, or fly bite dermatitis, usually affects dogs like Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Akitas, and other breeds with erect ears. The dog will have sores and dried blood on the tips of the ears.
It should be treated with a compound like that will keep the flies off of animals. (Flys-Off is a good repellent I use to keep the flys from biting the edges of my dogs´ ears.) Before applying any ointments, clean the ears with soapy water and betadine from your first aid kit, then dab dry with a cotton ball. Flys-Off
Fly strike can be treated at home the same way as it would be treated by your vet. Severe cases might also be treated with a topical antibiotic.
Ear Mites Can Be Treated at Home
If you recognize the black wax and see ear mites, the ear canals can be cleaned and the mites can be treated with olive oil at home.
If ear mites are found in a veterinary examination, the ears will be cleaned and then they will be treated with a topical insecticide.
Always Consider Mange
Mange is identified through skin scrapings at the vet. It can be treated with a local cream, an insecticide bath, or one of several types of oral medications.
Its symptoms include itching, crustiness, hair loss, and rash.
Allergies Can Cause Ear Margin Problems Too
If the dog's crusty ear margins are caused by an allergy, the inner ears are usually red, and they might itch a lot, similar to that seen in some types of mange.
Before any allergies can be treated at home, you need to find out what you are dealing with. Inhalant allergies can be treated naturally, and food allergies can be treated with an elimination diet.
At the vet, inhalant allergies might be treated with antihistamines, steroids, or immunosuppressants to relieve the itching. The vet also might recommend allergy injections.
If food allergies are a problem, the dog will first be treated for the inflamed ears, and then best dealt with by finding out what he is allergic to and removing those allergens from the diet.
Trauma May Develop Into Fly Strike
If your dog has trauma to the ear flap because of fighting, and it is so minor so that she does not need to go to the vet and have it sutured, you will need to keep it clean and keep the flies off. Most vets recommend applying a triple antibiotic ointment to keep the wound moist and to prevent infection.
If you see the vet, they will clean the outer ears if the dog has been traumatized and might suture a torn ear flap. Some dogs will be put on antibiotics for skin infection.
If your dog has been outside in extreme conditions and you suspect frostbite, he should be examined. Surgery (to remove the tissue before it becomes gangrenous) may save his life.
Floppy Ears Can Develop Fissures
Ear fissures are cracks in a floppy ear that itch very badly and are usually caused by itching or shaking of the head due to an underlying condition.
Sometimes it will be enough to clean the ear and treat the infection. If the ear gets worse, the fissure might need to be sutured at the vet.
Marginal Seborrhea: If Your Doxy Has Waxy Ears
Marginal seborrhea is a skin disease caused by a buildup of skin oil on the hair at the edges of the ear flaps. It is most commonly seen in Dachshunds. It is not dangerous but does not go away even with treatment.
You can keep the edges of the ears clean with soap and water, and if your dog has dry and cracked ears, you can apply a moisturizer.
You can also try bathing in benzoyl peroxide or a sulfur-tar shampoo.
- Soak the edge of the ear in warm water with a compress before shampooing and put cotton balls in the ear canal to keep water from dripping inside.
- Repeat every 24 - 48 hours until all greasy stuff has been removed, and use a moisturizer to keep the ears soft and flexible.
Aural Hematomas Need to Be Treated
An aural hematoma (blood pocket in the ear) will be drained, and in some cases the ear must be tacked down to prevent it from filling back up with blood.
The vet will also try to determine the cause of the hematoma and might put your dog on antibiotics or anti-fungal medications if the ears canals are infected.
Is My Dog Going to Get Better?
How to Deal With Ear Margin Problems
How the vet helps will depend on the cause of the sores.
- Fly strike can be treated at home the same way as it would be treated by your vet. Severe cases might also be treated with a topical antibiotic.
- If ear mites are found on the examination, the ears will be cleaned and then they will be treated with a topical insecticide.
- Mange, which is identified through skin scrapings, will be treated with a local cream, an insecticide bath, or one of several types of oral medications.
- Inhalant allergies might be treated with antihistamines and steroids to relieve the itching, and the vet also might recommend allergy injections.
- If food allergies are a problem, the dog will first be treated for the inflamed ears, and then best dealt with by finding out what he is allergic to.
- The vet will clean the outer ears if the dog has been traumatized and might suture a torn ear flap. Some dogs will be put on antibiotics for skin infection.
- If your dog has been outside in extreme conditions and you suspect frostbite, he should be examined. Surgery (to remove the tissue before it becomes gangrenous) may save his life.
- An aural hematoma (blood pocket in the ear) will be drained, and in some cases the ear must be tacked down to prevent it from filling back up with blood. The vet will also try to determine the cause of the hematoma and might put your dog on antibiotics or anti-fungal medications if the ears canals are infected.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 225
My dog's skin on the outside of his ears, neck, and face gets a lot of crusty scabs. Can you give me any help or advice?
It sounds like your dog has an allergic problem so all you are doing with the meds are decreasing the symptoms, temporarily. The ear mite treatment is no good at all.
The first thing to do is put your dog on an elimination diet. This needs to be a novel protein, something your dog has never eaten before, for at least 6 weeks. This means no snacks from the table, no dog treats, etc. If you need to learn more you can Google "dog elimination diet for food allergies".
If you give him a very strict trial for food allergies and he is still having problems he may be suffering form inhalant or other allergies. If this is the case you need to make an appointment with your vet and try to figure out what is causing his chronic ear infections.Helpful 32
My dog is 10 months old and his ear is crusty and being eaten at the tip. What is the problem?
if you will refer to the article, there is a list of causes of crusty ear scabs.
Fly strike is the most common. If you want to find out if your dog has mange or allergies you will need to take him to your regular vet for further testing.Helpful 19
How long should I wait until I can pick off the scabs on my dog’s ears?
You should never pick scabs off of your dog's ears. If the scabs are a bother, they can be moisturized and will fall off quicker as the tissue heals underneath. If you pick them off, however, your dog is going to have delayed healing and will develop scar tissue under the area where you have picked. He can also develop cauliflower ear from this.Helpful 15
Will vitamin E oil hurt my dog's itchy red ears?
As long as your dog's inner ears are not scratched up, the vitamin E should be just fine. However, before applying any substance, it is a good idea to apply it to only one spot, wait an hour or so, and then check to make sure that the condition is not worse instead of better. If everything is okay, and your dog is not showing any signs of irritation, you can apply the liquid to the entire ear.Helpful 10
© 2014 Dr Mark