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Why Does My Dog Have Ear Scabs And What Can I Do?

Updated on November 18, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He has been working with dogs more than 40 years.

Crusts and sores on the outer ear flaps are common but can indicate 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.

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)
• Frostbite
• 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 Strike

Poorly cropped ears will probably develop fly strike.
Poorly cropped ears will probably develop fly strike. | Source

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.

Treatment

It should be treated with any compound that will keep the flies off of animals. Before applying any ointments, clean the ears with soapy water and betadine from your first aid kit, then dab dry with a cotton ball.

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

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.

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

If the dog's condition is caused by an allergy, the 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 and steroids 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.

Ear Trauma

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.

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

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 Hematoma

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.

Allergies can cause inflammation, and when dogs scratch the ears become traumatized.
Allergies can cause inflammation, and when dogs scratch the ears become traumatized. | Source

Is My Dog Going to Get Better?

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.

© 2014 DrMark1961

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    • Nona Ray 4 weeks ago

      for those of you that have found a growth of scabs on the tip of your dog's ear that will not go away even after you clean it - I found a remedy - but make sure it's like this below

      A major causative factor which may begin this chronic condition resembles a waxy or sometimes a dry white dandruff-like scaly condition at the ear tips. The ear tip may also appear somewhat thickened and this very likely is the result of what appears to be an overgrowth of cells at the follicle base. Examined under the microscope (or even magnifying glass) one sees this white dandruff-like scale forms around the hair at the follicle base. This is what is sometimes referred to as a “scurf,” and develops on other animals besides dogs. “Scurf” is just a slang term for what is likely an overproduction of skin cells and/or oil around the follicle, which leads to a sort of waxy, dry folliculitis. This folliculitis may sometimes result in further itching or irritation of the ear tip, followed by a secondary bacterial infection, which aggravates the original condition. More quickly than seems possible the ear tips become bloodied from constant scratching and head shaking, and the condition accelerates into a chronic trauma induced wound situation as any closed lesions are constantly opened anew.

      The cure is clove oil-if you cannot find it.. then get this stuff for teeth aches called Red Cross - mainly sold in wall greens. My pups ears are great and the hair is now growing back! ;)

      Sorry I don't have before pics.. I was looking for something on the web but those cases were WAY worse than my pups. I promise this stuff works!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      We have a biting fly here, sort of like a small horse fly, and it does its share of damage. Dogs are usually loose and avoid the fly areas (by the swamps) so the most common problem I see is trauma, usually from fighting each other.

      There should be a roll on to prevent that!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      We don't have farms around here anymore...just a few horse farms or backyard hobby farms...but it seems the only time I see the crusty ear problems you write about involves "farm dogs." And it is usually fly strike. Although they may be well taken care of, farm dogs seem to live a "neglected" life compared to the pampered lives of family pets in this area. At my store, we sold a roll-on insecticide that could be used on horses and dogs around the eyes and on the ear tips. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Diana thanks again for reading.

      Ear mites are usually pretty easy to clear up, so I wonder if there is an underlying problem. Does she have a lot of that black thick wax when you start treatment? If it is a clear or foul smelling odor, it may be otitis secondary to allergies. If it is mites, cleaning them out is half the battle!

      Good luck on that fight!!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 2 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      You have another interesting hub here. My older dog has had an ongoing battle with ear mites over the years. I may be trying the olive oil. Good information. Voted up.

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