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Ear Dermatitis in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Dermatitis involving the ear is an inflammation of the pinna (external part of the ear lying outside of the head). There are a variety of causes of ear dermatitis, ranging from infections to parasites to trauma.

Infectious Causes

  • Bacterial
  • Parasitic – Mange (demodectic, otodectic, sarcoptic and notoedric) and ringworm

    Immune Causes

  • Allergy (food, contact)
  • Drug reaction
  • Cold Agglutinin Disease
  • Pemphigus

    Trauma

  • Lacerations, burns, chemical injury
  • Secondary to disorders within the ear (foreign body, tumor, etc...)

    Systemic Causes

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease)
  • Cancer

    Miscellaneous Causes

  • Solar (sun-related) dermatitis
  • Frostbite
  • Fly strike
  • Seborrhea (dry, scaly skin)

    Since there are so many different causes of ear dermatitis, diagnosis, treatment and affect on the animal will vary.

    What to Watch For

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching and rubbing of ears
  • Pain around the ears
  • Hair loss on the pinna
  • Malodorous ears
  • Bleeding

    Diagnosis

    Baseline tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis, are usually within normal limits. Additional tests may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the ear dermatitis.

  • Skin scrapings
  • Allergy testing
  • Fungal culture
  • Bacterial culture
  • Endocrine testing
  • Cytology
  • Biopsy

    Treatment

    The treatment depends on the underlying disorder.

  • Antibiotics/antifungal medicine
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antihistamines
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Antiparasitic drugs
  • Food trials

    Home Care and Prevention

    Follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. If your pet has a recurrence of signs, contact your veterinarian at once. The best way to prevent ear dermatitis is to remove any offending substances from the environment. Limit sun exposure and feed hypoallergenic diets when appropriate.

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