Ear Dermatitis (Inflammation of the Skin on Ears) in Dogs

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Overview of Canine Ear Dermatitis

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 causes problems in dogs. 

Causes of Canine Ear Dermatitis

Causes of Canine ear dermatitis may include: 

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

    Signs of dermatitis of the ears in dogs may include: 

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching and rubbing of ears
  • Pain around the ears
  • Hair loss on the pinna
  • Malodorous ears
  • Bleeding
  • Diagnosis of Ear Dermatitis in Dogs

    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 in dogs. Commonly recommended tests may include: 

  • Skin scrapings
  • Allergy testing
  • Fungal culture
  • Bacterial culture
  • Endocrine testing
  • Cytology
  • Biopsy
  • Treatment of Ear Dermatitis in Dogs

    The treatment in dogs depends on the underlying disorder.

  • Antibiotics/antifungal medicine to treat infectious causes
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antihistamines for dogs with allergies
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Anti parasitic drugs for dogs with parasitic infections
  • Food trials for dogs with allergies
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. If your dog 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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