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Causes and Treatments for Ear Dermatitis in Dogs


Ear dermatitis in dogs can stem from various factors, including mites, mange, allergies, injuries, fissures, and seborrhea. Although these issues may seem trivial, your furry friend would beg to differ. The intense itching and resulting discomfort can become a persistent nuisance, potentially leading to scarring. If your dog’s scratching reaches a point where the skin breaks, the risk of infection increases due to the presence of germs under the nails and exposure to outdoor dirt during playtime.

Diverse skin conditions can provoke irritation in the external part of the ear (pinna), with most being secondary to dermatitis in other areas. It’s uncommon for a skin disorder to solely impact the ears. Therefore, if your dog exhibits signs of itchy ears, redness, and inflammation, it’s likely indicative of a broader skin issue elsewhere. However, ear mites are a prevalent cause of dermatitis in dog ears and it’s the only body part affected.

What are the symptoms of ear dermatitis in dogs?

The manifestations of ear dermatitis exhibit a range of variations depending on the underlying cause, yet they consistently involve itchiness and redness. Occasionally, there may be no apparent symptoms, and the issue is discovered during a veterinary examination for another ailment or a routine checkup. However, in a substantial 90% of dermatitis cases, the prevalent symptoms include:

  • Persistent scratching of the ears
  • Frequent chewing on the ears
  • Hair loss in the vicinity of the ears
  • Noticeable redness and swelling
  • Unpleasant, foul-smelling discharge
  • Presence of scabs and lesions
  • Occasional bleeding
  • Head shaking
  • Formation of crusts or scaling on the edges of the ears

Types and Common Causes:

  • Allergies can arise from various sources, such as contact, food, or pollen, manifesting in diverse ways, including intense scratching anywhere on the body, particularly the ears.
  • Cellulitis, commonly referred to as juvenile cellulitis due to its prevalence among young dogs aged between one and four months, constitutes a skin infection characterized by tiny pus-filled bumps in dogs’ ears and elevated skin.
  • Injuries can result from a range of causes, including bites from other animals, burns, and lacerations.
  • Mange is a highly contagious disorder caused by ear mites, leading to symptoms like hair loss, redness, swelling, and severe itchiness.
  • Seborrhea, characterized by scaly and dry skin on dogs’ ears, typically makes an appearance in colder weather conditions.

What causes dermatitis on dog ears?

Below are some of the most common causes of ear dermatitis in dogs:

  • Skin problems can affect dogs across all breeds, with some breeds like Golden Retrievers, Gordon Setters, and Dachshunds appearing to be more susceptible than others.
  • Certain breeds, including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, and Golden Retrievers, seem predisposed to the development of acute moist dermatitis, commonly known as hot spots.
  • Dogs residing in hot and humid climates, as well as those with long hair, are also at an elevated risk of skin issues.
  • Due to the diverse causes of dermatitis, it’s challenging to accurately generalize which breeds or mixed breeds are more prone to developing skin irritation.

Diagnosing Ear Dermatitis

During a veterinary examination, your pet will undergo a comprehensive physical, including a thorough assessment of the skin and coat, weight measurement, body temperature check, blood pressure monitoring, reflex and pupil reaction time evaluation, pulse and respiratory rate assessment, lung sound examination, and oxygen level measurement. Additionally, the veterinarian may conduct an in-depth ear examination using an otoscope, usually requiring sedation to minimize pain and stress.

It allows the vet to obtain skin scrapings and lesion samples for microscopic evaluation, including bacterial and fungal cultures, to identify potential infestations. Other diagnostic tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, serum biochemistry analysis, and metabolic profile, may be performed to establish a more definitive diagnosis.

Various Treatments for Dog Ear Dermatitis

Before creating a treatment plan, it is crucial to identify the cause of the dermatitis because each type requires a specific and tailored approach.


Treating allergies can involve an antihistamine injection, but it is a complex process, as identifying the specific allergen for your pet can be challenging. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend consulting a veterinary dermatologist for additional allergy tests.


The treatment for an injury varies based on its cause. Burn injuries may be treated with burn cream; frostbite might require amputation; bug bites can be addressed with antiseptic and insect-repellent cream; while animal bites typically involve corticosteroids and antiseptic treatment. Additionally, antibiotics are commonly prescribed to prevent or clear up infections associated with these injuries.


Mange comes in two forms: sarcoptic and demodectic, both highly contagious, necessitating isolation from other pets. Effective treatments include afoxolaner, permethrin, ivermectin, selamectin, and sulfurated lime rinse. These treatments are typically administered multiple times over several months.


Due to the infection, your veterinarian will typically administer an antibiotic injection to your pet.


To address this condition, use mild soap and water along with a moisturizer. Keep in mind that this is a lifelong disorder, so once you discover an effective treatment, maintain consistency with it.

Recovery After Treatment

The prognosis is positive for this disorder, as it is more of an annoyance than a serious threat. After relieving the itchiness and pain, it’s advisable to continue monitoring your pet. Keep a close eye out for any potential side effects of the prescribed medications, and consult your veterinarian about what signs to watch for.

Rapid Action is Required to Relieve Dog Ear Dermatitis

If your dog is showing signs of ear dermatitis, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. Early detection and proper treatment tailored to the specific cause are crucial for your pet’s comfort and health. Stay vigilant about changes in your dog’s behavior or symptoms and follow through with the recommended care plan for a happy, healthy pet!


  • Diane Silva

    Diane is a travel enthusiast, content creator, and master storyteller, capturing her adventures through captivating blogs and engaging vlogs. With a passion for the great outdoors and a love for literature, she brings a unique perspective to the travel world. Whether she's exploring hidden gems or discussing the latest trends, Diane is your go-to source for all things travel and beyond.