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Dry Skin on Dog Ears: 7 Reasons Why It Happens

Dry skin on dogs’ ears is caused by allergies, parasites, or skin infections (dermatitis). The most common symptoms of these conditions besides dry skin is the formation of crusts, excessive itching, head shaking, and sometimes bleeding. Contact the veterinarian if your dog experiences these symptoms.

Why does my dog have black secretions and dry ears? What treatment should I administer for the dry skin on my dog’s ears? Can it spread to me?

These are some of the questions dog owners ask when they notice that their pet has an ear problem.

Dogs should have smooth ears without hair gaps, itching, and abundant secretions. If your dog has a problem with any of these, scratches excessively, or shakes its head, there’s a problem. 

Most often, dry skin on dogs’ ears is caused by a medical condition. But, there are situations where it is the result of frostbite or trauma.

In this article, you will learn why dogs have dry ears, what you can do, and more.

Why Does My Dog Have Dry Skin on Its Ears?

Dry skin on dogs’ ears commonly occurs due to parasites, trauma, frostbites, allergies, skin infections, and autoimmune disorders. In addition to dry skin on the ears, you may notice excessive scratching, head shaking, crusting, or bleeding.

Dry skin, crusts, and wounds on the ears are common in dogs and do not always have to represent a medical condition. They can appear if you switched to a new shampoo, left your dog outside for too long, or due to medical issues.

As of the latter, it’s important to go to the vet.

Here are the most common medical conditions that lead to dry skin on dogs’ ears:

  1. Parasites (mange and ear mites)
  2. Allergies (food and flea allergy)
  3. Trauma (bites from other animals and lacerations)
  4. Trauma caused by medical conditions that lead to head shaking and scratching
  5. Ear margin seborrhea
  6. Dermatophytosis (ringworm)
  7. Autoimmune disorders (pemphigus foliaceus)

1. Parasites

Parasites on dogs ear

Mites are parasites that can cause dry skin and wounds on dogs’ ears. There are primarily two types that do this:

  • Sarcoptes scabiei (causes sarcoptic mange)
  • Otodectes cynotis (ear mites)

Sarcoptic mange

Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious disease and is caused by mites on the surface or deep in the skin. There are many symptoms of sarcoptic mange:

  • Dry skin all over the body, including the ears
  • Partial or total hair loss
  • Crusts
  • Excessive itching
  • Intense scratching
  • Bleeding injuries
  • Painful, red skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss

As the disease is contagious, it can be transmitted to other animals and humans. The carrier doesn’t always show obvious symptoms. 

Your dog can also become infected with sarcoptic mange from the environment (grass, bedding, shelter, etc.). The mites that transmit this disease are extremely resistant, as they can survive up to 19 days in the environment.[1]

Dogs with sarcoptic mange must be taken to the vet as soon as symptoms appear. The disease can become complicated and endanger pets’ lives.

Ear mites

Ear mites spread easily among dogs. Puppies can even get them from their mothers during the nursing period. They live on the surface of the ear canal and feed on cerumen (wax) and dead cells. 

Symptoms include the following:

  • Inflammation of the auditory canal and the auricle
  • Discomfort
  • Itching and scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Abundant black-gray ear secretions
  • Bad odor
  • Scabs and dry skin (if the secretion dries and hardens)

Ear mites are easy to treat. But if left untreated, they can lead to complications and ear infections that can cause deafness.[2] 

Contact the vet as soon as you notice changes in the consistency, color, and smell of your dog’s ear wax.

2. Allergies

Allergies on dogs ear

Allergies, especially food or parasitic allergies (fleas), can also cause dry skin on the ears. The symptoms of allergies are similar to those of mange:[3]

  • Scabs on the margins of dogs’ ears
  • Dry skin on the ears
  • Red and inflamed ears
  • Intense itching
  • Excessive scratching to the point of self-mutilation
  • Head shaking
  • Pain
  • When the allergy is generalized, it also causes hair loss.

In some cases, their ears are so itchy that dogs cause ear hematomas (othematoma) from scratching and head shaking.

You can try changing your dog’s diet to a hypoallergenic diet if you think that is the cause of the allergy. Otherwise, contact the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Related article: Black Blood-Filled Bump on Dog

3. Trauma

Trauma on dogs ear

If your dog has been hit, scratched or bitten by another animal, dry skin may also occur. Veterinarians recommend applying antibiotic ointments to prevent the development of infections and keep the skin hydrated.

If the wound is deep or the ear is torn, go to the vet as stitches may be needed.

In the case of frostbites, it is recommended to have the vet remove the affected tissue to prevent gangrene.

4. Trauma Secondary to Other Medical Conditions

Dogs with othematomas or auricular fissures sometimes traumatize their ears by excessive scratching and head shaking. This can lead to ear flap injuries, causing pain, bleeding, and dry skin.

If the injury is superficial, you can apply antibiotic ointments, but it’s important to treat the primary cause.

5. Ear Margin Seborrhea

Ear Margin Seborrhea
Image Source

Dogs with pendulous ears (especially Dachshunds) are prone to develop ear margin seborrhea. The disease initially affects the tip of the ear and can progress to the whole ear.[4]

The cause of ear margin seborrhea is unknown, and symptoms include:

  • Dry and scaly skin on the margin of the ear.
  • The scales are gray-yellow and adhere to the hair.
  • The margin of the ear is inflamed and fissured (in severe cases).

The clinical signs are similar to those of sarcoptic mange, ringworm, or frostbite. Go to the vet for a correct differential diagnosis.

6. Dermatophytosis

Dermatophytosis on dogs
Image Source

Dermatophytosis is a fungal skin disease caused by fungi that digest keratin. The most common genus responsible for this pathology is Microsporum (ringworm).

This condition is more common in warm periods and humid environments. Sometimes, even excessive bathing can cause dogs to develop a mycosis as the skin’s natural defensive barriers are removed.

Ringworm can appear all over the body, but the most common areas are:

  • Face
  • Ears
  • Tail
  • Legs

Symptoms include:

  • Hair loss in a characteristic circular pattern with a red and crusty edge
  • Scabs and dry skin
  • Reddened and inflamed skin
  • Itching

Ringworm is highly contagious and can be transmitted to other animals and humans.[5]

When dogs are healthy and have a strong immune system, the symptoms disappear quickly in about three months.

Contact the vet if the symptoms persist or worsen.

7. Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune Disorders

Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune skin disease that especially occurs in middle-aged dogs. It manifests through the following symptoms:

  • Pustules that rupture and leave a red hairless area with dry skin
  • Grayish-yellow crusts
  • Round or oval ulcers
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Itchiness sometimes

It is generally located in the regions that are most exposed to microtraumas:

  • Face
  • Ears
  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • Perianal
  • The ventral part of the neck
  • Thorax
  • Abdomen

The most affected breeds are:[6]

  • Akita
  • Chow Chow
  • Bearded Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman pinscher
  • Newfoundland

The disease can last from several weeks to months. It is often confused with lupus erythematosus, therefore a differential diagnosis is necessary.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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