Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Otitis Externa in Horses

By

Karen A. Moriello

, DVM, DACVD, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Medically Reviewed Aug 2019 | Modified Oct 2022

The tubular portion of the outer ear that carries sound to the eardrum is called the ear canal. Inflammation of the external ear canal, called otitis externa, can be short- or longterm and may develop anywhere from the eardrum to the outer ear. Signs of inflammation include redness of the skin, swelling, itchiness, head shaking, increased discharge, and scaly skin. The ear canal may be painful or itchy depending on the cause or duration of the condition. While it is the most common disease of the ear canal in dogs and cats, it is uncommon in horses. Treatment involves identifying and managing the underlying cause and eliminating any infections. Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate treatment plan with any necessary medications.

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