Have you recently noticed your dog’s ears look dry and flaky on the inside? Maybe they even have some small bumps or scabs on them. If so, your dog might have atopic dermatitis of the ear, aka canine eczema.
The inside of a healthy dog’s ears should look smooth and clear, just like a person with healthy skin. Dryness, redness, flakiness, bumps, and scabs are all signs that something is irritating the skin around their ears. Often times this is due to a common type of eczema known as atopic dermatitis.
Atopic Dermatitis of the Ear in Dogs (Canine Eczema)
Many dogs have some type of eczema. It can occur anywhere on a dog’s skin, including the inside and outer edges of their ears, which is one of the most commonly affected areas.
Canine eczema is divided into two major categories: wet eczema and dry eczema. When a dog has wet eczema, excessive moisture builds up in the afflicted area. On the other hand, if your dog’s ears are dry and flaky, it’s probably safe to assume they have the most common type of dry eczema, which is atopic dermatitis, also known as atopy.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease that typically emerges between the ages of six months and six-years old. It causes irritation and inflammation of the skin. The onset can be so gradual at first that it might take up to three years before it is recognized and clinically diagnosed.
Even though atopy is usually not a serious condition, it can still make your dog very uncomfortable; and if the symptoms go untreated for too long, your dog may develop worse problems, like infections.
Causes of Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is caused by allergies. It is the second most common allergic skin disease that afflicts dogs. People and cats with allergies are also susceptible to atopic dermatitis.
Dogs with a family history of skin allergies are the most likely to get atopic dermatitis. Some of the most common allergens are:
- Mold spores
- Animal danders
- Dust mites
Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis become more apparent and severe the longer the dog has it. Symptoms are also more apparent during allergy seasons. Here are some of the most common symptoms to look for:
- Flaking or peeling of the skin
- Excessive scratching, rubbing, and/or licking
What to Do if You Think Your Dog Has Atopic Dermatitis
If you think your dog might have atopy, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with a vet so they can get diagnosed. Once your vet has determined that your dog does have atopic dermatitis, they can begin recommending treatments.
While it’s unlikely your dog’s atopy will ever go away completely, antihistamines, corticosteroids, anti-itching soaps, and hyposensitization therapy – vaccinating against allergens – can be used to manage the symptoms and reduce the itching. In fact, 60 to 80 percent of the dogs that receive hyposensitization therapy experience a reduction in itching within six to 12 months of receiving treatment.
Once your vet has established a treatment plan, you will need to visit them frequently so they can check on the progress. Expect to have a checkup every two to eight weeks during the first stages of treatment. After your dog’s symptoms have improved and become more manageable, you’ll only need a checkup every three to 12 months, depending on the severity of your dog’s particular case.
At home, you can wash the inflamed area with cold water and an anti-itching shampoo for dogs. You can also use a cotton swab to gently apply an anti-itching spray, which may be easier to apply on their inner ear than soap.
Other Possible Causes for Dry, Flaky Ears
Atopic dermatitis isn’t the only skin disease that can cause your dog’s ears to become dry and flaky. Here are a couple other common culprits…
If your dog has a yeast infection in their ear, expect to see flaking and discoloration on the inner flaps of their ears. Your dog will likely be in a lot of discomfort, and scratch their ears incessantly; but the good news is, yeast infections are easily diagnosed and treated. A simple topical cream is usually all that’s needed to clear it up.
In humans, Seborrhea is what we commonly refer to as “dandruff,” and many dogs also have this skin condition. This disease causes the skin to become scaly and flake off; however, if your dog has Seborrhea in their ears, you should also notice a foul-smelling, waxy buildup.
Seborrhea is an inherited disease that usually only afflicts certain breeds. It won’t be diagnosed until all other possible skin conditions are ruled out. There is no cure for Seborrhea, but the symptoms can be managed using special shampoos, conditioners, and supplements.
Dr. Katy Nelson. Atopic Dermatitis Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_atopic_dermatitis
PetMD. Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_canine_seborrhea
Mike Clark. Eczema In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments. Retrieved from https://dogtime.com/dog-health/57367-eczema-dogs-symptoms-causes-treatments
Amy Flowers, DVM (October 22, 2018). Skin Problems in Dogs. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-skin-problems-in-dogs
- Why I Feed My Dogs Tofu (Health Benefits + How to Feed it to Them) - June 21, 2022
- Why I Feed My Dogs Lentils (Health Benefits + Recipe) - May 11, 2022
- Why I Give My Dog Fish Oil for Arthritis Instead of Flaxseed Oil and Glucosamine - August 27, 2021