Ear Flap (Pinna) Problems in Dogs
The ear flap, or pinna, is a sheet
of cartilage covered on both sides by a layer of skin and hair. The pinna is
often involved in diseases as part of a generalized process, especially in the
case of allergic and autoimmune skin diseases.
Bites and Lacerations
It is not uncommon for the pinna to be injured during fights with other
Treatment: Control bleeding and treat the wound as described in Wounds. Apply a topical
antibiotic ointment such as triple antibiotic or Neosporin. Leave the ear
uncovered, unless your dog shakes her head and reopens
the wound so that bleeding restarts; in that case, you may need to bandage the
ear to the head. Wounds caused by animal bites are often complicated by
infection and must be watched carefully.
Large lacerations, and those involving the edges of the ears or the ear
cartilage, should receive prompt veterinary attention. Surgical repair is
necessary to prevent scarring and deformity. Your veterinarian may decide to
bandage the ear to the head to keep it still for faster healing.
Allergic Otitis (Ear Allergy)
Dogs with canine atopy and food
hypersensitivity dermatitis are predisposed to develop inflamed ears. In fact,
ear involvement may be the only indication of an allergy. In dogs with ear allergies, an
itch-scratch-itch cycle develops, resulting in excoriations, hair loss, scabs, and crusts
about the ears. The ear canals are filled with a brown wax or, alternately, may
appear very red, inflamed, and moist.
An allergic contact dermatitis can
develop in ear canals that have been medicated with an ear preparation. The
antibiotic neomycin is a frequent cause of this problem.
Treatment: Any underlying allergic skin disease must be treated to eliminate
the ear symptoms. Treatment for itching involves the use of antihistamines and
topical and oral corticosteroids. Discontinue any ear preparation that may be
allergenic. An allergic otitis is often complicated by a bacterial or yeast
infection that must also be treated.
Swollen Ear Flap
Sudden swelling of the ear flap can be caused by an abscess or hematoma. Abscesses frequently
occur after dog fights. A hematoma is an accumulation of blood beneath the
skin. One cause of hematoma is violent head shaking and scratching at the ear.
The area will feel warm and slightly soft to the touch. It may be painful. Look
for an underlying itchy ear disorder.
Treatment: Blood must be released from a hematoma to prevent scarring and
ear deformity. Removing it with a needle and syringe (something your
veterinarian must do) is effective in about 20 percent of cases. If serum
accumulates in the drained blood pocket, treatment involves removing a window
of skin to provide open and continuous drainage. Sutures are then made through
both sides of the ear to pull the skin down and eliminate the pocket. Sometimes
a drain will be installed under the skin of the ear to serve this same purpose.
If the blood is not removed, the cartilage will curl down and deform the ear as
the clot retracts inside.