What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Wound to Ear


Simple uncomplicated wounds or abrasions to the ear generally heal well with minimal care. However, more severe lacerations that cut through the ear tissue should be immediately addressed by your vet, because ear wounds can be disfiguring and are difficult to repair later.

In some cases, the cartilage structure of the ear is damaged, resulting in a folded or flopped-over ear. Part of the ear may even lose its blood supply and slough off. Early vet treatment can improve the cosmetic and functional outcome for a variety of ear wounds.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you wish to have the best functional and cosmetic outcome, no matter the cost.
    • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
    • Blood is running, or dripping rapidly from the wound.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If bleeding is minor and the horse seems fine otherwise.
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

your role


What To Do

If you are unsure whether the injury requires veterinary treatment, take a photo of it and send it to your vet for discussion. Your horse could have other injuries, so assess their general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE).

In most cases, it is not wise to try to clean ear wounds. Horses are very protective of injured ears and will usually resist your efforts.

However, you can teach your horse to accept even painful ear treatments; See the accompanying skill "Assess & Treat Ear, Teach Horse to Accept Handling of Ear".

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet.

Do not struggle with the horse to examine or treat this area.

your vet's role

Your vet may twitch or sedate the horse to evaluate an ear wound.

They may recommend surgical repair of severe ear wounds with flaps of tissue. Punctures and other wounds that do not go through the entire ear may be best left to heal as open wounds.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this wound?
  • Does the wound appear fresh to you?
  • Are there wounds elsewhere?
  • Can you send a photo?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP