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


Drainage from Area below Ear


You notice drainage that seems to be coming from the region below the ear, not from the ear itself. Drainage below the ear can result from several causes but is classically associated with a dentigerous cyst. Abscesses, infected puncture wounds, old injuries with infected bone, and foreign bodies can also cause discharge from this location.

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your role


What To Do

If your horse will allow you to examine the area near the ear, gently examine and clean the area of drainage. Assess the area for swelling, heat and pain. Compare it to the opposite side. Are you sure the drainage is not coming from the ear itself?

Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, and looking for abscesses or drainage elsewhere on the body. Take a photo of the area to share with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not insert anything into your horse's ear. Do not struggle with your horse to look into their ear if it is not easy. Horses may be very protective of this area, especially if it is painful.

your vet's role

Following a general physical exam, your vet will carefully assess the location of drainage. Ultrasound, radiography and surgical exploration are diagnostics commonly employed to determine whether the drainage is caused by a dentigerous cysts.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you know of any other health problems the horse has experienced?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Did you notice swelling in this area prior to the drainage?
  • Does the horse show pain when pressure is applied to the area?
  • Can you send me a photo?
  • Does the discharge have a noticeable odor?
  • Is the horse gray in color and if so, are there firm bumps in the area or elsewhere?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP