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


Drainage from Ear Canal, Excessive Secretion


Drainage originating from within the equine ear is rare. When it does happen, it is usually caused by a foreign body like a foxtail or bur that has caused inflammation and infection within the external ear canal.

Ear ticks can also cause inflammation and infection resulting in drainage or excessive accumulation of waxy material in the ear. Usually, in either case, there are other signs of distress or discomfort.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • 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.
    • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health with the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to other possible abnormalities - head shaking, cocking of the head or ear, or wobbliness, and changes in appetite and attitude.

If your horse yields to pressure on the halter and will allow you to examine their ear, you may be able to gently examine the ear canal using a headlight and gently pulling the hairs away with your fingertips. Share your findings and concerns 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.

your vet's role

Following a general physical exam, your vet will careful assess the ear and ear canal. Sedation for a proper ear examination may be necessary. In some cases, a cause is not found. In that case, symptomatic treatment might be needed for a time before more aggressive and expensive diagnostics are employed.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice signs of head shaking, cocking the ear, or head tilt?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you notice any apparent unsteadiness or wobbliness?
  • 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
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP