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


Lump, Bump, Growths, Crusts on Inner Surface of Ear, or Visible Part of Ear Canal


Many problems that affect the internal surface of the ear go unnoticed because of the dense long hairs that protect the inner surface. Pale warty or crusty growths (aural plaques) inside equine ears are common and are thought to be caused by a Papilloma virus. Generally, these growths do not cause much harm, although they can become so large that they can eventually cause discomfort and cause horses to resent handling of the ears and bridling.

Aural plaques can also be confused with other, less common but more serious conditions that could become locally invasive, such as sarcoids. Biting midges and gnats sometimes attack the inner surface of the ear, causing tiny blood spots at the bite sites. A strange condition called dentigerous cyst causes pus-like drainage to come from the area near the base of the ear.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • To ensure a correct diagnosis, have your vet examine the horse.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health with the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and if your horse will allow it, you can gently examine their ear. Consider whether the skin is flaky or crumbly, and painful to the touch. Take a photo of the problem if possible. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not apply any topical medications or ointments without first discussing the problem with your vet.

your vet's role

Following a general physical exam your vet will careful assess the ear and surrounding areas. Sedation for a proper ear examination may be necessary. Some conditions require prompt treatment, whereas others may simply be monitored (aural plaques). 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:
  • Are both ears affected?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you notice skin lesions elsewhere?
  • Does the horse seem bothered by the growths?
  • Has the appearance of the growths changed over time?
  • Do you notice any other problems?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you send me a photo of the problem?
  • Do you notice areas of irritation or bleeding of the skin inside the ears?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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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