Ear Margin Hyperkeratosis In Dogs

Symptoms of Ear Margin Hyperkeratosis in Dogs

Signs of this condition may include:

  • Thickening of the skin on the ears
  • Mild lesions on the pinna
  • Scaly or greasy plugs on the pinna margin, not itchy
  • More severe cases affect the entire ear pinna, not just the edges
  • Head shaking
  • Types

    Ear margin hyperkeratosis can also be known as ear margin seborrhea or orthokeratotic hyperkeratosis. It is characterized by abnormal thickening of the outer layer of skin. This condition is commonly found to affect dogs with pendulous ears such as Dachshunds and Cocker Spaniels. As the condition progresses, the scaling often moves from the edge of the ear to the entire ear.

    What does ear margin hyperkeratosis look like?

    Ear margin hyperkeratosis generally appears as waxy, scaly gray or yellow skin. The scaly skin sticks to the base of the hair shafts along the margins of your dog’s ears. Plugs of hair can easily be pulled out, leaving behind skin with a shiny surface. Severe cases cause the edges of the ears to swell and crack. Both ears are commonly affected, and the condition can spread from the tips of the ears to cover the entire pinna.

    Although this condition can look uncomfortable, it usually doesn’t itch or hurt your dog. They may shake their head, though, especially if their ears become swollen and heavy.

    Diagnosis of Ear Margin Hyperkeratosis in Dogs

    When you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, she will start her diagnostic process by collecting a verbal history from you. For example, she will want to know what signs you have seen on your dog and when you first noticed the development of his signs. She will also want to know how fast each sign has been progressing and if it seems to impair his daily routine. She will then proceed with performing a full physical exam. While it may be obvious the lesions are on his ears, she will want to check him over entirely for other symptoms that could be indicative of an underlying cause of his condition.

    In cases of suspected ear margin hyperkeratosis, your veterinarian may need to rule out other possible medical conditions first. For example, fly bite dermatitis in dogs causes very similar symptoms as to those of ear margin hyperkeratosis. Additional diagnoses she may need to rule out include scabies and solar dermatitis, to just name a few. In order to rule out these conditions, she may want to perform diagnostic testing. It would involve taking a skin scraping sample from the affected area of your dog. She will gently scrape a small sample from the superficial layer of your dog’s ear tips to examine under the microscope. This will allow her to evaluate the appearance of the skin cells as well as rule out external skin parasites.

    Ear margin hyperkeratosis can be complicated by a yeast infection or bacterial infection. She will want to ensure your dog does not currently have an ear infection in his canal as well as on the surface of his ear pinna. This may involve taking a cytology sample from his ears or ear canals.

    Other testing may be requested by the veterinarian depending on your dog’s signs. If she suspects his condition is a secondary development to a different illness, she may want to perform diagnostic testing to determine the cause. Depending on what she suspects, the testing can vary.


    How is margin of ear hyperkeratosis treated?

    Treatment includes antiseborrheic shampoos (eg, sulfur, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide), keratolytic products such as salicylic acid gel, or topical moisturizers. Systemic medications that may help normalize the abnormal keratinization process include vitamin A and essential fatty acids.

    Does ear margin hyperkeratosis hurt dogs?

    In general, ear margin hyperkeratosis is a stable or slowly progressive condition that typically does not cause dogs pain.

    Why are the edges of my dogs ears crusty?

    Ear edge dermatoses in dogs can consist of alopecia, seborrhea, crusting, ulceration and necrosis. Depending on the cause, pruritus may or may not be present. When pruritus is present, canine scabies is the most likely cause of ear edge crusting in dogs. However, not all ear edge dermatitis is due to scabies.

    How is hyperkeratosis treated in dogs?

    Sadly, there is currently no cure for hyperkeratosis, but it can be kept in check with regular treatment and attention. At your initial appointment, your veterinarian might recommend trimming back the tiny “hairs” to make walking more comfortable for your dog.