SubscribeGift a Sub
Enable cache 100
Categories: Horse Health

Ask the Vet: Funky Ear Plaque

Q: My horse has a funky white plaque inside his ears. Everything I’ve read says to leave it alone, and it doesn’t seem to bother him, but it bothers me! Is there any safe treatment for it? Could it potentially cause problems if I don’t treat it?


A: What you’re describing sounds like aural plaques (“aural” referring to the ear, and “plaque” describing whitish, flaky lesions on the inside of the ear). They are thought to be the body’s chronic, inflammatory response to a papilloma viral infection (similar to warts) spread by biting insects.

Aural plaques can be a purely cosmetic problem—like in your case—or cause severe ear sensitivity. It’s not exactly known what aspect of this condition specifically makes the ears sensitive to grooming, haltering, bridling and other common handling procedures.

Generally, veterinarians recommend not treating aural plaques since repeated handling of the ears seems to inflame the area and sensitize the horse. Despite this, some owners have reported success with various ointments, especially those containing steroids or other anti-inflammatory agents.

Scrubbing or scraping should be avoided, however. A fly mask with ears is the best protection against new fly bites or irritation from flies. Horses that have become ear or head shy due to these plaques or their treatment may need specific training to condition them to accept ear and head handling.

A study on a new ointment showed that it appears to resolve the plaques inside the ear. Unfortunately, the treatment is expensive and painful, with most horses requiring sedation. But for horses and owners that have been dealing with problematic aural plaques for a long time, it may provide relief.

If you haven’t already asked your vet to look at these plaques, get him or her involved to confirm the diagnosis and rule out a more serious problem such as sarcoids or sarcoma. Your vet will also be your best resource in deciding whether to address the aural plaques or leave them alone, as has been suggested. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Lydia Gray, DVM

Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine in Plymouth, MA, where she directs the research and development of products and provides horse health and nutrition education to a wide variety of audiences. Dr. Gray’s work has appeared in more than a dozen general and trade publications and she speaks frequently around the country. She is the proud owner of a Trakehner gelding named “Newman” that she competes in dressage and combined driving.

Recent Posts

ASPCA’s Right Horse Adoptable Horse: He’s a King Kite

Welcome to Horse Illustrated’s weekly installment of the Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week, offered in partnership with the…

2 days ago

2022 FEI World Eventing Championships – Conclusion

Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy – The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team has officially secured qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,…

3 days ago

2022 FEI World Eventing Championships – Kickoff

The Lazio region in the picturesque countryside of Italy southeast of Rome is hosting the 2022 FEI World Eventing and…

5 days ago

Nikovian Equestrian Enters the Ring

It is amazing what a little frustration can make someone do. Madison Smith, founder of Nikovian Equestrian, never met a horse…

6 days ago

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Eventing Squad and Alternates for 2022 FEI Eventing World Championship

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to announce the combinations selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team…

1 week ago

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Driving Team for 2022 FEI Driving World Championship for Four-in-Hand Horses

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to announce the two athletes selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Driving Team…

1 week ago