Ear mites in horses: The complete guide

Ear mites in horses: The complete guide
Ear mites in horses

Horses with nonburrowing psoroptic mites have an irritated, itching ear canal. While some horses may toss their heads and have drooping ears, others may not exhibit any symptoms of an illness. Scaly skin, hair loss, or scabious bumps are prevalent. Finding the mites on skin scrapings or in-ear discharges confirms the diagnosis, yet it may be challenging to locate the mites in the ear canal. Medication is one option for managing these issues. Your vet will recommend the one that is best for your horse.

A separate kind of mite, Sarcoptes scabies, seldom affects horses but more often attacks dogs and pigs. On the ear and other regions of the body, sarcoptic mange produces excruciating itching and skin changes (such as tiny bumps, scabs, hair loss, or thicker, leathery skin). If left unattended, the infestation has the potential to cause severe fatigue, anorexia, and weight loss, in addition to systemic dissemination of the disease.

Failure to eradicate the infestation may lead to weight loss, fever, and anorexia as a consequence of the systemic dissemination of the disease.

When establishing the diagnosis, the doctor considers the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and mites found in skin scrapings. However, finding them may prove to be difficult, requiring many scrapes or a biopsy. To get rid of the mites, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment. It is essential to treat all bedding, brushes, and tack since mites may live on the host animal. In addition, your veterinarian could advise treating any animals that come into touch with an infected horse for this infectious mite.

What Are Equine Ear Mites? 

Psoroptes Equi, or horse mites, are tiny insects that burrow into the tissue of horses. They are visible to the unaided eye at less than 1 mm in size, but you must actively search for the little white dots. A horse may have them under its tail, under its mane, in the space between its hind legs, or within its ear.

An untreated body or ear mite infection may cause hair loss, demodectic damage, and other skin issues in the afflicted animal. Horse mites come in hundreds of various varieties. Nevertheless, as noted by the American Association of Equine Practitioners:1 

Despite the fact that different mite populations are linked to different body parts of different host animals, the genus has recently been combined into a single species. Psoroptes have oval bodies with at least three pairs of legs extending over the edges of the body; their tarsal suckers distinguish them on long, jointed stalks. The ear mite, or Psoroptes Cuniculi Ovis, is the mite species under consideration in this instance.  

How do I know if my horse has ear mites?

Irritability, shaking of the head, and head rubbing may all be symptoms of ear mites. Looking into your horse’s ears, you could see white particles moving inside the brown ear fluid. Horses may have head sensitivity and malodorous swelling at the base of their ears. Ovis are visible beneath the mane, between the mane and tail, in the axillae, or between the hind legs.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites? 

A horse suffering from a mite infestation may experience excruciating scratching and rubbing. Your horse will likely tell you if they are unhappy about having ear mites. 

Ear mites are just bothersome. They often hurt and itch. This indicates that there needs to be a plethora of telltale visual and smell cues, such as 2.

Shaking head

Frequent head bobbing by the horse might indicate that it’s attempting to remove mites.  

Rubbing ears 

A horse will make every effort to get rid of the bothersome animals, and they won’t use any judgment in the tactics they use to do so. The horse’s stall or fence posts are the most common sources of ear scratches. We’ve also covered this subject in-depth on our blog if you’d want additional information about treating horse scratches. 

Sensitivity around the ears

A mite infestation may make horses sensitive to touch, even if some are already sensitive around their ears.

Drooping ears

An ear canal infection that results in drooping of the ear may be one of the most visible indicators of a mite infestation. If your horse has a dropping in its ear, an ear mite infestation might be the reason.


Horse ear discharge may take many forms; frequent ones include crusting, blood, and excess ear wax. When the horse touches their head incessantly, these problems worsen.  


There can be noticeable bite marks or even red, inflamed skin on the horse’s ears.


Sensitivity to the mites may result in discharge and swelling, both of which may smell strong. 

In matters of horse health, it is essential to address problems as soon as possible. It is possible to manage the outbreak’s severity in the affected horse and prevent it from spreading to other animals in the stable by being watchful and proactive. Although horse ear mites aren’t a common problem, it pays to be vigilant and do thorough cleanings and inspections regularly. Take your pet to the doctor right away if you see any indications of an equine ear infection or ear mites.

Cleaning & Treating Horse Ears

As they should, horse ears absorb all sorts of filth and debris. The hair-lined, funnel-shaped outer ear shields the sensitive inner ear components. Tiny midges, often known as no-see-ums, may bite and irritate ears during the warm months, causing the inside of the ear to become crusty or bleeding.

Treating Horse Ears

Use a soft towel that is slightly moist and well-rung out to clean your horse’s ears; you don’t want water to seep into the ear. Avoid alcohol since it might cause irritation or drying out; instead, use witch hazel or warm water. Never put anything, even water, in a horse’s ear. Anything that protrudes far into the ear canal should be avoided. Using one hand to cup the ear, carefully remove any debris or filth, and work your way up to the tip. Make sure the horse’s inner ear is clean and free of debris.


Whenever you see a buildup of dirt, especially in the summer when biting pests are more active, clean your horse’s ears.

What is aural plaque in horses’ ears?

Aural plaques are white, flaky lesions on the inside of the ear. It is believed that these lesions represent the body’s ongoing inflammatory response to a papillomavirus infection spread by insects. They bear a resemblance to warts. Aural plaques might result in extreme ear sensitivity or be a cosmetic issue. One of the several papillomavirus strains transmitted by flies is their cause.

Avoid picking or scraping the tiny, white, crusty patches out of your horse’s ears if you notice them. The white, crusty patches that usually surround both ears may seem upsetting to the horse, but they typically have little impact on the animal.

  • Essential steps to lessen pain and stop recurrence include:
  • Stabbing the horse during fly feeding periods.
  • Using fly masks with ear protection.
  • Applying fly repellent often.
  • Usually, lesions do not heal on their own.

Can a horse get an ear infection?

Horses seldom acquire external ear canal infections as dogs and cats do, and middle ear infections are unusual. External parasites are the most common issue with a horse’s ears. 

Ear mites in horses

How do you get rid of ear mites in horses?

After determining that your horse has ear mites, your veterinarian will go over your available treatment choices with you.


Horses with ear mites may have scabious lumps, hair loss, scaly skin, and itching. When left untreated, they may result in extreme exhaustion, anorexia, and weight loss. Elevated levels of ear secretions or skin scrapings may harbor them. A different kind of mite called sarcoptes scabies more often infects dogs and pigs than horses. Fever, anorexia, and weight loss could potentially ensue in the absence of treatment for the infestation.

The diagnosis uses the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and mites discovered in skin scrapings. Treatment involves taking care of any animals that come into touch with an infected horse, as well as the bedding, brushes, and gear. Despite the presence of many mutations, horse mites are currently regarded to represent a single species.

Ear mite signs and indicators include itching and scratching, drooping ears, sensitivity around the ears, discharge, bite marks, and odor. Urgent action is necessary to contain the epidemic and prevent its transmission to other animals within the stable; these concerns must be resolved. Frequent cleanings and examinations are crucial, and if you see any signs of an equine ear infection or ear mites, you should take your pet to the veterinarian.

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