What Causes Brown Scaly Scabs on a Dog's Ears?

By Hannah Sherk

Every dog loves a good ear rub, but it's not much fun for you or him when Rover develops scabs inside his ears. Dark, scaly spots can develop inside and around canines' ears for a variety of reasons, but this condition is usually symptomatic of ear mites (Otodectes cynotis), minuscule creatures that thrive inside the inner ears of household pets. Learn to identify and treat your dog's ear issue so you can get back to the simple joy of petting your pup.

Ear Mites and Scabbing

Mites are parasitic insects that feed on the skin, blood and ear wax of their unlucky hosts. These creepy crawly activities cause inflammation of the ear glands and generally prove to be uncomfortable. If ear mites remain undiscovered, they lead to skin irritations. A dog who shakes, licks or scratches infected areas can cause scabbing, bleeding and infections.


If your dog's ears develop dark and scaly scabs, become red or irritated, show a buildup of wax or are dotted with black specks, she might have ear mites. Because of the sensitivity of this area, dogs often respond to the itchy invader by scratching at their ears and shaking their heads. Take note of broken blood vessels; infected dogs have been known to shake their heads with such intensity that hematomas form within the ear. A veterinarian diagnoses ear mites by performing an otospic exam in which he looks at microbes from the ear under a microscope.

Medical Treatment

If left untreated, ear mites can soon lead to more serious problems, so they should be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. Take your dog to the vet to confirm a suspected diagnosis of ear mites. Only medical professionals can determine the severity of your dogs' case and provide necessary treatments. Ask if a prescription is right to treat and prevent future ear mites. The vet may recommend insecticides in aggressive cases. They will attack the parasite with a miticide ear preparation likely containing pyrethrins and thiabendazole, along with a steroid for the itching.


Ear mites are highly contagious to other animals, so pets should be kept apart to avoid transmission. Separate a dog suspected of having mites before going to the vet. To prevent the scabbing, infections and irritation that come with ear mites, ask your vet for mite medications and create a cleaning routine. Twice a week, apply mineral oil in a light coat just inside the dog's ear. Ten minutes later, wipe the area clean with a cotton ball.