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Pimples or Red Spots on Your Dog’s Ears: What is it? [With Pictures]

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ear inspection of a labrador

Most of us have a special affection for our dog’s ears. They’re velvety soft and either short and perky or long and floppy. A dog’s ears are capable of showing a dog’s many emotions. They’re also capable of showing up with red spots, bumps or pimples that may have you searching for a cause and cure.

We’ll go over some of the common causes of these red spots on a dog’s ears and if you can do anything for them at home and when to seek professional help.

Common Signs of Ear Issues in Dogs and What They Could Mean

Before you notice any red spots or pimples in your dog’s ear, you may notice some other signs that could indicate an ear issue. Those include:

  • Head shaking or ear scratching: This just means something in or around a dog’s ears is itchy or bothersome.
  • Hair loss, flaky skin, redness: These are signs of either itchiness in or around the ear and also signs of an infection.
  • Head tilt: Sometimes ear infections or ear mites will cause a dog to tilt their head to the side that is more affected. It’s their way of trying to relieve the discomfort.
  • Bad smell from ear: Ear infections may be accompanied by a bad smell and discharge from the ears.

Why is my Dog’s Ear Turning Red or Showing Pimples?

Red spots on a dog’s ear can come from an issue with the outer flap of the ear, called the pinnae, or some something inside the ear canal. These pimples in the ear may be a direct result of an infection of the skin or secondary to something that causes itchiness and irritation.

Skin infections can take on different looks depending on what’s causing them. Issues of the ear canal may lead to bumps on the ear because the itchiness causes a dog go work their ears over with toenails, head shaking, or rubbing that creates open wounds or scabs on the ears.

Frequent Causes of Pimples, Red Spots or Red Rashes on Dogs’ Ears

Knowing that red spots in a dog’s ear can come from different sources, we’ve broken down some possible causes for these red rashes, how severe they are, and what can be done.

1. Dermatitis

What it looks like: Dermatitis is simply inflammation of the skin. It can happen from contacting chemicals, allergens, other irritants, or an infection. Pictured below is an example of dermatitis causing redness in a German Shepherd’s ear:

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

red ear on german shepherd due to dermatitis

How dermatitis cause red ears: Dermatitis leads to redness, bumps, pimples, itchiness, and even pain. These red bumps may ooze or bleed, especially if a dog is scratching them. Sometimes, dermatitis can show up overnight, such as with starting a new skin ointment, or can happen seasonally, like when plants are blooming.

How to treat: Dermatitis can be very uncomfortable and even lead to secondary infections if it isn’t treated properly. The best way to treat dermatitis is to remove the irritant by cleaning with a mild soap and water. Occasionally, anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines may be needed. If you’re dealing with an infection, antibiotics may be necessary as well.

2. Allergies

What it looks like: We just touched on how allergies can cause a rash on your dog’s ear. Another way allergies can contribute is through ear infections. Food allergies and seasonal allergies can cause an infection down in the ear canal.

redness in ear due to allergies

How allergies cause red ears: These infections can be very uncomfortable and irritating to the point that a dog will shake their head and scratch their ears, leading to red spots, bumps, pimples, and even lacerations on the ear pinnae. You may also notice a rash on other areas of the body, like the groin, chest or face.

How to treat: Allergies are best treated by finding the culprit and removing it from a dog’s food or environment. When this can’t be done, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, or immune mediators may be needed.

3. Ear Infections

What it looks like: Ear infections may happen in one or both ears and usually cause a lot of head shaking and scratching.

red ear on a dog due to ear infection

How ear infections cause redness or red bumps: Allergies aren’t the only causes of ear infections. The ear canal is the perfect combination of warmth and darkness. When a little moisture is added, such as after a bath or swim, you have grounds for bacteria and yeast to thrive. Infected ears may have a bad smell and discharge from the ear as well. Infections can also result in redness inside the ears.

How to treat: Ear infections require cleaning and drying of the ear canal with an ear cleaning solution and often need application of antibiotic or antifungal medications from your veterinarian. Severe infections may require oral medications as well.

4. Parasites

What it looks like: A dog’s ears may see parasites on the inside and out.

red bumps in a dog's ears due to parasites

How it causes red bumps or pimples in ears: Ear mites live in the ear canal, mange lives in skin, fleas and ticks live on the skin, and insects can bite or sting the ears. Each one is capable of creating red bumps, pimples, or a red rash that can be very itchy, swollen, oozy, or become infected.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

How to treat: Your vet will need to diagnose which type of parasite is plaguing your pup and prescribe treatment based on that.

5. Foreign Objects

What it can look like: Grass seeds, bugs, loose hairs, and dirt often get down into the ear canal, and as you can imagine, create an uncomfortable mess.

grass seeds closeup picture

How this can cause red spots or pimples: The ear canal is small and usually protected by the pinnae, but that doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable. Foreign objects cause lots of head shaking and scratching which can create red spots or pimples on a dog’s ear. If not treated, they can cause an infection secondarily.

How to treat: Foreign objects need to be removed, which often requires sedation. Similar to a foreign object, a mass in the ear canal can create similar signs and also require removal.

6. Aural Hematoma

What it looks like: All of the other causes listed in our article end up creating small, often multiple red spots, bumps or pimples in a dog’s ear. Here’s one that usually only causes one, often large, red bump-an aural hematoma.

hematoma symptoms on dog's ear

How it causes redness or red spots in ears: Aural hematomas are pockets of blood that form between the cartilage and the skin of a dog’s ear. They are most often caused by trauma from a bite or from furious head shaking secondary to an infection or irritation. Aural hematomas are very painful, usually hot to the touch, and may increase dog’s head shaking. It’s a vicious cycle.

Aural hematomas need to be drained and sutured to prevent recurrence. As you can imagine, this needs to happen under sedation or anesthesia, so veterinary care is required.

Home Treatments for Red Spots or Pimples on a Dog’s Ears

If you’ve just noticed some red spots on your dog’s ears, you may try some treatments at home first. If your dog doesn’t seem particularly uncomfortable with a lot of scratching, head shaking or rubbing their ears, you can start by cleaning the pinnae with a mild soap and warm water. Be sure to dry the ear well and prevent water from going down the ear canal by plugging it with a cotton ball.

If the problem seems to be coming from the ear canal, you’ll want to have a veterinarian check the ear drum before trying to clean the canal. Don’t apply any ointments or creams unless this is a problem your dog has had before and you have a current prescription.

Read our article about: Dog Shaking Head – But Ears Are Clean.

When to Call a Veterinarian for Pimples on a Dog’s Ears

With a long list of possible causes for red spots, rashes, and pimples on a dog’s ears, it’s important to get a veterinary diagnosis before starting any treatment. This is especially true if you notice any other signs such as:

  • Excessive head shaking, ear scratching, or a head tilt
  • Discharge or an odor from the ear
  • Bleeding or oozing from the rash
  • Pain and discomfort
  • A large, hot swelling
  • Bumps or a rash on other areas of the body

How Will a Vet Help with Redness or Pimples on a Dog’s Ear?

More often than not, you’re going to need veterinary help to get a handle on your dog’s ear issues.


Your vet’s going to want to get a good look at your dog’s ear, including down the ear canal using a specialized tool called an otoscope. This will allow them to see foreign objects and assess the ear drum. They may take samples of any discharge from the canal to look for infection or parasites. They may also take a skin scraping to check for the same things on the surface. Occasionally, cultures may need to be done to better pinpoint treatment.


After your vet reaches a diagnosis, they can get you set up with a treatment. Skin infections and other causes of dermatitis will require antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatory medications that can be given orally or applied to the ear. Foreign objects and masses will need to be removed, and ear infections will be treated with an ear wash and antibiotic/antifungal ointment.

 Parasites will be treated with a parasiticide, and aural hematomas will need to be lanced, drained and stitched. This is a lot of different treatments which equates to a large variation in cost. The simplest dermatitis may be diagnosed and treated with as little as $75, while an aural hematoma may cost $200+ for sedation and treatment.

Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Have Ear Issues?

As you can imagine, dogs that have those beautiful large, floppy ears are more likely to have problems. Large, hairy ears tend to be heavy and get in the way leading to more injuries, and they tend to trap moisture in the ear canal, which can lead to more ear infections. There are also unfortunate breeds, like Cocker Spaniels, that are more prone to skin allergies and dermatitis.

Read our article about: Dog Shaking Head – But Ears Are Clean.


  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

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