fungus in horses ears

Fungus in Horses’ Ears: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Equine Health, Equine Treatment

Fungal infections in a horse’s ear may not be as commonly discussed as other equine maladies, but they are no less problematic. Not only can these infections cause discomfort, but they may also lead to deeper health issues if not promptly and effectively treated.

What are Fungal Ear Infections in Horses?

Essentially, fungal ear infections occur when fungal spores flourish in the warm, humid environment of a horse’s ear canal. The resulting infection leads to inflammation, irritation, and possibly even temporary hearing loss. Moreover, these infections may serve as indicators of broader health problems, implying that a horse’s immune system may not be functioning optimally.

Causes of Fungal Ear Infections in Horses

The fungi causing ear infections, most commonly Aspergillus or Candida species, are widespread in the environment and may enter the horse’s ear during regular activities such as grazing or rolling in the dirt. Healthy horses with robust immune systems can usually fend off these invaders; however, an overgrowth can occur if the immune response is weakened due to stress, illness, or underlying conditions.

Sometimes, fungal infections result from improper cleaning techniques or water lodging in the ear following bathing or swimming. Moreover, horses with a history of ear mites, ticks, or bacterial infections are at a higher risk of developing fungal infections, as these conditions can damage the delicate skin of the ear, making it more susceptible to invasion by fungi.

Signs of Fungal Ear Infections in Horses

An infected ear can cause noticeable discomfort in your horse. You may observe behaviors such as head shaking, scratching at the ears with hind legs, or even rubbing the head against walls or fences. Some horses may become averse to bridling due to ear pain.

On closer examination, you may see redness, swelling, or a dark, waxy discharge within the ear canal. In some cases, an unpleasant odor can be detected, indicating the presence of a fungal or bacterial infection. If the infection has progressed significantly, your horse may display symptoms such as a head tilt or issues with balance, which require immediate veterinary attention.

Related: The Best Equine Anti-Fungus Shampoo

Prevention and Treatment

As with most health conditions, prevention is the best defense against fungal ear infections. Regular inspection of your horse’s ears for signs of mites, ticks, or unusual discharge can aid in early detection and treatment of potential problems. However, care should be taken not to clean the ears excessively or roughly, as this can cause more harm than good.

To bolster your horse’s immune system and thus its natural defense against fungi, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced diet. Products like Elevate Maintenance Powder not only support overall wellness but also foster optimal skin and coat health. This supplement, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and trace minerals, can be easily mixed into your horse’s regular feed.

For treating fungal ear infections, your vet may recommend antifungal medications. For example, Banixx Horse and Pet Care is a non-toxic solution that effectively combats a wide range of fungal and bacterial infections, making it an excellent addition to any equine first aid kit.

In severe or chronic cases, your vet may need to flush the horse’s ear canal to remove debris, or prescribe stronger antifungal medications. Remember, any treatment should be overseen by a qualified veterinarian to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your horse.

In terms of ongoing ear care, investing in products such as EQUIDERMA Neem & Aloe Herbal Horse Spray can assist in keeping pests at bay. This spray offers a safe, chemical-free method to repel flies, ticks, and mites that can predispose your horse to infections. Also, using a quality fly mask, like the Professional’s Choice Comfort-Fit Fly Mask, which covers the horse’s ears, can provide additional protection against pests and prevent irritation from dust and debris.

Maintaining your horse’s general health is another critical factor in preventing fungal infections. A horse that is under stress, malnourished, or suffering from another illness is more susceptible to infections. Thus, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and prompt treatment of other illnesses are vital.

To keep the immune system in top shape, supplements like Vita Flex E-5000 Immune Support can be beneficial. This all-natural, steroid-free supplement stimulates the immune system, enhancing the horse’s natural defenses against various pathogens, including fungi.

Lastly, always ensure your horse has a dry, clean environment, particularly in damp weather conditions when fungi are more likely to thrive. Regular stall cleaning and proper ventilation can go a long way in preventing the growth of fungi.

Related: The Subtle Art of Cleaning Horse Stalls: Best Practices


The recommendations offered here are intended for the prevention and treatment of fungal ear infections in horses, under the guidance of a qualified veterinarian. Any change in your horse’s behavior or signs of severe discomfort should be treated as potential medical emergencies, warranting immediate veterinary attention. For mild fungal infections, however, the products mentioned could be just what you need to get your horse back to its best. Remember, prevention is always the best approach, and by keeping your horse healthy and its immune system strong, you can significantly reduce the risk of fungal ear infections.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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