The Dreaded “Leather Ear”

Written by on January 7th, 2013

It’s known by many names, but Leather Ear can be responsible for hair loss on your Yorkie’s ears, nose, end of tail and hocks. Here’s what you need to know about treating Leather Ear in your Yorkie.

It’s been called Leather Ear, Winter Ear, Slick Ear, English Ear, Black Ear, and probably others. It’s not known how many Yorkies are affected with Leather Ear, but it is a problem many Yorkie owners face. At the outset of Leather Ear, a Yorkie’s ear will start to show black around the edges, which can slowly progress to encompass the entire ear, making it look black and leathery. The hair on the ear will fall off and the ear will look caked with sticky black or dark brown “gunk”. The nose, end of tail, and hocks can also be affected.

What does Leather Ear look like? Here are some pictures:

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It is believed that Leather Ear is caused by a fungus. It tends to more often affect silky coated Yorkies than cotton coated Yorkies, some believe because of the lower skin temperature. It has also been observed to more commonly begin during the winter months.

Leather Ear can be successfully treated. It will take time and consistent effort to get rid of the problem. There are many opinions on the best way to treat Leather Ear, but the basic concept is to thoroughly cleanse the ear and thoroughly dry the ear and treat the fungus on a daily basis for 2 – 3 weeks or until the Leather Ear is cleared.

Cleanse the ear using one of the following methods:

  • Use alcohol on a cotton round to rub both sides of the ear
  • Use a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and peroxide on a cotton round to rub both sides of the ear
  • Spray an anti-septic spray (such as R-7) on the ears and rub with a cotton round

After cleansing, thoroughly dry the ears. These techniques can also be used on the nose and hocks if necessary. If redness or irritation develops, stop treatment and see your vet.

After cleansing, treat the fungus with Lotrimin 1% by rubbing a thin layer onto both sides of the ear (or affected area). Again, if dryness, irritation, or redness develops, see your vet.

Cleanse and every day for 2 – 3 weeks or until the Leather Ear clears.

Preventing Leather Ear should be a consideration for every Yorkie owner. Always keep your Yorkie’s ears clean and dry and keep your Yorkie warm. When bathing, use a high quality Yorkie shampoo and conditioner like Yorkie Splash ans Shine and be sure to rinse thoroughly. After bathing, thoroughly dry the ears; do your best to not let them “air dry”. Use a quality ear cleaner periodically. Check the ears for signs of changes. If you notice signs of Leather Ear, check with your vet. There are other conditions that cause symptoms similar to Leather Ear and require different treatment (hair loss can be caused by a number of factors and black discoloration can have other causes as well).

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12 Responses to “The Dreaded “Leather Ear””

  1. Ellie Says:

    Thanks for the info. I had seen pictures of Yorkies with this problem. Usually rescues and dogs that are debilitated for one reason or another. I hope I never have to treat anyone for this but it is good to know if the issue should ever arise.

  2. Karen Says:

    My Yorkie has this problem. Can the Lotrimin 1% be dangerous to lick? She insists on licking her muzzle when I’ve cleaned it with the alcohol, I know she will lick the Lotrimin. I’ve been using just alcohol alone for several weeks and its not clearing up. I read another place to put tea tree oil on it, so I did that a couple of times, which she continued to lick even though it is awful. Then I saw where it can be poisonous, so I quit using it. I don’t know what else to do.

  3. Sarah Says:

    Hi Karen, I would say that it is not a good idea for her to ingest the Lotrimin, though I don’t know any particulars of what it can cause. If she is having issues on her muzzle, I would suggest lavender oil diluted. Lavender oil can naturally help eliminate the fungus, or whatever it is. :) After writing this article I discovered that lavender oil can help, so tried it on my baby’s ears – she has always had thin hair on her ears. It has made a difference and probably would make a much bigger difference if I would use it consistently.

  4. Tammie Says:

    My yorkie has leather ear…I did the treatment that was recommended above and I was wondering if anyone can tell me if the hair takes a long time to grow back? It’s been a little over a month since I did the treatment and still nothing.

  5. Judy Chaney Says:

    I had noticed my Yorkie’s nose had lost hair it was bare and her eyes were mattering alot. I had used borax on my skin for an issue and had good results,so I bathed Bella and while still wet put borax (20Mule Team) on her nose and around her eyes,careful to not get into her eyes.Did this several days. Her hair started growing back and now beautiful,also mattering of her eyes gone. I think it was definitely a fungus. Hope this will help! p.s. also now when I bathe my dogs I mix tbls borax with 1/2 C apple cider vinegar & 1/2 C water and use as a final rinse,keeps fleas off and helped our other dog a Snauzer yorkie mix’s bumpy back(a condition like acne hereditary to Snauzers)

  6. Tammie Says:

    I am sorry but I think borax would be very harmful to them, especially around the nose and eye area. My yorkie is only 3 pounds and extremely tiny, there is no way I could ever wash her eyes with something this harsh and not get any in her eyes. I’m glad that it worked for you…her hair still has not grown back.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    My yorkie kas this so I wondered if it could spread to other pets or humans?

  8. Sarah Says:

    Bonnie, it depends on what the cause is – if it’s fungus it could potentially spread, but it’s unlikely to spread to humans. Make sure to keep everyone clean, and wash your hands throughout the day. When bathing your other pets, make sure to thoroughly dry the ears – wet dark areas are great places for fungus to grow. You can also consider using an ear cleaning solution that contains vinegar.

  9. Sarah Says:

    Tammie, it can take months for the hair to start to grow back, but you should notice the skin lightening if the treatment is working. If you aren’t noticing a difference with at-home remedies, talk to your vet about what other measures you an take.

  10. Jan Says:

    I got a little four pound as a resque. His ears were completely black. I read that coconut oil could be helpful, so I started using it Within a few weeks I noticed that when I rubbed it on his ears, chunks of black started coming off. It was like construction paper. All the black came off his ears, but no hair grew back. Then I asked my vet, and she said to give him melatonin. I did, and he started growing hair back. But then he became really really anxious. I took him off the Melatonin, and he returned to normal, but little by little the hair fell off again.

  11. Anna Says:

    I took a rescue yorkie on and had black skin and no fur on tail, ears and nose
    But nice clean skin doesn’t look like a fungus infection ? X

  12. Carolyn Kimbrell Says:

    Our two year old Yorker has been losing hair around his nose. Also, the pads of his feet are swollen and swollen eyebrows. Took him to vet and was given a vitamin which he won’t even eat. Our Yorker does not like treats.
    What is causing this?
    Thanking you in advance for your help.

    Carolyn Kimbrell

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