what are aural plaques

Aural plaques in horse ears


  • Being the totally diligent and overly obsessive horse owner that you are, you may notice a tiny, baby cauliflower starting to grow in your horse’s ear. Kudos to you for noticing this, but gotta break the bad news to you, it’s not really a cauliflower. It’s called an aural plaque, and they are pretty common in horses!

Some things that we do know about aural plaques:


  • The plaques occur in the ears.
  • The plaques are a papilloma virus.
  • They create a crusty, white-ish, flakey growth on the inside of the ear.
  • The skin underneath is shiny and red (not your totally typical inside ear skin.)
  • You will want to chat with your veterinarian about your horse if he starts to develop one.


aural plaques in a horse ear

Photo by Monica D. (Thanks!)


Things that can’t be proven 100% about aural plaques:


  • The plaques are spread by biting insects. The type of biting insect is not really known, but suspected. Lots more to work on here.

Plaques vary from horse to horse:


  • Some horses are totally unaffected by them and not bothered at all by touching of the plaques.
  • Some horses develop an ear-shyness and/or general sensitivity to the plaques.
  • Some horses develop head-shaking behaviors.


Here’s what I know about these things, as my horse recently developed one.


  • I’m lucky, in that he really doesn’t care if I touch it or handle it. During the hot and super dry summer, it started to crack a bit, and on one occasion was a bit bloody.


  • I was able to apply some triple antibiotic cream to it to moisten it up, it’s been disappearing since, and is now almost totally gone. Chances are it wasn’t a true plaque, but a scab that looked like a plaque.


feeling the inside of a gray horse ear



For some horses, the severe sensitivity, ear shyness, and head shaking interfere with their jobs as riding horses, or it makes them uncomfortable all day, every day.


  • In cases like this, there may be a solution in the form of an immune-boosting drug in cream form. This requires much diligence on the owner’s part, as the cream creates an inflammatory response of pain and swelling in the ear.


  • For this reason, many horses that have aural plaques and are not bothered by them are not treated. You and your veterinarian will need to decide how best to proceed.


How you can help your horse if he develops aural plaques:

  • Of course, you should contact your veterinarian. The two of you should be able to come up with a pain to manage discomfort and treat the plaques themselves. Is there a topical cream your vet can suggest for pain if that’s a factor?


  • You may also find that using fly masks with ears really helps your horse be less irritated. You can also find fly mask versions that are designed to be used while riding, which may or may not help with any head tossing.


  • You might also find that keeping hair trimmed around any plaques allows you to apply medicine more effectively. You might also find that keeping your horse’s ear hair fuzzy works better.


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Cashel Crusader Horse Fly Mask with Ears and Long Nose – select size

Cashel Quiet Ride Standard Horse Fly Mask with Ears for riding



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