You've discovered your dog's ear is bleeding - now what? Our Long Island veterinarians list common causes for ear bleeding in dogs, symptoms that point to a veterinary emergency, how to stop the bleeding until you can have it treated, treatment options, and more.
My Dog's Ear is Bleeding
If you see blood coming from your dog's ear, you'll likely be concerned, and perhaps alarmed, no matter the amount of blood. Because even a minor injury can cause significant bleeding, it's important to know how to stop dog ear bleeding and what to do next in this veterinary emergency.
Bleeding may have an incidental cause, such as a fight with another animal, having their ear nicked by a branch as they run through bush, an accident at the groomer's, or a more serious health issue, such as infection or disease. The blood may also originate from internal bleeding or injury, which can result in puffy tissues containing pockets of fluid.
Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding
Because dog ears are full of tiny blood vessels, their body pumps blood to them when your dog is hot. While this gives them a surface area large enough to cool down, a small cut can lead to a lot of bleeding. Reasons for ear bleeding in dogs can vary, from trauma or blood blisters (aural hematomas) to diseases such as cancer or systemic issues. We'll explore a few of these reasons below:
Types & Causes of Ear Bleeding in Dogs
Types of bleeding in dog's ears are related to their underlying causes. Bleeding may be triggered by:
Aural Hematoma - Also referred to as blood blisters, aural hematomas develop between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap. It often causes head shaking, swelling, scratching and a head tilt. The hematoma may bleed profusely if it bursts.
Cancer or Other Lesions - Not all growths or tumors are malignant. However, carcinomas, polyps, tumors and growths sometimes develop in the ear canal, or on the ears themselves.
You may notice dark, oozing, or crusty gunk start to build up. If any of these areas are damaged, they may bleed. If this is the case, book an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Ear Infection - Infection in the inner ear or outer ear can stem from many sources, including allergic reactions, accumulation of bacteria, and yeast infections.
Parasites - While highly contagious ear mites are one of the most common parasitic infections, these conditions can originate from many potential sources, including fleas, ticks, and flies. You may notice inflammation and parasitic otitis (an infection that causes inflammation of the outer ear canal, middle ear or internal ear).
Trauma - Ear bleeding may be self-inflicted from shaking or scratching excessively, or caused by an external source.
Systemic complications can also cause traumatic bleeding within the layers of the floppy part of the ear, leading to a hematoma. Your dog may also develop an infection of the inner ear, which can cause perforation of the eardrum and bleeding from the ear.
Symptoms of Bleeding in a Dog's Ear
While there are various reasons for ear bleeding in dogs, here are some symptoms you may notice in your pup:
- Blood in the ear canal or its outer rim
- Pain or tenderness when the ear is touched
- Yellow-brown colored ear wax, or black or brown-colored discharge
- Reluctance or refusal to open mouth
- Excessive scratching or head shaking
- Swollen ear canal
- Balance issues appearing as nausea or circling one area
- Odors emanating from ear canal
- Swelling in the floppy part of the ear
- Constant attention paid to one or both ears
- Aversion to being pet
- Difficulty hearing you
How to Stop a Dog's Ear From Bleeding
See your veterinarian immediately if the blood is coming from inside the ear canal. Since bleeding from the inner ear may be caused by anything from infection to a ruptured eardrum or cancer, there is not much you can do at home to solve the underlying cause. Your dog will need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian and may require a prescription treatment. That said, if your dog's ear tip is bleeding, you may follow these steps:
1. Stay calm, and take your dog to a calm environment.
2. Gather a first aid kit. You'll need:
- A bandage
- Flour, cornstarch, or styptic powder (do not use baking powder, baking soda, or any other product, as these can cause infections)
- Antiseptic ointment
- Absorbent pads, such as gauze, clean towels, paper towels, or cotton balls
3. Apply the styptic powder or cornstarch to the wound to help with clotting. Press the absorbent material against both sides of the ear and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. This should take about five minutes. If the bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes, see a veterinarian.
4. Apply antiseptic ointment around the cut, but not on it, to avoid inadvertently triggering bleeding to begin again.
A bleeding ear qualifies as a veterinary emergency if:
- Your dog was in a fight with another dog
- The wound is deep
- The bleeding spontaneously starts again
How to Bandage a Dog Ear Tip
To bandage an ear tip:
- After folding the ear over the top of the head, apply clean gauze to the wound.
- After grabbing a gauze roll bandage, roll the bandage down from the top of the head, under the chin, and back to the top of the head.
- Check that the bandage is firm but not too tight. You should be able to fit three fingers between the bandage and the chin area.
- Roll the bandage in front of the healthy ear, then behind it with each layer so that the good ear acts as an anchor to keep it in place.
- Each time you bring the bandage over the head, move it so that it crosses slightly back to the back of the previous layer, then to the front. Soon, you'll have a small criss-cross pattern protecting the injured ear.
- Using a marker, indicate where the ear is beneath the bandage.
- You can use the last length to tie the bandage together if you don't have a clip to tie the bandage.
You may need to try different types of first-aid bandages, sweatbands, bandannas or light scarves to find a fabric your dog will tolerate having on the ear, as most dogs hate having anything around their heads and will try to paw the bandage off.
Diagnosis of Bleeding Ears in Dogs
After your dog's bloody ear has been bandaged, we recommend calling your veterinarian right away. Be prepared to provide a complete history of the situation. At your appointment, you'll likely be asked about the signs, severity, and duration of the bleeding, in addition to your dog's dietary regimen and any recent changes in diets. Your veterinarian may also ask about how often your dog's ears are trimmed and cleaned, your pet's environment, exercise habits and more.
Once the veterinarian has performed a physical examination, he or she may order a CBC (complete blood count) to determine whether there may be an infection or parasite problem. Urine, fecal and other tissue samples may be collected and analyzed in our in-house lab.
How to Treat Bleeding Dog Ears
When your veterinarian has gathered the findings of the physical exam, clinical testing, the history of the incident and any of your dog's relevant medical history, he or she will create a treatment plan address the cause of the problem with your dog's ears. Treatment plan options may include:
- Antibiotic or topical medications for any infections (to be administered at home)
- Steroid medications to help reduce inflammation and encourage healing
- If a hematoma has caused the bleeding, various methods of surgical drainage and repair may be prescribed to stop the bleeding and promote healing
- If foreign bodies, a buildup of ear wax or parasites are found during an examination, your vet will remove them, then clean and flush the ear canal. Sedation or anesthesia may be required
- Pain medication (if applicable) to help your pet feel more comfortable
The veterinary specialists at our Bohemia location are available to provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care. Our veterinarians in Farmingdale also offer urgent care for non-life-threatening emergencies, Monday to Sunday 8am to 12am. Our highly trained teams are here to assess your pet, guide you through treatment options and address any questions or concerns you may have.
Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs
Provided you are able to detect bleeding in your dog's ear and get them to the veterinarian in a timely manner so they can be diagnosed and treated, prognosis for most causes of bleeding ears in dogs is good. Recovery time will depend on the cause of the bleeding and the treatment your dog receives.
If the underlying cause turns out to be an injury, disease, or allergy, ongoing treatment may be needed to address the condition. It's also important to understand that ear infections or bleeding in dogs, similar to humans, can be damaging if frequent or chronic. In these cases, your veterinarian will likely recommend lifestyle or environmental changes to reduce the risk of repeat bleeding episodes, and to protect your dog's hearing and overall health.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.