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Ear Bleeding in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Ear Bleeding in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Bleeding in a dog's ears can be a concerning sign that would worry any pet parent, whether the culprit is minor irritation or a more serious problem. Today, our Brentwood vets explain the cases of ear bleeding in dogs, symptoms that may occur, how to treat bleeding in a dog's ear and when to see a vet. 

My Dog's Ear is Bleeding

Have you noticed blood coming from your dog's ear? If so, you're likely concerned, and perhaps alarmed, regardless of the amount of blood. Since even a minor injury can lead to significant bleeding, it's important to know how to stop a dog's ear from bleeding and what to do next with this veterinary emergency. 

An incidental trigger such as having their nose nicked by a branch on a run through the bushes, an accident at the groomer's, a fight with another dog, or a more serious health issue, such as disease or infection. The blood may also arise from internal injury or bleeding, which can result from puffy tissues containing pockets of fluid. 

Potential Reasons Your Dog's Ear May Be Bleeding 

When your dog's body is hot, blood is pumped to their ears, which are full of tiny blood vessels. While this offers a surface area large enough to cool down, one small cut can lead to a significant amount of bleeding. Reasons for ear bleeding in dogs can vary, from blood blisters (aural hematomas) to trauma to systemic issues or diseases such as cancer. Read more about 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 can be caused by: 

Aural Hematoma - Also known as blood blisters, aural hematomas form between the skin and the cartilage of the ear flap. They often cause a dog to shake, scratch, and tilt their head. You may also notice swelling. The hematoma may bleed profusely if it bursts. 

Cancer or Other Lesions - Not all tumors or growths are malignant. However, carcinomas, tumors, polyps and growths sometimes grow in the ear canal, or on the ears themselves. 

Dark, oozing, or crusty gunk may start to accumulate. If any of these areas are damaged, they may bleed. If this is the case for your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. 

Ear Infection - Infection in the inner ear or outer ear can be caused by many things, from yeast infections to the accumulation of bacteria or allergic reactions. 

Parasites - While highly contagious ear mites are one of the most common parasitic infections, many potential sources such as flies, ticks, and fleas can trigger these conditions. Ears may become inflamed due to parasitic otitis (an infection that causes inflammation of the outer ear canal, middle ear or internal ear). 

Trauma - Ear bleeding may be self-inflicted due to excessive scratching or head shaking, caused by an external source. 

Traumatic ear bleeding within the layers of the floppy part of the ear can also be caused by systematic complications and lead to a hematoma. Infection of the inner ear may develop and cause perforation of the eardrum and bleeding from the ear. 

Symptoms of Bleeding in a Dog's Ear 

While there are numerous potential reasons for ear bleeding in dogs, symptoms that may appear in your pooch include: 

  • Excessive scratching or head shaking
  • Swelling in the floppy part of the ear
  • Difficulty hearing you
  • Blood in the ear canal or its outer rim 
  • Tenderness or pain when the ear is touched 
  • Aversion to being pet
  • Paying constant attention to one or both ears 
  • Odors emanating from the ear canal 
  • Yellow-brown colored ear wax, or black or brown-colored discharge
  • Balance issues appearing as nausea or circling one area 
  • Refusal or reluctance to open mouth 
  • Swollen ear canal 

How to Stop a Dog's Ear from Bleeding

If the blood is originating from the inside of the ear canal, see your veterinarian right away. Since anything from an infection to a ruptured eardrum or cancer can cause bleeding from the inner ear, there is not much you can do at home to solve the underlying cause. 

A veterinarian will need to examine and diagnose your dog, and your four-legged friend may need 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:

  1. After folding the ear over the top of the head, apply clean gauze to the wound. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. Using a marker, indicate where the ear is beneath the bandage. 
  7. 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 to 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 team at our Brentwood location animal hospital are available to provide daytime emergency veterinary care

Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

Provided you can detect bleeding in your dog's ear and get them to the veterinarian promptly so they can be diagnosed and treated, the 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. 

When is it an Emergency?

While all instances of ear bleeding in dogs should be seen by a vet, certain situations may require emergency veterinary care such as:

  • Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes
  • Other signs that your dog may need emergency care include the symptoms of infection or other ongoing or worsening symptoms

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.

Have you noticed blood in your dog's ears? Contact our Brentwood vets to book an appointment today for your four-legged friend.

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