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Dog Ear Bleeding: Causes & Treatment

Bleeding in your dog's ears can provoke concern for any pet owner, regardless of whether it stems from a minor irritation or a more serious condition. Our emergency veterinarians in New York are available to discuss the causes of bleeding ears in dogs, potential symptoms, and when it's crucial to seek veterinary care.

My Dog's Ear is Bleeding

If you notice blood coming from your dog's ear, it's natural to feel worried, regardless of the amount. Even minor injuries can lead to significant bleeding, emphasizing the importance of knowing how to address dog ear bleeding. The bleeding may result from various causes, including scuffles with other animals, injuries from branches while running through bushes, accidents at groomers', or more serious health issues such as infections or diseases. Additionally, internal bleeding or injury can also lead to swollen tissues containing fluid pockets.

Reasons Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding

Dogs possess numerous tiny blood vessels in their ears, aiding in cooling down when overheated. However, this feature also makes even small cuts prone to substantial bleeding. Various factors may lead to bleeding ears in dogs, including trauma, blood blisters (aural hematomas), cancer, or other underlying health issues.

Types & Causes of Ear Bleeding in Dogs

The types of bleeding in a dog's ears correspond to their underlying causes. Bleeding may be triggered by:

Aural Hematoma - Also known as blood blisters, aural hematomas develop between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap, often causing 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 a common parasitic infection, conditions can originate from various sources, including fleas, ticks, and flies. Inflammation and parasitic otitis (an infection causing inflammation of the outer ear canal, middle ear, or internal ear) may be noticeable.

Trauma - Ear bleeding may be self-inflicted from excessive shaking or scratching, or caused by external sources.

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

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 the 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

If blood is coming from inside your dog's ear canal, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible, as it may indicate various issues, from infections to a ruptured eardrum or cancer. However, if bleeding is limited to the ear tip, you can try the following 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. Use a gauze roll bandage to secure the gauze, ensuring it's firm but not too tight.
  3. Continue rolling the bandage down from the top of the head, under the chin, and back to the top of the head.
  4. Ensure the bandage crisscrosses in front of the healthy ear to act as an anchor.
  5. Indicate the ear's position beneath the bandage with a marker.
You may need to try different types of first-aid bandages, sweatbands, bandannas, or light scarves to find a fabric your dog tolerates.

Diagnosis of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

If your dog has a bloody ear that's been bandaged, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. During your appointment, your veterinarian will likely inquire about the bleeding's signs, severity, and duration, along with your dog's dietary regimen and recent changes in food or environment. They may also ask about your dog's ear cleaning and trimming habits, exercise routines, and more.

After a physical examination, your veterinarian may order a CBC (complete blood count) to check for infections or parasites. They may also collect and analyze samples of urine, feces, or other tissues in our in-house lab. Providing your veterinarian with a complete history of the situation ensures the best possible care for your pet.

How to Treat Bleeding Dog Ears

Once your veterinarian has gathered findings from the physical exam, clinical testing, and history, they will create a treatment plan to address your dog's ear issue. 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 New York location animal hospital are available to provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care

Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

Detecting and promptly addressing bleeding in your dog's ears leads to a good prognosis for most causes. Recovery time depends on the bleeding's cause and the treatment received. Ongoing treatment may be necessary if the underlying cause is an injury, disease, or allergy. Lifestyle or environmental changes may be recommended to prevent repeat bleeding episodes and protect your dog's hearing and overall health.

When is it an Emergency?

It's important to have a veterinarian examine any instance of ear bleeding in dogs. In some cases, emergency veterinary care may be necessary.

  • 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.

Does your dog show signs of blood in their ears? Please contact our vets in New York immediately to schedule

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