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Dog Ear Bleeding: Causes & Treatment

Bleeding in your dog's ears can be a worrying sign for any pet owner, whether it's caused by a minor irritation or a more serious issue. In this article, our emergency vets in San Mateo will discuss the causes of bleeding ears in dogs, the symptoms, and when to take your furry friend to the vet.

My Dog's Ear is Bleeding

If you notice blood coming out of your dog's ear, it's natural to feel worried and concerned, regardless of the amount of bleeding. Even a minor injury can result in significant bleeding. Therefore, it's crucial to know how to stop dog ear bleeding and what to do in case of a veterinary emergency.

Bleeding can be caused by various factors, such as a fight with another animal, an accidental injury from a branch while running through bushes, a mishap at the groomer's, or a more severe health issue like infection or disease. Additionally, the blood may come from internal bleeding or injury, leading to swollen tissues containing pockets of fluid.

Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding

Dogs have a lot of tiny blood vessels in their ears, and their body pumps blood to them when they get hot. This helps them cool down effectively but also means that even a small cut can cause significant bleeding. There are many different reasons why a dog's ears might start bleeding, ranging from injuries or blood blisters (also known as aural hematomas) to serious diseases like cancer or other systemic issues. In the following sections, we'll take a closer look at some of the most common causes of ear bleeding in dogs.

Types & Causes of Ear Bleeding in Dogs

Types of bleeding in dog ears are related to their underlying causes. Bleeding may be triggered by: 

Aural Hematoma -  Aural hematomas, also known as blood blisters, form between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap. Symptoms include swelling, head shaking, scratching, and a head tilt. A hematoma may burst and cause profuse bleeding. 

Cancer or Other Lesions - Not all growths or tumors are malignant. However, carcinomas, polyps, tumors, and growths sometimes develop in the ear canal or 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 - Ear mites are a common parasitic infection that spreads easily. They can come from various sources such as fleas, ticks, and flies. You may notice inflammation and parasitic otitis, which causes inflammation of the outer ear canal, middle ear, or internal ear.

Trauma - Ear bleeding may be self-inflicted from shaking, 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 the ear canal 
  • Swelling in the floppy part of the ear 
  • Constant attention paid to one or both ears 
  • Aversion to being a 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. A veterinarian must diagnose your dog 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:

  1. Apply clean gauze to the wound after folding the ear over the top of the head. 
  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 if you don't have a clip to tie the bandage together. 

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 its ear. 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 ear has been bandaged due to bleeding, it is recommended that you call your veterinarian immediately. It would be best if you were prepared to provide a complete history of the situation. During your appointment, the veterinarian will likely ask about the signs, severity, and duration of the bleeding, as well as your dog's dietary regimen and any recent changes in diets. The vet may also inquire about how often your dog's ears are trimmed and cleaned, your pet's environment, exercise habits, and other relevant information. 

Once the vet has performed a physical examination, he or she may order a CBC (complete blood count) to determine whether there is an infection or parasite problem. Our in-house lab may also collect and analyze urine, fecal, and other tissue samples.

How to Treat Bleeding Dog Ears

After conducting a physical examination, clinical tests, and reviewing your dog's medical history, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan to address the underlying cause of your dog's ear problem. Treatment plan options may include various approaches to alleviate the issue.

  • 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 and 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 San Mateo location animal hospital can provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care

Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

If you notice bleeding in your dog's ear, it's important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Timely diagnosis and treatment can lead to a good prognosis in most cases. The recovery time will depend on the cause of the bleeding and your dog's treatment.

If the underlying cause is an injury, disease, or allergy, ongoing treatment may be necessary to address the condition. It's important to understand that ear infections or bleeding in dogs, just like in humans, can be harmful if they occur frequently or become chronic. In these cases, your veterinarian may suggest lifestyle or environmental modifications to reduce the risk of recurring bleeding episodes and to safeguard your dog's hearing and overall health.

When is it an Emergency?

While a vet should see all instances of ear bleeding in dogs, 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.

Does your dog have signs of blood in their ears? Please get in touch with our vets in San Mateo right away to schedule an examination.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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