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Bleeding From a Dog's Ears: Causes & Treatment

Bleeding in a dog's ears can be a concerning sign that would worry any pet parent. Today, the team at our emergency veterinary hospital in San Diego discusses ear bleeding in dogs, the symptoms, treatment and when it may be an emergency.

My Dog's Ears Are Bleeding

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

An incidental trigger may be 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. Blood may also arise from internal injury or bleeding, which can result from puffy tissues containing pockets of fluid. 

What is causing the bleeding in your dog's ears?

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: 

Causes of Ear Bleeding 

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 dogs to shake, scratch, and tilt their heads. 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. 

Other Symptoms That May Accompany Ear Bleeding

Bleeding is a symptom, and you may find other symptoms occurring simultaneously with the bleeding. Some of these other symptoms are: 

  • 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 petted
  • 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 originates from the inside of the ear canal, see your veterinarian immediately. 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 ten 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 Your Dog's Ear

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. If you don't have a clip to tie the bandage together, you can use the last length. 

You may need to try different types of first-aid bandages, sweatbands, bandannas or light scarves to find a fabric your dog will tolerate wearing on their ear. Most dogs hate having anything around their heads and will try to paw the bandage off. 

How will the bleeding be diagnosed?

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. Your veterinarian may also ask about how often the fur on your dog's ears is trimmed and how often their ears are cleaned, in addition to asking about your pet's environment, exercise habits, dietary changes 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. 

What are the treatment options for bleeding from a dog's ear?

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 surgical drainage and repair methods may be recommended 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 Poway animal hospital can provide emergency veterinary care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact our emergency pet hospital right away if you are concerned about your dog.

What can you expect while your dog recovers from a bleeding ear?

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 your dog's treatment. 

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 a dog's bleeding ear 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.

Is your dog showing signs of trauma or medical distress? We offer 24-hour care for pets in Poway at our animal emergency clinic. Contact us right away.

Experienced Emergency Vet Care in Poway

Animal Emergency Clinic of San Diego is a family-run after-hours and critical care hospital, providing veterinary emergency care since 1985. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact us to get the help your pet needs.

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