You've found your dog's ear bleeding—what should you do now? Our vets in Lafayette outline common causes of ear bleeding in dogs, identify symptoms indicating a veterinary emergency, and provide guidance on stopping the bleeding until you can seek treatment.
My Dog's Ear is Bleeding
If you notice blood emanating from your dog's ear, concern and perhaps alarm are likely to arise, regardless of the blood quantity. It is crucial to be aware that even a minor injury can lead to significant bleeding. Therefore, understanding how to halt bleeding in a dog's ear and knowing the necessary steps in this veterinary emergency is paramount.
The bleeding might be caused by various factors, including incidental incidents such as skirmishes with other animals, accidental nicks from branches while running through bushes, mishaps at the groomer's, or more severe health issues like infections or diseases. Additionally, the blood may originate from internal bleeding or injury, resulting in swollen tissues with pockets of fluid.
Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding
Because dog ears have numerous tiny blood vessels, their bodies pump blood to them when they're hot. This provides a large enough surface area for cooling, but a small cut can result in significant bleeding. The causes of ear bleeding in dogs can range from trauma or blood blisters (aural hematomas) to diseases like cancer or systemic issues. Let's delve into a few of these reasons below:
Types & Causes of Ear Bleeding in Dogs
The underlying causes of bleeding in a dog's ears are related to various types. Triggering factors for bleeding may include:
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 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, 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
Immediately consult your veterinarian if blood is emanating from inside the ear canal. Since various factors, such as infection, a ruptured eardrum, or cancer, could be causing the bleeding from the inner ear, there is limited action you can take at home to address the underlying cause. A veterinarian diagnosis is essential; your dog may need a prescription treatment. However, if your dog's ear tip is bleeding, you can take 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:
- Apply clean gauze to the wound after folding the ear over the top of the head.
- 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 you've bandaged your dog's bloody ear, promptly call your veterinarian. Be ready to furnish a comprehensive history of the situation. During your appointment, expect questions about the signs, severity, and duration of the bleeding and details about your dog's dietary regimen and recent diet changes. Your veterinarian may inquire about the frequency of your dog's ear trimming and cleaning, the pet's environment, exercise habits, and more.
Following a physical examination, the veterinarian may order a CBC (complete blood count) to assess the presence of infection or parasites. Samples of urine, feces, and other tissues 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, they 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 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 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 St. Francis Veterinary Hospital location are available to provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care.
Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs
Detect bleeding in your dog's ear and promptly take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment to ensure a favorable prognosis for most causes of bleeding ears in dogs. The recovery time hinges on the specific cause of the bleeding and the treatment administered to your dog.
If the underlying cause is identified as an injury, disease, or allergy, continued treatment may be necessary to address the underlying condition. It's crucial to recognize that, much like in humans, frequent or chronic ear infections or bleeding in dogs can lead to damage. In such instances, your veterinarian will likely recommend lifestyle or environmental changes to minimize the risk of recurring bleeding episodes, safeguard your dog's hearing, and promote 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.