Bleeding in your dog's ears can be a concerning sign for any pet parent whether due to a minor irritation or a more serious issue. Here, our Boulder and Westminster emergency vets talk about the causes of bleeding ears in dogs, the symptoms that may occur and when to visit your vet.

My Dog's Ear is Bleeding

Seeing blood coming from your dog's ear can be quite concerning and alarming, regardless of the amount. Knowing how to stop dog ear bleeding and what to do next in this veterinary emergency is crucial, as even a minor injury can lead to significant bleeding.

Bleeding can occur due to various reasons, including a scuffle with another animal, a minor injury from a branch while running through bushes, an accident during grooming, or a more severe health condition like infection or disease. Internal bleeding or injury can cause blood to originate, leading to puffy tissues with fluid-filled pockets.

Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding

When your dog gets hot, their body pumps blood to their ears because they are filled with tiny blood vessels. Although their surface area is sufficient for cooling, even a minor cut can result in significant bleeding. Dogs may experience ear bleeding due to a range of factors, including trauma, blood blisters (aural hematomas), or underlying diseases like cancer or systemic issues. Below, we will delve into a few of these reasons:

Types & Causes of Ear Bleeding in Dogs

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

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 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 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 or scratching excessively, or caused by an external source.

Systemic complications may result in traumatic bleeding in the layers of the floppy part of the ear, resulting in a hematoma. It is possible for your dog to develop an infection in the inner ear, leading to a perforated 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 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 the ear canal, it is important to seek immediate veterinary attention. There are limited options for addressing the underlying cause of bleeding from the inner ear at home, as it can be attributed to various factors such as infection, a ruptured eardrum, or even cancer. A veterinarian will need to diagnose your dog and may prescribe a treatment. If your dog's ear tip is bleeding, 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. 

Experimenting with various types of first-aid bandages, sweatbands, bandannas, or light scarves might be necessary to discover a fabric that your dog can tolerate on their ear. It's common for dogs to dislike having anything around their heads and they may attempt to remove the bandage by pawing at it.

Diagnosis of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

Once you have bandaged your dog's bloody ear, it is advisable to promptly contact your veterinarian. Come ready to give a thorough account of the situation. During your appointment, the veterinarian will inquire about the bleeding, including its signs, severity, and duration. They will also discuss your dog's dietary regimen and any recent changes in diets. The veterinarian may also inquire about the frequency of ear trimming and cleaning, the pet's environment, exercise routine, and other related factors.

After performing a physical examination, the veterinarian may request a CBC (complete blood count) to assess the presence of any infection or parasite issues. We collect and analyze urine, fecal, and other tissue samples in our in-house lab.

How to Treat Bleeding Dog Ears

Once your veterinarian has collected the results of the physical exam, clinical testing, the incident history, and your dog's medical records, a treatment plan will be devised to tackle the underlying issue affecting your dog's ears. Possible treatment plan options:

  • 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 Boulder and Westminster location animal hospital are available to provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care

Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

If you can spot bleeding in your dog's ear and promptly take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment, the outlook for most cases of bleeding ears in dogs is positive. The cause of the bleeding and the treatment your dog receives will determine the recovery time.

Ongoing treatment may be necessary if the condition is caused by an injury, disease, or allergy. Understanding the potential harm, it's crucial to recognize that frequent or chronic ear infections or bleeding in dogs, just like in humans, can cause significant damage. Your veterinarian will likely suggest making lifestyle or environmental changes to decrease the chances of future bleeding episodes and to safeguard 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.

Does your dog have signs of blood in their ears? Please contact our vets in Boulder and Westminster right away to schedule an examination.