Whether due to a minor irritation or a more serious issue, bleeding in your dog's ears can be a concerning sign for any dog parent. Here, our Seattle 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

If you see blood coming from your dog's ear, you'll likely be concerned, and perhaps alarmed, no matter the amount of blood. Because even a minor injury to the ear can cause a significant amount of blood loss, it's important to know how to stop the bleeding and what to do next.

Because dog ears are full of tiny blood vessels, their body pumps blood to them when your dog is hot. While this gives them a surface area large enough to cool down, a small cut can lead to a lot of bleeding.

Why Your Dog's Ear Might Be Bleeding

Bleeding may have an incidental cause, such as a fight with another animal, having their ear nicked by a branch as they run through a bush, or an accident at the groomer's.

It could also cause more serious health issues, such as infection or disease. The blood could also originate from internal bleeding or injury, which can result in puffy tissues containing pockets of fluid. 

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. 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, this 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 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. 

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. Your dog will need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian 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.

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.

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 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 severity, and duration of the bleeding. Your veterinarian may also ask about how often your dog's ears are trimmed and cleaned, your dog's living environment, exercise habits and more. 

Once the veterinarian has performed a physical examination, he or she may order blood tests 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. 

When is it an Emergency?

While all instances of ear bleeding in dogs should be seen by a vet, bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes should be seen by an emergency veterinarian.

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

Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs 

As long as you are able to discover bleeding in your dog's ear and get them to the veterinarian in a timely manner so they can be diagnosed and treated, prognosis for most causes of bleeding ears in dogs is good. Recovery time will depend on the cause of the bleeding and the treatment your dog receives. 

Ongoing treatment may be needed to address the condition if the underlying cause turns out to be an injury, disease, or allergy. It's also important to understand that ear bleeding in dogs 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. 

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.

Have you noticed your dog's ear bleeding? Please contact our vets in Seattle right away to schedule an examination.