My Dog Is Bleeding From His Ear
Your dog's ears are highly vascular, meaning that they have lots of blood vessels. This allows them to function well in dissipating heat, sense temperature and pressure changes, and receive auditory information. There are five common reasons for there to be blood coming from a dog's ear. The most common is trauma, either self-induced by shaking or scratching, or from some outside source. A variety of masses - including polyps, warts, and sebaceous adenomas, most of which are benign - can arise from the pinna, or ear flap, or from inside the ear. All of them are capable of bleeding.
Parasites - such as ticks and mites and, less frequently, fleas and flies - can cause bleeding from the ear. Bacterial and fungal infections usually cause dogs to scratch aggressively at their ears, resulting in the self-induced trauma described above. In some cases, though, an infection of the inner ear can cause a perforation of the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, and bleeding may result.
What to Look For
The first step is to figure out where the blood is coming from. Gently take a look at the outside and inside of your dog's ears. If the source of the bleeding is not immediately clear, use a cotton or paper towel soaked in water to blot and wipe away the excess blood. Since ears bleed a lot and dogs with bleeding ears tend to shake their heads repeatedly, expect a bit of a mess!
Check your dog's ears for punctures and lacerations. Look outside and inside for lumps, bumps, and growths. Next, check both of your dog's ears for parasites. Look for lesions on the tips of your dogs ears and hair loss, cracking, and bleeding.
What to Do
Ask yourself a few questions to determine what to do:
Precisely where is the blood coming from? It is important to establish the site of the bleeding first since this usually dictates why the bleeding is occurring and how to handle it. It is even possible that the blood is not coming from your dog, but from one of your dog's playmates.
Is there a puncture or laceration to any part of the ear? These are the toughest to deal with because of the size and location of the blood vessels in the ears. If you find punctures, clean them thoroughly first with water, then with a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. If you've got the nerve, soak a cotton swab in the hydrogen peroxide mixture and insert the tip right into each of the puncture holes. This will disinfect the wounds and also give you an idea of how serious the bleeding is.
If you find lacerations, treat them similarly to the punctures, but only if they are superficial.
After you clean the wounds, bandage and protect your dog's ears to promote proper healing and prevent aural hematomas following trauma.
Do you see any unusual lumps, bumps, or growths in or on the ear? If the blood appears to be coming from any one of these types of lesions and it is not excessive, you may be able to stop the bleeding with a cauterizing chemical or clotting agent like Kwik Stop or an equivalent powder, gel, or topical “spot-on.” Apply it directly to the source of the bleeding. These products are available at most human pharmacies and pet supply stores. This, of course, is only likely to be a temporary solution until the growth itself is taken care of.
Are there any parasites in your dog's ears? Here's how to deal with ticks, fleas, mites, and flies.
Ticks can be removed with tweezers or forced to detach by covering them with Vaseline, which blocks their ability to “breathe.” As they suffocate, they'll back out of your dog's skin within a few days. You should probably consider using a tick preventive collar or topical liquid to protect your dog in the future.
Fleas are not often found inside the ear, but fleas on your dog's outer ear or head would probably cause enough scratching to result in bloody ears. Treat the fleas with a commercially available product, and the ears will respond quickly to wound management.
Mites are microscopic in size, but the ear wax produced in response to them is distinct in appearance. It resembles the color and granularity of coffee grounds. Remove this material from your dog's ears and use mite-specific medication to kill the mites and their eggs. Ear flush and mite remedies to accomplish this are available over the counter at your pet store.
Flies can be the source of bleeding in and around a dog's ears, but only in unusual circumstances, usually when a dog is sick or compromised in some other way. If you notice flies landing in and on your dog's ears, look for pre- existing wounds or lesions. Clean the ears thoroughly and try spraying a bandana with your favorite fly repellant and tying it around your dog's neck.
Did you see lesions on the tips of your dog's ears along with hair loss, cracking, and/or bleeding? This could be caused by a nutritional deficiency. Try adding a multivitamin containing zinc to your dog's diet.
When to Get the Vet
If lacerations extend through the entire thickness of the ear, they will probably need sutures to ensure proper healing.
Text © 2007 by Robert D. "Jake" Tedaldi, D.V.M.