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What are Bleeding Ears?

Your canine could be suffering from bleeding ears for a variety of reasons.  And, the bleeding can present in blood that you see coming from somewhere inside the ear, or it can present in puffy tissues which are pockets of fluid which have emanated from an internal injury, which has caused bleeding between the layers of tissue which comprise the canine ear.  This is especially true of those breeds who have floppy ears.

The term bleeding ears can represent a number of issues involving various types of discharge coming from the canine ear or the term can represent bleeding internally within the various types of tissue in the otic (ear) structure.

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Symptoms of Bleeding Ears in Dogs

While there are various reasons for the bleeding, here are some of the symptoms you might notice in your canine family member:

  • Blood noted in the ear canal or its outer rim (this is the most obvious one)  
  • Excessive scratching or head shaking
  • Pain or tenderness when touched
  • Other discharges like yellow-brown colored ear wax or black or brown colored discharge that resembled shoe polish 
  • Odors coming from ear canal  
  • Swollen ear canal
  • Various swellings in the floppy part of the ear
  • Balance issues displayed by circling or nausea
  • Reluctance to open the mouth

Types

 

The types of bleeding ears in dogs are related to the causes for them.  Here are some categories into which this canine malady can fall:

  • Trauma - This can be the result of vigorous head shaking or the occasional dog fight

  • Ear infection - Both outer ear as well as inner ear can come from many sources
  • Parasitic - Also can come from various sources with the most common being ear mites

  • Cancer and other lesions - Can form internally or externally in the otic system
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Causes of Bleeding Ears in Dogs

Bleeding ears in dogs, as well as other types of discharge, can have a variety of potential causes.  Here are some of the causes of the various types of discharge and the other symptoms you might see in your doggy family member:

  • Trauma is the most common cause - This can be resulting from trauma from an outside source, or more likely, self-inflicted from shaking or scratching excessively

  • Cancer and other lesions - This can include things like warts, polyps, sebaceous adenomas (most of these are benign); these can form inside the ear or on the pinna (ear flap) and all of them are capable of bleeding
  • Parasitic infestation - This would include (most often) ticks and mites and (less often) fleas and flies

  • Infections - This category includes both bacterial and fungal infections which can cause itching conditions which result in the excessive scratching and head shaking traumas noted above

In addition, systemic complications may cause:

  • Bleeding ears in this category would likely be a the spin off of an infection in the inner ear which has caused a perforation in the eardrum, resulting in bleeding coming from the ear
  • Another spin off of an infection and the associated head shaking and scratching would be the traumatic bleeding that results in bleeding within the layers of the floppy part of the ear, causing a hematoma to develop
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Diagnosis of Bleeding Ears in Dogs

Since there are a variety of causes, it is really not in the best interests of your family pet for you to try to guess the cause of the bleeding or other discharge and then follow that guess with a trial and error approach of treatments which either may not address the cause at all or may actually be harmful to your pet.  It is best to get your veterinary professional involved as soon as possible for the most appropriate treatment options.  

That being said, when you call your vet,  be sure to be prepared with a complete history of the situation, and at the visit, be prepared to give him the most detailed history possible of the symptoms, severity and duration, dietary regimen and any changes with the reasons for the changes, husbandry details (ear trimming and hygiene regimen, bathing and grooming habits, housing accommodations), any known allergies for your pet, any medications and the conditions for which they have been given and exercise habits and locations where it is done.  

Your vet will perform a physical examination and may order at least a CBC (complete blood count) to ascertain normal blood component values to assess the possibility of an infection or parasitic issue.  He may want to collect urine, fecal and other tissue samples for laboratory evaluation to rule out the various causes if no obvious cause has been established during his physical examination.  If it is an infection, allergy, underlying disease process or trauma, it is important for you to understand that all treatments will be developed which are appropriate for the root cause of the condition being treated.

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Treatment of Bleeding Ears in Dogs

Once the physical examination findings, your history, and the clinical testing results are combined, your veterinary professional will develop an appropriate treatment plan which will be specific to the cause of the malady of which your canine family member is suffering.  Treatment plan options could include:

  • Topical and/or oral antibiotic medications for any infections which will need to administered at home
  • Medications to ease the pain (if applicable) and help your pet be more comfortable
  • Steroidal medications to help reduce inflammation to help promote the healing process
  • In the case of a hematoma, surgical drainage and repair via various methods may be required to stop the bleeding and allow the wound to heal
  • If an ear wax accumulation, parasites or foreign bodies are found during the otic scope examination, your vet will remove them, clean and flush the ear canal
  • If an underlying disease process has been found, treatments will include options for addressing that disease processes
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Recovery of Bleeding Ears in Dogs

Prognosis for most causes of bleeding ears in dogs is good, provided appropriate treatments are initiated in a timely manner by your veterinary professional.  If allergies or a systemic underlying disease process is at the root of the bleeding ears of your pet, then ongoing treatment may be required for that underlying systemic or allergic cause.  Also, it is important to understand that ear infections in dogs, just like in humans, can be damaging if they are chronic or frequent.  In these cases, you will likely be given some recommendations for environmental or lifestyle changes that would lessen the opportunity for repeat episodes to protect the hearing and health of your doggy family member.

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Bleeding Ears Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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German Shepherd

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Thirteen Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding In Ear

I noticed her bending her head so I checked her ear and its full of dried blood and uncomfortable to her

Sept. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Dogs can get ear infections due to bacteria, yeast, or parasites. Each of those requires specific treatment, and infections can become quite painful, quite quickly. Since this certainly seems to be bothering her, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can see what the cause of the problem might be and get the right medication for her so that she feels better soon. I hope that all goes well for her!

Sept. 21, 2020

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Pit Bull

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1 week 6 days

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Lil Blood From Ear

For 2 day there was big hard swelling spot under puppies ear she eating normal and just now ear start to bleeding will she be ok is it infection I gave her cream and goodness natural pet antibiotics trying not to do vet bill right now if i can frist pic is two days ago last pic is now i just hurting and mom just run me 3 surgery and 6 trips and 5 000 last week

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I cannot tell from the pictures what might be going on, and I would be concerned that an infection in such a young pup would lead to sepsis. It would be best to have the pup seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they will be able to examine the pup and see what might be needed. I would not expect it to be an extensive problem, and is probably easily solved. I hope that all goes well for your pup!

Aug. 6, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Blood And Pus In Ear And Also Blood Filled Blisters In Other Areas Of Body

We are currently in the middle of moving and noticed one of our labs ears has pus that is green and tinged with blood. She also has these spots that look like blisters on her lower jaw and legs that just seep blood. This is new. What could be going on?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. That sounds quite serious, and your dog sounds sick. It may be a fungal or bacterial infection, or a parasite, but either way, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian right away so that she can get treatment. They will be able to examine her and see what might be going on, and get any medications that she may need. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Ear Itching

Dogs one ear is inflamed with what look like blisters. Pictures of both the bad ear and the good one included.

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. The right ear appears to have an ear infection present. I would recommend having the ear examined by your veterinarian so that he or she can make sure the ear drum is intact, perform an ear cytology to assess whether it is a bacterial or yeast infection and prescribe appropriate ear medications. If ear infections become frequent in her then it is likely due to an underlying allergy. Allergies in dogs commonly cause ear and skin infections as well as itchiness of the skin. I hope she feels better soon.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Dog has been shaking his head for weeks. Has puffy ears and bleeding from ear canal

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that your dog is in so much pain, that sounds awful for him. Ear infections in dogs can be very painful, and they don't tend to get better on their own, as they usually do need specific antibiotic therapy. It would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian right away, as they can examine the ears, see what type of infection is going on, and get treatment so that your dog can be no longer in pain from those ears. I hope that everything goes well.

July 28, 2020

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Bandit

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Miniature Pinscher

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11 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Scratching

My puppy Bandit has bad ear scratching and hair loss on his ears. I took him to the vets and he was diagnosed with Mange. The vet prescribed a topical once a month squeeze on to clear the Mange and prevent it. His ears started clearing and looking better at first, but now he is constantly itching again and reopening his scabs. How can he heal if he won’t stop scratching?

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King

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Bullybull terrier

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding, Shaking Head, Scratching

King ears are bloody inside, they seem tender but he won’t let me clean them and it looks really gross in that one ear only. I have noticed the dark color blood and new blood but I do know every time he scratches his ear he is scratching himself up. Is there any ear flush I could use or how can I help him until we get to his vet?

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Bear

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding
Scratching
Shaking Ear,
Lots Of Wax

Our lab has bad ear infections and we have had to take him to get his ears cleaned out more times then not. This time his ear kept getting gross and he is shaking his head and scratching his ear constantly. But this morning be woke me up to blood flying out from his inner ear. Yes we have another vet appt this mornin but I am trying to find something to help him feel more relaxed.

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Harry

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Pembroke Welsh Corgi

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9 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Ear Itching

I just saw that my little pup has one of his ears inflamed and there's a bit of blood inside. I don't know whether it is due to his scratches or something more serious. I doubt it would be an infection because he just got off a 10 day antibiotic from a flu. Although I have noticed that lately he keeps laying down on the grass on the side of his red ear and he rotates.

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