What are Bleeding Ears?
Your dog 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 resulted from an internal injury, which has caused bleeding between the layers of tissue which comprise the dog ear. This is especially true of those breeds with floppy ears.
Bleeding ears can be caused by a number of issues involving various types of discharge coming from the dog ear, or can be caused by bleeding internally within the various types of tissue in the ear.
Symptoms of Bleeding Ears in Dogs
While there are various reasons for the bleeding, here are some of the signs you might notice in your dog:
- 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
The types of bleeding ears in dogs are related to the causes for them. Here are some categories into which this problem can fall:
- Trauma - This can be the result of vigorous head shaking or wounds to the ear
- 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
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 signs you might see in your doggy family member:
- Trauma - 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 (more 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
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 veterinarian, 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 signs, 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 veterinarian 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.
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 problem with your dog's ears. 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 recommended to stop the bleeding and allow the wound to heal
- If an ear wax accumulation, parasites or foreign bodies are found during the otic examination, your vet will remove them, clean and flush the ear canal. This may require sedation or anesthesia.
- 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.