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April 5, 2023

Apparently, people get worried and search online for "blood coming out of ear" of dogs. Yikes! So I dug around on the veterinary medical research for insights and found the most common cause + the breeds at highest risk + other common risk factors of this happening. 

In Dogs, What Causes Blood Coming Out of Ear?

The fancy term for the most common cause of blood coming out of ears of dogs is "aural hematoma." That simply means a pool of blood on or in the ear. It typically starts with trauma of some sort such as injury or scratching or head-shaking. This can rupture the tiny blood vessels (called capillaries) in dogs' ears. The problem can also include a gap forming between the ear skin and cartilage, which then fills with blood. Ouch! That tender and stretched area of skin might result in blood coming out of ear of some dogs. That area might also feel warm to the touch.

Not a diagnosis on its own, aural hematomas often point toward other primary diagnoses such as allergies, auto-immune conditions, or physical trauma.

Common Treatments for Dogs With Blood Coming Out of Ear

Treatment Option 1: If the pocket of blood on a dog's ear is relatively new and small, your veterinarian might suggest:

  • Draining the blood with a small needle
  • Placing a steroid treatment directly into the hematoma
  • Taking a short course of daily steroids

Treatment Option 2: If your dog keeps ending up with blood coming out of ear, then surgery is another option. Surgery may help avoid chronic scarring and other ear problems happening again and again, including infections and even scarring that deforms or blocks your dog's ears.

Treatment Option 3: Some people choose to do nothing for the hematoma itself. Instead, they opt for treating the underlying cause of the ear issues instead. With care, the bloody ear can heal on its own with time and care. However, the risks of scarring and infection go up without direct treatment of the ear itself. 

Breeds at Highest Risk for Aural Hematomas

A study published in 2021 looked at veterinary records from 2016 for a little over 900K dogs in the United Kingdom. They found 2,249 dogs initially diagnosed with aural hematomas that year. 

  • More than half of those dogs (54.6%) also got diagnosed with ear infections at the same time
  • About 11.3% also got diagnosed with allergic skin disease

The breeds at highest risk of blood coming out of ear due to aural hematomas include several types of Bull Terriers in the top 10, so we'll put those on the top of the list. Here's how the other breeds at risk pan out:

  • Bull Terrier
  • Golden Retriever 
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • American Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Boxer
  • Weimaraner
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Dalmatian
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • English Bulldog

Don't miss the earlier info on health risks for breeds like French Bulldogs and other types of bulldogs and brachycephalic breeds.

blood coming out of ear of dogs chart 1

Other Characteristics That Put Dogs at Risk

The study's authors also point to these risk factors they found:

"Breeds with V-shaped ears and semi-erect ears had the highest odds of aural hematoma." They hypothesize that the dogs with these types of ears and all the ear folding that happens "may promote fractures of the mid-pinnal cartilage," which then may lead to the bloody ear issues.

blood coming out of ears of dogs quote 1 -- dogs with v-shaped or semi-perked ears at greater risk of ear bleeding

"The current study identified that increasing age was associated with rising odds of aural hematoma." Their advice for those with older dogs includes using caution and avoiding any play or other activities that involve intense head movements (such as playing vigorous tugging games) to avoid risk of ear injury. 

blood coming out of ears of dogs quote 2 - older dogs more at risk for bleeding ears

"Increasing adult bodyweight was associated with rising odds of aural hematoma." The authors point to the increased centrifugal force of heavier dogs, especially those with big heads and thick necks, for greater risk of ear injury from ear flapping or head shaking motions.

blood coming out of ears of dogs quote 3 -- heavier dogs, especially those with big heads and necks more at risk for bleeding ears
Old Ideas About Floppy Ears

While others speculate that dogs with long, droopy ears face higher risks of ear infections and therefore end up with blood coming out of ear, this 2021 study actually found a lower risk than for breeds with other types of ears. So, that may be an old idea.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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