Damaged Ear Tip: Meiko's Story

by Krista Magnifico, DVM

Mieko is a 3-year-old Boxer who lives in a household of rough play and constant activity.

One afternoon Meiko's dad arrived home from work to find the melee had proven too much for him.

The result of the day's playtime was a painful, red, bleeding, sore ear. 

Meiko did what all pets with painful ears do, he shook his head, a lot. Head shaking causes the ear pinna (ear flaps) to hit the side of the face and top of the head and this flailing motion ruptures the blood vessels in the ear and causes the ear tips to bleed.

When you come home from work, not expecting more than a happy wagging pup to greet you and instead find yourself in the midst of a CSI gunshot victim scene the amount of splatter blood can catch you by surprise, never mind flat out alarm you.

Meiko and his dad arrived at the clinic a few minutes later. Head holding and ear shaking were met with firm discouraging "No's!"

Meiko's dad wanted two things:

  1. Stop the bleeding
  2. Close the wound that was causing the bleeding.

Perfectly understandable when the tiny blood splatter was flying around the room, walls, floors, ceilings, it was a perfect F=ma equation.

Those tiny micro-droplets can soar great distances with just the right trajectory and acceleration.

There are moments in some examinations where the few seconds of collecting data require a few paused moments to gently break bad news.

There I stood holding Meiko's face, gazed at his dads, and broke the news. 

These can be frustrating. He provided me a slightly sarcastic glance and I'm pretty sure he silently said, "don't tell me something I don't want to hear."

It is difficult to treat these wounds. 

The more they shake the quicker they bleed.

If you can't stop the head shaking the wound can't allow a blood clot to form and therefore it continues to bleed. Every head shake dislodges the clot and there it goes again bleeding.

The ear needs a few days of rest to let the wound heal.

Suturing it almost never works. It requires anesthesia, further trauma to the pinna edge and one hard head shake and you are back to square one.

So here's what we did for Meiko;

This is a two person job.

Assistant number one holds the dog. As you can see my technician is holding him in a sit position and holding the head still.

The treatment person does the following:

  • We cleaned the ear edge. Warm surgical cleaner (or warm water with a tiny bit of soap is also fine) for a few minutes was soaked on the open bleeding wound.
  • I then took a non-stick absorbent pad with triple antibiotic ointment and folded it around the ear edge.
  • Next, I wrapped the ear to the top of his head with a self-stick bandage (we use Vetwrap, the veterinarian's favorite bandage).
  • Lastly, an e-collar to keep the feet and face rubbing from removing the bandage.

Important points:

  • Do not apply the bandage too tight.
  • Do not cut it off and cut the ear hidden underneath.
  • Treat the underlying cause of the ear bleed. For Meiko, the cause was rough play, but some dogs shake their heads due to allergies, ear infection, or foreign bodies in the ear.

Within about 3 days the bandage should be able to be removed and the ear should finish healing over the next 10-14 days.

Related Blogs: Living with Bleeding on the Edge, Ear Tip Dilemmas


If you have a pet in need, you can find a community of helpful people at Pawbly.com. Pawbly is free to use and open to anyone who loves their pet and wants to help them.

I am also available for personal consults at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville Maryland. Or find me on YouTube or Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tootsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur  
Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo 
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story 
To Amputate Or Not To Amputate: Heidi's Story
Lessons From A Real-Life Veterinarian 
Charlie's Life-Saving Lipoma Surgery  
Understanding and Diagnosing The Limping Dog, Why To Probe The Paw 
Angus' Dog Fight And The Consequences
When To Induce Vomiting And When It's Not A Good Idea  
Abby's Survived Being Run Over By Car But Succumbed To A Mammary Tumor 
Palmer's Hemoabdomen: Nearly An Unnecessary Death Sentence
A Puppy That Doesn't Want To Eat Or Play Is An Emergency: Aurora's Story
Does Your Dog Like Chewing Sticks? Hank's Story  
Lexi's Bump 
Pyometra: Happy Ending for Pheonix 
Never Give Up: Bella's New Legs 
How Losing His Spleen Saved Buddy's Life 
Pyometra Emergency: Saving Chloe  
Limping Dog Checklist (part I): Did You Check the Toenails?
Limping Dog Checklist (part II): Did You Check between the Toes?
Limping Dog Checklist (part III): Foot Pads
Limping Dog Checklist (part IV): Broken Bones  
Limping Dog Checklist (part V): Joint Injuries
IVDD: Recovery, Post-Op Problems And How To Conquer Them All
Has Your Vet Given Up On Your Pet? Or You? Would You Even Recognize It If They Had?
Cervical Disc Disease: Hank's Story of Hope
Retained Testicles: Diesel's Story
Ear Tip Bleeds: Domino's Story
Leroy's Battle with Cancer
Winnie's Vitiligo
Foreign Bodies and Levi's Story