By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 16, 2010

Ear injuries happen for many reasons. The following guidelines are for injuries caused by objects stuck in the ear and/or from the violent head-shaking which occurs when dogs try to dislodge the objects from their ears.

What To Watch For

Ears that appear swollen or that discharge blood are a clear indication that the dog has something stuck in his ear. The dog may even shake his head or paw at the ear to attempt to dislodge it himself.

Primary Cause

Often, dogs shake their heads violently to try and dislodge the foreign objects from the ears themselves. This, in turn, can burst a blood vessel and cause swelling of the ear flap. However, the most common cause of ear injuries are ear infections.

Immediate Care

If your dog is shaking its head:

  • Check the ear closest to the ground.
  • If a small object is visible -- a grass seed or pebble, for instance -- try to remove it with your fingers or tweezers.
  • If you can’t get the object out, bandage the ear flat against the head to avoid further damage and take the dog to the vet for treatment.

If an ear is bleeding:

  • Using absorbent pads (such as cotton pads, clean towels, or sanitary towels), apply pressure to both sides of the bleeding ear flap for several minutes.
  • Do not remove the pads.
  • Instead, bandage them and the ear flat against the dog’s head and take the dog to see the vet the same day.

If an ear is swollen:

  • To prevent any further shaking or damage, bandage the ear flat against the head immediately,
  • Take the dog to the vet within 24 hours.

If your dog shows signs of disequilibrium (losing its balance):

  • Ensure the dog’s safety by keeping it in a single room with as few objects as possible to fall against.
  • Take the dog to the vet the same day.

Tip: If you need to bandage a dog’s ear but have no gauze available, you can cut the toe off a tube sock and put that over the dog’s head. Just make sure it isn’t too tight.

Other Causes

Although ear infections are the most common cause of injury, ear-swelling can be caused by abscesses formed after a fight, mites, foreign bodies or tumors. Always have swelling and bleeding checked.

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