Ear Flap Injuries View In Dogs
The ear flap, or pinna, is a sheet of cartilage covered on both sides by a layer of skin and hair. The pinna is often involved in diseases as part of a generalized process, especially in the case of allergic and autoimmune skin diseases.
Outdoor cats are very prone to having their ears torn in fights with other animals. But it is the dogs with thin coats and big floppy ears, like Labrador Retrievers and Beagles, who tend to have the worst problem with earflap injuries.
Hanging ears are injured more easily than upright ears, and dogs tend to re-injure the wound when they shake their heads. The thin coat of fur on these breeds' ears doesn't offer much protection, and accordingly, dogs with thick coats are less likely to get ear flap injuries.
A bruise on the ear flap, usually from scratching or shaking the ears, can make the tissue swell like a balloon, resulting in aural hematoma (see also Ear infections). This requires medical attention as soon as possible and minor surgery to repair.
There are many different causes for ear flap injuries. The most common types are self inflicted (scratching) and bites or scratches from another animal.
Diagnosis is made by physical examination.
Most ear flap injuries look worse than they really are, and they can often be successfully treated at home. However, if you pet has a laceration (cut) on both the inside and the outside of the ear flap (longer than 1 inch in dogs or 1/2 inch in cats or small dogs), if the bleeding doesn't stop within 15 - 20 minutes, if the cut is on the outer edge of the ear flap, or if the wound was caused by a bite from another animal, call your vet immediately.
1. Trim the fur - If you have a furry eared dog, you will need to trim off any long fur on the ear flap to expose the injury so that you can clean and treat it more easily. Electric clippers and even a mustache trimmer will work very well and are safe choices. If these tools are not available, use blunt (rounded) tipped scissors. If the skin is broken, fill the wound with a water soluble lubricant like K-Y Jelly before clipping. If you are using scissors, first slip you index and second finger through the fur and hold them against the wound. Cut the fur so that it is level with your fingers, clipping a 1 inch border around the wound. After clipping, thoroughly rinse the area with warm water. The trimmed hair sticks to the jelly and washes out.
2. Clean the ear flap - If the injury is an animal bite, it is important to wash the ear flap with mild soap and water, then pat it dry.
3. Stop the bleeding - Cuts, tears, or bites to the ear flap usually bleed alot because of the excessive blood supply in the area. Use a clean, soft cloth or a sterile gauze pad and apply pressure directly to the injury. The bleeding should stop in 5 minutes or less. Keep your pet quiet during that time, perhaps by feeding them treats.
4. Tape the ears - Many dogs with floppy ears won't tolerate a bandage taped to the ear flap; they will shake their heads, the bandage will fly off, and the ear will spray blood. A better option is to bandage the wound by taping both ears on top of your dog's head. That keeps her from breaking open the scab by flopping her ears around, and it is much more comfortable for your dog.
Use a gauze pad or small adhesive bandage to completely cover the injury. Then fold the ear flap up over the top of your dogs head. Fold the other ear flap over the top of the first so that both ears form a cap on top of your dogs head. Finally, hold the ears in place by wrapping rolled gauze or a towel around your dogs head and throat and tape it. You could also use the sleeve from a t-shirt or cut the toe area off an athletic sock or length of pantyhose and slip the tube of material over your dog's head to hold the ears in place, as long as it is not too tight and doesn't restrict breathing.
5. Use a topical ointment - Most of the time, dogs and cats will lick off topical medicine, but it is difficult for them to reach ear flap injuries. Apply antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. Do not use this on injuries with lots of bleeding. It is more important to bandage the injury to stop the bleeding. As this happens, the blood will actually help to clean out the wound.
Special Situations - IF THE BLEEDING DOES NOT STOP within 15 - 20 minutes of direct pressure, see your vet immediately. An artery may be damaged, or there may be a blood clotting problem. On the way to the vet maintain pressure on the wound. If you do not have assistance, you can also place a wad of gauze or a small clean cloth on the inside of the ear flap, roll it over the ear, and bandage it like a tube instead of a flap.
Torn ear flaps or repairs to aural hematomas will probably need stitches, and your dog may come home with his ears bandaged to his head to keep the wound clean and dry. You may need to change the bandage everyday and keep the suture site clean with a cotton ball soaked in warm water.
Please contact your veterinarian for assistance with this condition.
Show Sources & Contributors +
Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook
Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007
Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD
The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats
Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001
Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM