If you’ve ever watched professional rasslin’ (wrestling), you know why a dog’s ear bleeds so badly from the tiniest of cuts.
You see, in the squared circle, every pro wrester knows a drop of blood and a tablespoon of sweat looks like a mortal head wound and the victim is about to succumb. The phenomenon of being a “juicer,” means you get paid more per bout so they will “blade” one another for a bigger payday. The wounds, however, usually are inconsequential.
Now take that to your average dog owner. They take their dog to a local dog park, like my friends did. The dogs all get to romping around, and soon the open-mouth jousting begins. That’s healthy and all in good fun. It’s fun until one dog gets a little too rambunctious and accidentally bites another’s ear. Soon there’s a yelp and the owners are wondering what happened.
Now I’m not excusing the unruly dog and inept owner. This column just addresses a minor laceration of the outer part of the ear. Usually, these happen on the margin or edge of the ear as a small, full thickness cut that does not have spurting blood.
The bleeding seems like a lot. It keeps coming, and in the meantime, your blood pressure goes up. Most people know enough to apply some pressure. That’s where the mistakes are made.
Most people see a laceration and they want to apply pressure after cleaning the wound … for about 30 seconds. Then they want to look and see if the bleeding stopped. The fact is, pressure on such wounds as a lacerated ear in animals or people need to have pretty good pressure applied for a really long time. Measure that in quarter hours, not seconds. Each time you move the pressure dressing to look, even just peek, you disturb the clot.
Most of the time the bleeding will stop in 15 minutes or so. The second problem is the dog won’t stop. If you let go and the cut is dry, your pooch will shake or scratch its head and dislodge the clot for you. Unfortunately, except for the tiniest of cuts, it takes significantly more work.
According to veterinarian Dr. Lynn Buzhardt with VCA Animal Hospitals, one can use over-the-counter clotting crystals, styptic pencils, or silver nitrate sticks to help the wound either clot or slightly cauterize chemically.
Most importantly though, the ear has to be immobilized. Essentially, once you get clotting started and before the dog can shake its head, wrap the cut ear up over the top of the head with a long gauze or elastic wrap like an ace bandage. It should be wrapped tightly, but not so tight the dog can’t breathe, eat or drink. Being able to insert one or two fingers under the dressing on the dog’s neck will work well.
Work well, except that the dressing has to stay there, too. This also means you probably need to get an obstructive collar or device that prevents pets from scratching or rubbing their face. The most common is the clear plastic Elizabethan collars otherwise known as the cone-of-shame. These and other styles are available at pet stores.
So how long do you leave this rigamarole on? As long as it may take — maybe a couple of days or more.
For specific advice on dirty wounds or larger cuts involving more of the ear, consult with your veterinarian. They may advise you to come in so they can use sutures or electrocautery to promote healing and shorten the down time for your pet.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service.