Is your dog simply ignoring you, or do they have a ruptured eardrum? Today, our Clarksville vets discuss how to know if your dog has a ruptured eardrum.

What to Know About the Eardrum

The outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear of a dog are all separate structures. The middle ear houses the body's smallest bones, the malleus, incus, and stapes. The eardrum is very fragile and easily damaged during ear cleaning or ear disease.

The eardrum is responsible for transmitting sounds from the environment to the three bones in the middle ear, and then to the labyrinth. Anything that compromises the integrity and structure of the eardrum, such as an infection or perforation, can impair a dog's ability to hear significantly. Any eardrum problem should be treated as a serious health issue that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum in Dogs

There are several symptoms that will alert you that something is wrong with your dog and that you should take him to the veterinarian. These include:

  • Ear pain
  • Pus-like discharge from the ear
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • An inflamed or red ear canal
  • Shaking their head
  • Tilting their head
  • Incoordination or stumbling
  • Nystagmus or eyes that dart back and forth
  • Paralysis of the face including the inability to blink
Note that neurological signs, such as stumbling, nystagmus, and a drooping face, can indicate other serious problems. If you notice your dog with these symptoms, head to your vet.

Causes of Eardrum Ruptures in Dogs

Your dog's eardrum can rupture for a variety of reasons, many of which can be avoided with caution. The following are some of the most common causes of eardrum ruptures:

Ear Infections: The most common cause of an eardrum rupture is an infection. Chronic ear infections cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to a rupture. If the membrane ruptures, bacteria and yeast from the outer ear can enter the middle and inner ear, resulting in a more serious infection.

Loud Noises: A ruptured eardrum can be caused by being too close to a fireworks display or a gunshot, for example. While a loud noise from a distance will not harm you, being too close to an extremely loud noise will.

Trauma: The eardrum of a dog can be damaged from a traumatic injury, such as if it is hit by a car or falls from a great height.

Polyps or Masses: If a polyp or mass grows too large in your dog's ear canal, it can press against and rupture the eardrum.

Drastic Changes in Atmospheric Pressure: An eardrum rupture can be caused by sudden and severe changes in air pressure, such as when flying.

Foreign Object in the Ear: The eardrum of a dog is difficult to puncture because its ear canal is L-shaped rather than straight like ours. A migrating foxtail may rupture an eardrum in rare cases, but you'd be hard-pressed to damage it with a Q-tip or medication applicator.

How to Diagnosis Eardrum Ruptures in Dogs

A routine physical exam can detect an eardrum rupture. If your dog has significant swelling, debris in the ears, or is in pain, sedation or anesthesia will most likely be required. While your dog's injured ear is cleaned and examined, pain relievers and general anesthesia can keep it calm and relaxed.

Once your dog is sedated (if necessary), your vet will clean the ear canal by gently flushing out debris. They'll be able to see the eardrum with an otoscope after the ear has been cleaned. To diagnose a perforated eardrum, a veterinarian will use one of two tests.

Other diagnostic tests may be ordered by your veterinarian to rule out other possible causes and determine the presence of an infection. A CT scan may be required in some cases to determine if an eardrum has ruptured and if there is an infection in the inner ear.

How to Treat Eardrum Ruptures in Dogs

If your dog's eardrum ruptures, your veterinarian will discuss your treatment options with you. A thorough ear flushing, usually performed under sedation, is required to ensure that any foreign matter or pus has been removed. Oral antifungal and antibiotic medications may also be required for your dog. If your dog is in pain or has inflammation, corticosteroids may be prescribed.

Many over-the-counter medications can be harmful, so do not give them to your dog. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair extensive damage caused by the ruptured eardrums. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best surgical procedure for your dog.

Recovering From a Ruptured Ear Drum

A ruptured eardrum usually heals within three to six weeks if surgery is not required. Dogs who require surgery will recover more slowly and require more frequent veterinary visits. Your dog may suffer from permanent hearing loss or even neurological complications depending on the severity of the rupture. Always pay attention to your veterinarian and stick to their treatment plan.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think your dog might be suffering from a ruptured eardrum? Contact our Clarksville vets today to book an appointment for your pooch.