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Ruptured Eardrums in Dogs

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

What to Know About the Eardrum

A dog's ear is divided into three sections: outer, middle, and inner. The middle ear contains the body's smallest bones, the malleus, incus, and stapes. The eardrum is extremely delicate and easily damaged during ear cleaning or infection.

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 has 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: Ear infections are the most common cause of an eardrum rupture. Chronic ear infections cause long-term inflammation that can result in a rupture. Bacteria and yeast from the outer ear can enter the middle and inner ear if the membrane ruptures, 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

An eardrum rupture can be identified during a routine physical examination. If your dog has significant swelling, debris in the ears, or is in pain, he or she will most likely need sedation or anesthesia. Pain relievers and general anesthesia can help your dog remain calm and relaxed while the injured ear is cleaned and examined.

Once your dog is sedated (if necessary), your veterinarian will gently flush out debris from the ear canal. After the ear has been cleaned, they will be able to see the eardrum using an otoscope. A veterinarian will perform one of two tests to diagnose a perforated eardrum.

Your veterinarian may order additional diagnostic tests to rule out other potential causes and confirm the presence of an infection. In some cases, a CT scan may be required to determine whether an eardrum has ruptured or if the inner ear is infected.

How to Treat Eardrum Ruptures in Dogs

If your dog's eardrum ruptures, your veterinarian will explain your treatment options to you. To ensure that all foreign matter and pus have been removed, a thorough ear flushing, usually performed under sedation, is required. Your dog may also need oral antifungal and antibiotic medications. Corticosteroids may be prescribed if your dog is in pain or has inflammation.

Many over-the-counter medications can be dangerous, so avoid giving them to your dog. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair extensive damage caused by ruptured eardrums. Your veterinarian will advise you on the most appropriate surgical procedure for your dog.

Recovering From a Ruptured Ear Drum

If surgery is not required, a ruptured eardrum should heal within three to six weeks. Dogs who need surgery will take longer to recover and will require more frequent veterinary care. Depending on the severity of the rupture, your dog may experience permanent hearing loss or even neurological complications. Always listen to your veterinarian and adhere 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 Carrollton vets today to book an appointment for your pooch.

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Carroll County Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Carrollton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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