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What is Eardrum Rupture?

If your dog’s eardrum has become perforated, you will need to seek veterinary attention. An eardrum that is perforated and left untreated can cause long-term effects for your dog and even deafness in the affected ear. 

There are several ways your dog’s eardrum can rupture or perforate including sudden and severe changes in atmospheric pressure, middle ear infection, very loud noises, trauma and foreign objects.

Your dog’s eardrum is a thin membrane called the tympanic membrane that acts as a separator of the middle and inner ear and the external ear. You cannot see the tympanic membrane or eardrum since it is located deep inside your dog’s ear canal. The primary function of the eardrum is to transmit sounds that are captured to the middle ear’s ossicles. The ossicles are three small bones that then transmit the sounds that have been captured to the labyrinth.

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Symptoms of Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

You may not be aware that your dog is suffering from an eardrum rupture and just assume that they are ignoring you or being stubborn. There are several symptoms that will let you know that there is something wrong with your dog and you need to make a trip to see your veterinarian. These symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Pus-like discharge from the ear
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • 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 inability to blink

Causes of Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

An eardrum rupture can result from a number of things. You may never figure out what caused your dog’s eardrum to rupture, but you should never leave a ruptured eardrum untreated. Potential causes include:

  • Middle ear infection
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Trauma
  • Extremely loud noises
  • Foreign objects that have invaded the ear canal
  • Severe and/or sudden changes in atmospheric pressure

Diagnosis of Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin the appointment by taking a medical history of your dog and then performing a physical examination. An ear examination is needed to properly diagnose an eardrum that has ruptured. Many dogs will need to be sedated during the ear examination. 

Some veterinarians will use an old-school test that looks for air bubbles that form in the ear canal as your dog breathes. Another test that can be performed is using fluorescein in the ear canal. If the fluorescein comes out through your dog’s nose, the eardrum has ruptured.

Your veterinarian will also want to perform routine diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count, biochemistry panel and urinalysis. These will help rule out other possible causes and also determine if an infection present. Radiographs, CT scans and MRI scans may determine the severity of a middle ear infection, if present.

Treatment of Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

Once your dog has been diagnosed with an eardrum rupture, your veterinarian will discuss your treatment options with you. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and give any prescribed medication as directed.

Your veterinarian will need to perform a thorough ear flushing, generally performed under sedation, to ensure that any foreign matter or pus has been removed. Your dog may also need to be put on oral antifungal medications and oral antibiotics. If your dog is suffering from pain or inflammation, corticosteroids may also need to be prescribed.

Do not give your dog over the counter medications unless your veterinarian has given the okay to do so. Many over the counter medications can be harmful if your dog’s eardrum has ruptured. 

In some instances, surgery may be required to repair extensive damage that may have occurred from the ruptured eardrum. Your veterinarian will discuss which surgical procedure will be best for your dog.

Recovery of Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

A ruptured eardrum will usually heal within three to six weeks if the rupture has not required surgery and your dog responds well to the treatment plan. Depending on severity of the rupture, your dog may experience permanent hearing loss or even permanent neurological complications. Dogs that require surgery will take longer to recover and will need more frequent follow up visits with their veterinarian. 

You should never try to treat a ruptured eardrum without first consulting your veterinarian. Be sure to listen to your veterinarian and follow their prescribed treatment plan. Any questions or concerns regarding your dog’s care need to be directed to your veterinarian.

Eardrum Rupture Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rufus
Shitzu/Maltese
4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Bleeding from bites

Our Shitzu was attacked by a pit bull. He has a ruptured ear drum. The vet is giving him iv fluids, syringe feedings, antibiotics, pain meds. He is exhibiting neurological signs like loss of balance and nystagmus. What are his chances of recovery and what do we need to do to protect him from further injury? We live in the country where it’s common for dogs to run free here. But, this is the first time he’s been attacked by one.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1067 Recommendations
If Rufus has a ruptured ear drum, and no other injuries, he should recover as the ear drum heals and his equilibrium is restored. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a better idea as to his recovery and prognosis, as they are able to examine him and know more about his specific situation. To protect him from further injury, he should not roam free if there are other dogs that are doing so. I hope that he is okay.

My cocker spaniel was showing signs of partial facial paralyses (not blinking in the left eye, dropping food and drooling on that side and ear and lip dropping on that side). We took her to the vets who put her on a 2 weeks course of antibiotics and then a week of anti-inflammatorys after no improvement they put her under general anaesthetic to look down her ear and do some X-rays of her skull. When I picked her up they said that they couldn’t see her eardrum on that side and that it was perforated but then said that it was unlikely to have caused the facial paralyses and that it may or may not heal depending on how long ago it was perforated but made no further comment as to treating it etc and seemed more concerned with referring the X-rays (which he also could see no obvious problems) to a specialist and for further scans (MRI etc.)...I’m a bit confused, it seems a bit of a coincidence that her eardrum on that side happens to be perforated and all the vets we’ve seen previously seemed to suggest ear infection/something down the ear could be a cause. If there’s a chance that the perforated eardrum is the issue I’d rather investigate/treat this than spending £££ on MRI scans??

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Jack
Chihuahua, Wiener dog
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

scratching
Yellow wax
Shaking Head

My dog has been scratching his right ear almost this while past week one of his ears is perfectly fine but the other one has yellow stuff irk if it’s wax or an ear infection. I don’t know what to do I’m not able to take him to the vet until next week what can I do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
You can try cleaning out the ear with an ear cleaning solution although this is contraindicated if an eardrum rupture is suspected, you can buy special wipes from PetSmart and Petco for cleaning wax build up out of the ears; some groomers will also clean out ears as well. Without examining the ears myself I cannot confirm whether there is an infection, wax build up or another cause; a visit to a Veterinarian would be best. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pookie
Papillon
4 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My dog was exposed to a loud noise (gun) and immediately started acting as if she couldn't hear at all. Has been two days now and there seems like a small improvement.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1067 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. It is quite possible that the gunshot damaged Pookie's hearing. It may be a temporary situation, but she may have had permanent hearing loss. If you want to test her hearing, you can ask your veterinarain if there is a specialty hospital in your area that offers BAER testing, as that is the only way to assess hearing loss in dogs.

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Shebia
German Shepherd
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Ear Lesion
Ear Inflamation

My german shepherd 8year and eardrum infection but has been seen to a vet and has been treated but the infection has come back and its cost alot to get treated. Do I need to start treatment all over again and think an operation would be the best option for her its going on for a long time with and is it endable for her.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1067 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I would need to know many more details about Shebia to answer your questions. If the infection wasn't cultured, that would be a good idea to determine if there are resistant bacteria, and there are different surgeries that area appropriate for different ear conditions. It would be best to follow up with your veterinarian, as they know her situation and history, and discuss treatment and testing options. I hope that she is okay.

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Homer
Schnauzer mix
9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Ear Odor
Ear puss
Shaking Head
Head Tilt

I think my dog busted an ear drum. There was no trauma that I know of...but there have been some big weather changes. It came up very quickly and there is some puss and a little blood. Head is tilted and he has some pain in it.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1067 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Homer needs to be seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian. If he has an ear infection, they are very painful and don't get better without treatment. If he has ruptured his eardrum, he will need treatment to help that heal. I hope that he is okay.

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minnie
Cocker Spaniel
3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

we have a cockerspanial with a ruptured ear drum and a infection in the other ear. she has been on meds but know she is pucking and druilling stomach fluid. she paws and ears are loo slim from the druilling. not she what to do with her? she was on antibiotics and not her on ear is packed and we are putting drops in the ruptured one.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
Treatment in these cases can be long (four months or more), treatment with antibiotics to treat infection along with corticosteroids for inflammation are normal courses of treatment; your Veterinarian will be able to guide you better as the severity of each case is different. Flushing of the affected ear by your Veterinarian may be required in addition to medical therapy to resolve the condition, but there is no shortcut in these cases. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Kenai McCarthy
German Shorthaired Pointer
16 months
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

What are the first sign of an ear drum rupture. My 16 month old German Shorthaired Pointer has a lot of discharge fluid coming from ear lightly pinkish brown in color just left a full physical check-up two days ago. Is it inside outside dog had a soccer ball strike him in the side of the head when nephew was playing with him and cleaning out and clearing the fluid keeping an eye on it contacted vet asking to find out what and how you could diagnose or tell if an eardrum has been ruptured and if I need to get him into the clinic sooner than later he's been sleeping a little bit more than normal still eating regularly still likes to try to chase the ball urinating defecating everything is still normal

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
First sign of eardrum rupture is pain followed by discharge, difficulty keeping balance, nystagmus among other symptoms listed on this page. If you suspect that the eardrum is ruptured or damaged, it is important to not try to clean the ear canal without having your Veterinarian check it first. Whilst the behaviour of Kenai isn’t typical of eardrum rupture (still active and running), I would suggest that you get the ears checked out to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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