Eardrum Rupture in Dogs

Eardrum Rupture in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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.

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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





Two Years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Ear Odor
My dog was on Zicam for a week and was doing great on it. Her ear wad looking much better. This morning she was whining about her ear. There’s almost a clear substance coming from it that’s slightly tinted red/brown. The discharge isn’t nearly as bad as the first few days of the infection. Not inflamed but tender to touch, a ton of head shaking/tilting. She didn’t do this as bad when she had the actual infection. She’s been asleep most of the day but will still eat/act normal. Photo is a lot wetter than normal because I added a few drops of the medicine

July 25, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

3 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your pups unfortunate present condition. Allergies are a constant battle for everyone and sometimes a side effect to them are things such as bacterial and fungal infections. Since there is discharge present it is highly recommended to seek veterinary assistance as a cytology and or culture may be necessary to prescribe specific antibiotics for a possible secondary infection. Good luck and I hope your pup gets better soon!

July 26, 2020

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English Springer Spaniel



Three Years


4 found this helpful


4 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Ear Pain
After cleaning dogs ear, his ear is clearly bothering him. He keeps shaking his head and whimpering when he scratches his ear. I’m worried I hurt his ear when cleaning.

July 22, 2020

Answered by Dr. Ellen M. DVM

4 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that your dog's ear seems to be bothering him - poor guy! Without examining your dog, it is very hard for me to know for sure what might be going on. What you describe could be consistent with an existing ear infection that was irritated from the cleaning. Some dogs can have sensitivities to some cleaners, so your dog could also be having a reaction to the cleaner. I recommend calling your veterinarian and setting up an appointment to have your dog seen. If your dog seems to be getting worse and is obviously in pain, I recommend calling a veterinary emergency clinic and letting them know what is going on. Hopefully your dog will feel better enough to wait until you can get in at your regular vet, but I would recommend having him seen sooner than later for his own comfort. I hope that your dog's ear starts feeling better soon!

July 22, 2020

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