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Ruptured Eardrums in Dogs

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

What to Know About the Eardrum

A dog's ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The middle ear is where the body's tiniest bones - malleus, incus, and stapes - are located. The eardrum is extremely delicate 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: 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 detected during a routine physical exam. If your dog has significant swelling, or debris in the ears, or is in pain, he or she will most likely require sedation or anesthesia. Pain relievers and general anesthesia can keep your dog calm and relaxed while its injured ear is cleaned and examined.

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

Your veterinarian will discuss your treatment options with you if your dog's eardrum ruptures. To ensure that any foreign matter or pus has been removed, a thorough ear flushing, usually performed under sedation, is required. Your dog may also require oral antifungal and antibiotic medications. Corticosteroids may be prescribed if your dog is experiencing pain or inflammation.

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

If surgery is not required, a ruptured eardrum will usually heal within three to six weeks. Dogs who require surgery will take longer to recover and will need more frequent veterinary visits. Depending on the severity of the rupture, your dog could suffer from permanent hearing loss or even neurological complications. Always listen to your veterinarian and follow their treatment plan.

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

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