A perforated eardrum is a painful and potentially dangerous experience for your poor pooch. It usually happens due to an ear infection, or after fluid has built up behind the ear drum. Watch for symptoms of a perforated eardrum and get your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect its eardrum has ruptured.
Pain Symptoms and Behaviors
If your dog's eardrum is perforated, the base of the ear and the external part of the ear canal will be painful to the touch. Your dog likely will shy away, yelp or even snap if you touch these parts of the ear. Commonly, a dog with a perforated eardrum will refuse to eat or open its mouth, as moving the jaw causes greater pain in the area of the ruptured eardrum. You may notice your dog pawing at its own head and ears, whining with pain, or becoming generally less active and more depressed.
Hearing and Neurological Symptoms
When the eardrum is perforated, dogs experience a degree of hearing loss, specifically losing the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. Your dog may seem unresponsive to commands or whistles if it has hearing loss. A perforated eardrum also affects a dog's balance. Your dog may display neurological symptoms, including stumbling, falling or walking around in circles. Facial paralysis can occur if the ear infection causes inflammation of the facial nerve running near the dog's inner ear. You might see your dog's eyes twitching abnormally, the eyelids may droop or the dog may lose the ability to blink normally.
Using an otoscope, your veterinarian can look inside your dog's ear canal. When the eardrum is intact, it separates the middle and inner ear from the dog's external ear canal. An intact eardrum is visible with an otoscope. A ruptured eardrum will not be visible. Without an otoscope, you may be able to see a cyst forming at the eardrum; a noxious discharge with a cheese-like smell may also flow outwards from the dog's ear.
If your dog's perforated eardrum was caused by an ear infection, a thorough cleaning of the ear canal may help speed up healing from the infection. Some dogs will need sedation to undergo ear canal cleaning. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, antifungals or anti-inflammatories to help combat the infection. In some cases, surgery to repair the perforated eardrum can restore hearing.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook; Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, Liisa D. Carlson, DVM, Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, James M. Giffin, MD
- Newman Veterinary: Dog Ears
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.