Canine ear issues are relatively common, especially in floppy eared breeds. Eardrums are fragile and easily damaged. A damaged eardrum can heal by itself, but it takes a month or more and causes pain and misery for your dog during that period. Take him to the vet at once if you suspect eardrum damage.
Your dog's eardrum, formally known as the tympanic membrane, separates the middle and inner ear from the outer ear canal. Inside the middle ear are the Eustachian tubes, connecting the dog's nose to the ear. The middle ear also contains three little bones commonly called the anvil, hammer and strirrup. Any damage to the eardrum can result in bacteria from the outer ear entering middle ear and causing infection. Eardrums can rupture. Infection, trauma, strange objects in the ear, atmospheric pressure changes and even extremely loud noises can result in rupture.
Symptoms of a damaged eardrum include sudden deafness, head tilting, pus or blood coming from the ear, uncoordination and obvious pain. Some dogs might experience nystagmus, a condition in which the eyes dart back and forth, seemingly uncontrollably. One side of the face might droop, or the dog might not be able to close one eye. He could have problems eating and drinking. If your dog experiences such symptoms, take him to the emergency vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
To diagnosis your dog, the vet must sedate him to thoroughly examine his ears. She'll also take X-rays or conduct ultrasounds of his head, to get a good look at the eardrum. Your vet takes a sample of the ear fluid for culturing and identifying specific bacteria and fungus. She might inject a dye into the ear canal. If this dye starts coming out of the dog's nose, that indicates the eardrum has ruptured.
While your dog is still sedated, your vet flushes out the ear, choosing a solution based on her diagnosis. She might prescribe antibiotics and topical anti-fungal medications, the latter requiring regular administration into the ear. Most ruptured eardrums don't require surgery, but there are exceptions if the membrane is badly torn. Without surgery, the eardrum should heal in about a month to six weeks.
Always take care when cleaning your dog's ears. It's easy to inadvertently damage the eardrum. If your dog isn't cooperative, have a vet clean his ears. Don't stick Q-tips or similar cleaning objects into the ears. It's not hard to tear the eardrum with such an item.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Tympanic Membrane Rupture and Middle Ear Infection
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Dog
- University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine: Pseudomonas Otitis Treatment and Prognosis
- PetMD: Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Dogs
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.