A perforated ear drum in a dog is a painful and dangerous condition. An ear drum perforates, or ruptures, as a result of fluid build-up or infection of the middle and inner ear. It can lead to a more severe infection, hearing loss and deafness. Veterinarians can sometimes repair a perforated ear drum and restore the dog to a normal hearing level. Be aware of symptoms of perforated ear drums in dogs and of ear infections that can lead to perforation so that you can take your dog to the veterinarian when needed.
Pain and Discharge
Ear infections (otitis) cause perforated ear drums, so symptoms of the two are usually the same. The most common symptom of otitis and perforation of the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is pain. The dog's external ear canal and the base of the ear will be painful to the touch. The dog will often refuse to open its mouth or to eat because movement of the jaw exacerbates ear pain. The dog will shake its head or paw at its ears. There may be bleeding, especially if the tympanic membrane ruptures. You may also see and smell a discharge from the ears.
Neurological Symptoms and Hearing Loss
The middle and inner ear of dogs regulate their balance, so a ruptured ear drum may affect their ability to stand. They may stumble, fall or even walk in circles. They may also vomit. There is a facial nerve that runs next to the inner ear that may become inflammed due to an ear infection, so facial paralysis is another symptom to watch for. The dog will not be able to blink, its eyelids will droop and it will have dry eye. Nystagmus, or abnormal eye twitching, is present with inner ear infections. Hearing loss is another symptom of ear infections and tympanic membrane rupture. The ear drum conducts high pitched sounds to the inner ear, and if it ruptures the dog will not hear those sounds. Sometimes, this hearing loss is correctable with surgery.
A dog's eardrum separates the external ear canal from the middle and inner ear. With an otoscope, you can see the ear drum. Upon tympanic membrane rupture, the ear drum will no longer be visible. You may see a cyst form at the ear drum site, caused by a combination of repair cells and bacteria from the infection.