Deafness in Dogs

Whether you have a puppy, a senior, or any aged dog in between, deafness could strike your dog for several reasons. Deafness could be the result of genetics, injury, or illness. It can affect one ear or both ears and be temporary or permanent. If you suspect that your dog is having trouble hearing, or cannot hear at all, he should of course be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

What is Deafness?
Any loss of hearing is considered deafness. It doesn’t matter the cause or the longevity of the affliction. In some lucky instances, deafness is a temporary problem but for other dogs, it’s a permanent disability.

What Causes Deafness?

There are many factors involved in deafness. Sometimes temporary deafness can be caused by something as simple as a waxy build-up in the ear canal or an object that has become lodged inside the ear. Some deafness can be caused by chronic ear infections, drug toxicity, age, or genetics.

A Diagnosis of Deafness
Once you or your vet looks into the dog’s ear and rules out any sort of obstruction, injury, or ailments, a BAER test should be administered. BAER stands for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response and it is the only way to officially diagnosis deafness. Electrodes are placed (harmlessly and painlessly) into the dog’s scalp which measure the auditory response.

Symptoms of Deafness
Some dog owners may just think that they have a dog that doesn’t listen or behave because of his lack of interest in you or disobedience. However, if you are in tune with your dog and suspect that there is something more to his behavior, you may want to pay attention to some common signals and warning signs:

  • He doesn’t realize you are there when his back is turned unless you touch him.
  • He doesn’t respond to outside stimuli such as dogs barking, door knocking, or horns.
  • He shakes his head a lot or seems unbalanced.
  • He barks unusually a lot.
  • He scratches at his ears a lot.
  • He suddenly doesn’t respond to you anymore.

Dog Breeds Prone to Deafness
You never have a guarantee in life about, well, anything. However, there are some dog breeds that are especially prone to developing or being born with deafness:

  • Poodles. Poodles have very narrow ear canals which puts them at risk for severe wax build-up. This can lead to deafness. Dogs with narrow ear canals are more prone to temporary deafness than other breeds.
  • Cocker Spaniels and Terriers. These dogs and other dogs with very hairy ears sometimes have ear problems. Keep your dog’s ears trimmed and pull out excess hair coming from the ear canal.
  • Dalmatians. This breed is at the top of the list for permanent deafness. Beagles, bull terriers, and bulldogs rank up there as well. Any dogs with a piebald pattern or spotting are prone to serious and permanent ear damage.
  • Australian Shepherds. This breed along with collies and Great Danes are at risk for deafness due to their merle coloring.

Living with a Deaf Dog
Temporary deafness is fairly easy to deal with and you both just have to be cautious while waiting it out. Keep your dog leashed while outside and keep him comfortable while inside. Permanent deafness is another matter that needs some lifestyle changes:

  • Train him in hand signals with the help of learning aids or professionals.
  • Use vibration to get his attention rather than vocal commands.
  • Use visual stimuli to get his attention, like a flashlight or laser pointer.
  • Use gentle touch to let him know you are coming and going.
  • Keep a bell on his collar so you know where he is. When you are calling him he won’t hear you so instead, you can hear him roaming about.
  • Always keep him on a leash or in a fenced yard.

About author

Erin Gleeson

Erin Gleeson is the Outreach Specialist at PetMeds and works with the PetMeds Cares donations program. She has loved animals as long as she can remember and has worked in several veterinary offices in the past as a veterinary technician. She has one cat, a middle-aged tabby/tortie from a south Florida cat rescue. You can also find Erin on Google+.

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