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Hearing Loss in Dogs… Everything you Need to Know to Keep Them Safe and Happy!

Deafness is dogs is defined when there is a partial or complete lack/loss of a dog’s capability to hear auditory sounds.

And depending on the cause…

This partial or complete hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, partial or complete, or unilaterally (one ear) or bilateral (both ears).

And while…

Most hear loss cases in dogs will usually over the course of a lifetime, in some cases, it can be the result of a disease, infection or some type of inheritable condition which might be related to the “affected” dogs breed.

This is why…

In this article, we wanted to discuss some of the potential reasons why a dog my become deaf or partially deaf as well as discuss what it might be like to “own” a dog suffering from this condition.

Because the truth is…

While none of us want to see our pet suffer from any kind of medical condition, just because your dog may suffer from hearing loss, this does not mean that he or she can’t still live a great life!  It just means that you’ll need to be a “bit” more accommodating to their needs.

So, with that said, let’s dive right in.

Causes of Deafness in Dogs

Like in humans, “deafness” can be caused by a variety of conditions.  In some situations, a dog may be born with deaf or born with impaired hearing.  This could be due to an inheritable “genetic” condition or might have been caused by some type of toxic or viral exposure while the puppy was in utero.

Typically…

In cases like these, where the hearing loss is present at birth, the “damage” to the ear will be permanent leaving owners very few options when it comes to treating their little guys.  In cases like these, treatment will generally revolve around trying to make certain “accommodations” around the home to ensure their safety.

Now…

Exposure to certain toxins or viral infections is a risk that all dog breeds will share in common, however when it comes to genetic, “inheritable” risks, there are certain dog breeds that have been shown to be at a “higher” risk than others.

For example…

Breeds that possess the coat pattern described as Merle, as well as “white” coated dogs seem to experience a higher risk for being borne deaf, which is something that you should consider when deciding what “kind” of dog you may want to adopt as well as “which” dog breeder you choose to work with because in cases like these, responsible dog breeders may be able to avoid deafness in certain dogs by adhering to a rigorous breeding standards.

You see…

With careful breeding some traits linked to “inheritable deafness” can be “bred out” of a dog’s line as was shown with the Cocker Spaniels which used to be considered to be a Merle breed.

Now for those dogs who…

Becomes deaf after they’re born, this “deafness” or “hearing loss” could be caused by long-term swelling (otitis external) or due to:

  • Physical damage to the middle ear and/or the middle ear,
  • Tumors,
  • Or the administration of drugs/medications that are toxic to the ear.

Most common Reason for Deafness

And now that we’ve probably scared you, we should point out that most common reason that dogs acquire deafness is because of what is called age-related hearing loss and not because of some type of “inheritable” disease or toxic or viral exposure.

Age-related hearing loss…

Occurs because as dogs age they begin to experience a deterioration of the hair cells in the Cochlea (the spiral part inside the ear which contains the organ that responds to the vibrations made by sound).  With loud noises over a period of time the hair cells become bent and broken causing a loss of hearing.  Which is also why we humans suffer hearing loss as we age as well!

Affected Breeds

Pretty much all dogs can suffer from age related hearing loss.  But it should be noted that there are “some” dog breeds that just “seem” to suffer from age related hearing loss more often than others.  These breeds would include:

  • Australian Heeler
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Catahoula
  • Dalmatian
  • English Setters
  • Great Dane
  • Old English Shepherd
  • West Highland Terrier

Symptoms & Clinical Signs of Dog Deafness

If your dog was not born with hearing loss but begins to experience loss as they age some symptoms could be:

  • Changes in attitude (obedience) and attentiveness
  • Not responding to name
  • Unresponsive to ordinary sounds, particularly loud noises such as the doorbell or vacuum
  • A lack of response to familiar commands
  • Difficulty waking them from sleep
  • Less attentive
  • Barking excessively
  • Confusion
  • Tilting the head to one side

Diagnosis of deafness in dogs

If you believe that your dog or puppy is deaf or is going deaf, they’ll need to be seen by your veterinarian right away in order to determine what the cause may be.

During this visit…

Your veterinarian will likely need to get a complete medical history of your dog and complete a full medical exam in order to determine what may be causing this sudden “change” in his or her behavior.  This is because, you dog may only be suffering from partial hearing loss or perhaps only “unilateral deafness” which is typically much harder to diagnose than “bilateral deafness”.

Also…

Your veterinarian will also likely perform an examination on your dog’s external ear canal (Otitis Externa) as well so that they can rule out any inflammation or the presence of a “foreign object” within the ear canal that could be “causing” your dog’s hearing loss.

Now if…

Your dog is only suffering from unilaterally deafness it can be harder to detect and can usually only be “detected” through observation or by electronic diagnostic tests.

In cases like these…

Your veterinarian will do a BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) which gauges the brains response to auditory stimulation. (Baer testing is the same test that is used to measure hearing impairment in humans).

Radiographs (x-rays or gamma rays produce an image on a film or sensitive plate) may also be used to determine the cause of deafness in your dog.

Treatment

When deafness is congenital it is not usually treatable but that does not mean that the puppy/dog cannot have a relatively normal and happy life. There have been positive results showing that deaf dogs can be trained to look to their human and that they can learn to understand hand signals or sign language.

In other cases where…

The “cause” of your pet’s deafness isn’t related to some kind of genetic condition, understanding the “root” cause will be essential in determining what “kind” of treatment will be needed.  For example, in cases where the hearing loss is due to:

  • Wax buildup or an obstruction, your veterinarian will simply attempt to remove the blockage.
  • When caused by tumors, surgery may be chosen if it is thought that it may remedy or minimize the acuteness of the hearing loss.
  • And in the cases that are related to toxin or viral exposures, clearly your veterinarian will try to minimize any future exposures and try to mitigate any damage that already occurred.

Which brings us to…

The point in the article where we like to remind our readers that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, medical professionals or veterinarians.

All we are is a bunch of folks who are extremely passionate about animals and only what what’s best for your pet.  This is why we always recommend that if you believe your pet is suffering from hearing loss or any other “kind” of medical condition, the first thing that your going to want to do is have your vet check him out.

As we like to say around here…

“When in doubt, have a VET check it out!”

But that’s easy for us to say…

Because we here at IndulgeYourPet also advise all of our readers to also think very seriously about getting a pet insurance policy on their animals as well.  This way if their pet does end up developing a medical condition or suffering from an injury that does require medical care, they won’t necessarily be on the “hook” for 100% of the cost to treat their pet.

Now will a pet insurance policy be “right” for everyone?

No, of course not, but until you understand how they work and what they cost, how will you know if one isn’t “right” for you?  We don’t think it’s possible.  Which is why we choose to write our Best Pet Insurance Companies article so that our readers can get a quick idea if purchasing one might be “right” for them.

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