Deafness in dogs is defined when there is a partial or complete lack/loss of a dog’s capability to hear auditory sounds. Depending on the cause, this partial or total hearing loss can be temporary, permanent, partial, total, or unilaterally (one ear) or bilateral (both ears). While most heart loss cases in dogs will usually happen throughout a lifetime, in some cases, it can result from a disease, infection, or some inheritable condition that might be related to the “affected” dog breed.
This is why, in this article, we wanted to discuss some potential reasons why a dog may become deaf or partially deaf and 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 medical condition, just because your dog may suffer from hearing loss, this does not mean they 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 various conditions. In some situations, a dog may be born with deaf or impaired hearing. This could be due to an inheritable “genetic” condition or caused by toxic or viral exposure while the puppy was in utero. Typically, in cases like these, where hearing loss is present at birth, the “damage” to the ear will be permanent, leaving owners very few options for treating their little guys. In cases like these, treatment generally involves ensuring “accommodations” around the home to ensure their safety.
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 are at a “higher” risk than others. For example, species that possess the coat pattern described as Merle, as well as “white” coated dogs, seem to experience a higher risk of being born 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 rigorous breeding standards.
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 the Merle breed. Now, for those dogs who become 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 the middle ear,
- Or the administration of drugs/medications that are toxic to the ear.
The most common reason for Deafness
And now that we’ve probably scared you, we should point out that the most common reason that dogs acquire Deafness is because of what is called age-related hearing loss and not because of some “inheritable” disease or toxic or viral exposure.
Age-related hearing loss…
This 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 some 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!
Pretty much all dogs can suffer from age-related hearing loss. But it should be noted that “some” dog breeds that “seem” to suffer from age-related hearing loss more often than others. These breeds would include:
- Australian Shepherd,
- Boston Terrier,
- 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 failure as they age, some symptoms could be:
- Changes in attitude (obedience) and attentiveness
- Not responding to name
- Unresponsive to ordinary sounds, loud noises such as the doorbell or vacuum
- A lack of response to familiar commands
- Difficulty waking them from sleep
- Less attentive
- Barking excessively
- 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 to determine what the cause may be. During this visit, your veterinarian will likely need to get your dog’s complete medical history and a full medical exam to determine what may be causing this sudden “change” in their behavior. This is because your dog may only have partial hearing loss or perhaps only “unilateral deafness,” which is typically much more challenging to diagnose than “bilateral deafness.”
Your veterinarian will also likely examine your dog’s external ear canal (Otitis Externa) 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 only suffers from unilateral Deafness, it can be harder to detect and can usually only be “detected” through observation or electronic diagnostic tests.
In cases like these…
Your veterinarian will do a BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response), which gauges the brain’s response to auditory stimulation. (Baer testing is the same test 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.
When Deafness is congenital, it is not usually treatable, but that does not mean the puppy/dog cannot have a relatively everyday and happy life. Positive results show that deaf dogs can be trained to look at their humans and understand hand signals or sign language. In other cases where the “cause” of your pet’s Deafness isn’t related to some 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:
- If wax buildup or an obstruction, your veterinarian will 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.
- In cases related to toxin or viral exposures, your veterinarian will try to minimize any future directions and mitigate any damage already occurring.
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. We are all incredibly passionate about animals and only 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 mental condition, the first thing that you’re going to want to do is to 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 advise our readers to think very seriously about getting pet insurance for their animals. If their pet develops a medical condition or suffers from an injury requiring medical care, they won’t necessarily be on the “hook” for 100% of the cost of treating 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. This is why we write our Best Pet Insurance Companies article so readers can quickly know if purchasing one might be “right” for them.