Deafness in dogs can occur for a number of reasons, and it can affect either one or both ears. Understanding the causes and what signs to look for will help you to recognize hearing loss and to provide the care that your dog needs for a good quality of life.
What Causes Deafness in Dogs?
Some causes of temporary hearing loss in dogs include wax buildup within the ear canal and foreign objects trapped in the ear canal. Dogs with excessive hair growth in the ears can experience hearing loss if the hair becomes caked with wax and debris and blocks the ear canal. In all of these scenarios, the deaf dog can be treated, and the hearing may be restored.
Some other common causes of deafness in dogs include untreated ear infections, old age and injury to the inner ear. Certain breeds, including Dalmatians, English bulldogs and beagles, have an increased incidence of inherited congenital deafness. In these situations, deafness is permanent.
What Are the Signs of a Deaf Dog?
Deaf dogs will not respond to sounds around them, such as someone knocking at the door or a family member calling the dog’s name. If you enter a room, your dog may not appear to notice and will not acknowledge your presence until eye contact is made or floor vibrations from your footsteps are felt. The dog may fail to respond to commands with which it was previously familiar. A dog that has partial hearing loss may respond to sounds, but it may appear to perceive a sound as coming from a different direction than that of the actual source. The dog may appear confused.
How Are Deaf Dogs Diagnosed?
You can perform a preliminary test in your home to determine whether or not your dog can hear sound. Quietly approach your dog from behind and emit a single clap with your hands. If the dog does not react in any way, then it is time for a veterinary evaluation. Your veterinarian will likely begin with the same simple test, and then he or she will perform an examination of your dog’s ears to rule out wax buildup, an ear canal obstruction and an ear infection. If none of these conditions are present, a hearing test may be recommended. This hearing test is called a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, or BAER, test. The procedure uses electrodes to evaluate your dog’s auditory nerve responses to sounds to determine the extent of your dog’s hearing loss.
How is Deafness Treated and Prevented?
If your dog’s hearing loss is a temporary result of an ear infection, your veterinarian will focus on clearing up the infection and removing wax and debris from your dog’s ears. The veterinarian can pluck excess hair that may be blocking the ear canal. If an excessive amount of wax has built up deep within the ear canal, an ear flushing procedure that is performed under sedation may be recommended.
You can be proactive at averting deafness in your dog by inspecting your dog’s ears regularly. Look for any specks of dirt and debris. There should be no foul odor to the ears. You should be able to touch your dog’s ears without eliciting a painful response, such as crying or pulling away. Other signs to watch for in your dog include excessive pawing or scratching at the ears and shaking of the head. Any of these signs should prompt a visit to the veterinarian for an evaluation and treatment sooner than later.
Can Deaf Dogs Still Enjoy Life?
In the case of permanent deafness, your dog can still enjoy a fulfilling life as long as you take steps to keep it safe from potential dangers that it can no longer hear. Walk your deaf dog on a leash, and take extra precautions to keep your dog secured within the home and a fenced yard. Find new ways to communicate with your dog with hand signals, laser pointers and floor vibration. If your dog has sustained hearing loss during its senior years, it is likely to experience confusion and waning confidence. This is the time to lavish extra patience, understanding and reassurance on your dog so that the two of you can continue to enjoy your loving bond throughout those golden years.
Learn here How to Clean Your Pet’s Ears.