Why a Dog Goes Deaf

It can be heartbreaking when a pet dog goes deaf.

Most dog owners believe that when a dog becomes deaf it also becomes aggressive and will bite and attack other dogs and humans because it cannot hear and is fearful of its surroundings. Any breed of dog can develop this type of behavior, deaf or not, but aggressive or defensive behavior is not the result of loss of hearing.

Most deaf dogs are familiar enough with their surroundings and family that they are able to manage quite well in spite of their loss of hearing.

If a dog does become defensive or aggressive after losing its hearing, it”s usually because it’s been living as a stray and has found it more difficult to defend itself because of the disability. This instinctive behavior is not usually found in dogs who are part of a loving family.

Deafness in dogs is categorized as either conductive or neurologic. These two causes of deafness are very different but both have the same effect when a dog loses its ability to hear in one or both of its ears. Diagnostic testing is the only way to determine which type of deafness a dog has.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the inner or outer portion of the ear becomes damaged by ear injury, excessive wax build up, or ear infections, leading to deafness. Excessive wax buildup in the ear takes a relatively long time to cause deafness, whereas injury and ear infections can quickly lead to deafness if not taken care of promptly.

Neurological deafness is caused by a defect of the inner ear or the nerves leading to the brain.

When a dog goes deaf an owner can usually detect the change by observing the dog’s behavior. At the onset of the hearing loss it may appear as though a dog is no longer listening to or obeying commands. However, in a very short time it will become apparent by the dog’s actions that it can no longer hear commands and does not respond to other noises as it had always done before the hearing loss.

Another common sign of deafness is when a dog seems to be confused by commands given it and will randomly move its head in search of sounds. Under normal conditions a dog responds when called, but when deafness occurs, the dog may continue to scan its surroundings trying to determine if anyone is calling it.

Testing by a veterinarian is the only way to make a positive diagnosis of deafness in a dog. The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, (BAER) test monitors the electrical activity in the brain that relates to a dog’s hearing. The BAER test can determine neurological causes of deafness.

BAER testing is an accurate way of diagnosing deafness, but most dog owners are easily able to detect deafness in their dog. Most of the signs of deafness are easily noticed and most owners will be able to tell if their dog has become deaf.

There is no “standard” way to cure deafness in dogs. If the cause of the hearing loss is conductive, hearing can sometimes be restored. Treating dangerous ear infections or repairing the damage of an ear injury can restore full hearing or just a portion of a dog””s hearing, assuming that the inner structures of the ear have not been severely damaged.

When a dog is born with an abnormality of the inner structure or nerves of the ear, there is no way to surgically repair the abnormality and the dog will be deaf for life.

Whether your dog becomes deaf or has come to you with an acquired hearing loss, it deserves all the love, attention and patience you can give it. Loving a deaf dog can teach you important lessons about caring for others in this lifetime.


Hearing Loss in Dogs

What causes hearing loss in Dogs?

There are two basic forms of hearing loss in dogs: Acquired and Inherited.

Dogs who have acquired deafness are born with genes capable of developing and maintaining normal hearing, but as the dog ages it begins to lose its ability to hear. Acquired deafness is not restricted to any single breed, but can affect all breeds of dogs.

This type of deafness is usually the result of damage to components of the ear such as the eardrum, the middle or inner ear structures, and the nerves. A disease such as canine distemper is a common cause of ear damage. Also, if a dog suffers any serious head trauma to the area by its ears, it could result in permanent impairment to its hearing. Some antibiotic drugs can be toxic to a dog’s ear structures and result in deafness. These antibiotics include Gentamicin, Neomycin, and Kanamycin. These powerful drugs should be used only under strict veterinary supervision. For your pet’s safety you should avoid high doses and lengthy treatments with these antibiotics.

It may surprise you to know that the most common cause of acquired deafness in dogs is the result of untreated Otitis externa, also called “Swimmer’s ear”. This is an inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal. It is one of the two human conditions commonly called “earache”. Inflammation of the skin of the ear canal is the major cause of this disorder. The inflammation can be secondary to dermatitis (eczema) only, with no microbial infection, or it can be caused by an active bacterial or fungal infection. In either case, but more often with infection, the ear canal skin swells and may become painful and tender to the touch.

Mild ear infections left untreated always have the potential to cause hearing impairment.

Regardless of the underlying cause, most dogs with acquired deafness are not totally deaf, but rather have varying degrees of hearing impairment. They do not all become deaf to the same degree. Some dogs have only partial hearing loss which may not even be noticeable to its owner. Others may have severe hearing loss. No matter the degree of hearing loss, they can be prone to injuries, since they cannot hear commands from their owner or hear any vehicles approaching them.

Unfortunately there is no treatment for acquired deafness. However, most dogs will learn to cope very well with a hearing disability. Some dogs can be taught hand signals to indicate commands they were used to hearing.

Inherited deafness occurs in several dog breeds. Dalmatians are the most common breed affected by inherited deafness, but Shetland Sheepdogs, English Setters, Border Collies, and Australian Shepherds are also susceptible to inherited deafness. For these dogs, their deafness is often linked to the color of their coats, with white, merle, or piebald coat colors affected the most.

Most affected dogs are born with some hearing capabilities, but their deafness becomes apparent a few months after birth and is due to degeneration of the nerves within the ear. Dogs with inherited deafness don’t always become deaf to the same degree. Some dogs suffer only a partial hearing loss which may not even be noticeable to its owner. Other dogs will have severe hearing losses, and as a result, can be more prone to injuries, since they may not hear commands or objects coming towards them the same as a dog with acquired deafness.

As in acquired deafness, there is no treatment for inherited deafness. Fortunately, most dogs can learn to cope very well with their hearing disability.

In both forms of deafness, it is important that your dog’s ears be kept clean of foreign irritants and wax buildup which can exacerbate hearing problems. A great product for this is Ear Wash, a patent pending, all-natural, proprietary blend of citrus oils with deionized water. It helps clear the ear canal of debris and reduces wax buildup without alcohol, harsh chemicals or irritants that are common in other leading brands. It’s easy to apply and won’t drive your dog crazy when you apply it to its ears.

Your dog’s hearing is one of its most highly developed senses and is necessary to its health and safety. A hearing loss in a dog may seem tragic, but it is possible for any dog to overcome the loss of its hearing.