Canine Hearing Loss


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Tips for a Dog Who Has Lost His Hearing

If your dog (or cat) is getting older, you will invariably feel or see some of the signs of his aging. Deafness in dogs is common as our dogs’ age. However, it can sneak up on us and catch us by surprise. Or maybe you have adopted a deaf dog and aren’t quite sure how to communicate with your new pup. If either is the case, your pup will need to be treated and cared for differently with his or her loss of hearing.

Deafness in dogs can be temporary or permanent

Temporary hearing loss can be caused by a wax build-up in your dog’s ear canals. This is especially common in dogs with narrow ear canals, such as poodles. Certain dogs with lots of hair around their ears have a tendency to have their ear canals blocked by hair, which collects wax and eventually forms a plug. Or a foreign object in a dog’s ear canal can also impede the ability to hear.

Permanent hearing loss can be caused by old age, drug toxicity, injury or untreated ear infections. A dog can also be born without the ability to hear, because of a genetic or anatomical problem.

The following signs may indicate that your dog may be suffering from some form of hearing loss:

  1. Your dog doesn’t know you’re in the room until you physically touch him or he sees you.
  2. Your dog turns the wrong way when you call him.
  3. Your dog does not respond to outside stimuli, such as the doorbell ringing or other dogs barking.
  4. Your dog shows no response or seems confused when given familiar vocal commands.
  5. Your dog barks excessively.
  6. Your dog’s paws or ears or appears to have itchy, painful ears.
  7. When clapping once loudly right behind your dog and he does not respond.

Communication with your hearing impaired pup

If your dog has recently lost his or hearing, there are different ways you can communicate with your dog.

First and foremost, you need to be extra patient and loving. Try not to get frustrated (even if it is just sadness) when your dog no longer responds to you the same way she used to. You need to treat your dog with kindness and compassion. He or she will probably scare more easily so tread lightly.

You should try to train your dog to understand hand signals. In your regular daily life, you probably did a lot of hand signals without even realizing it. Take out the leash and show it to your dog to let him know it’s time for a walk. Point to the food bowl for eating.

If you want to get your dog’s attention inside the house, the vibration from a loud stomp may make her take notice. Don’t scare your dog, but loud enough for him or her to understand your intentions. It’s also important for your dog to know when you have come into a room and when you’re leaving by tapping him gently on the back or shoulder. Be extra sensitive and remember how vulnerable your dog must feel.

Don’t let your deaf dog outside alone

Never let a hearing-impaired dog roam outside on his or her own. Remember that your deaf dog won’t hear traffic or cars driving by you. If you need to let her outside, keep your pup safely leashed or in a fenced-in yard whenever she’s outdoors. You should attach a bell to your dog’s collar so that you can hear him if he escapes or becomes lost. It’s also a good idea to have a bell in your home especially if you have more than one pet.

How can your veterinarian diagnose deafness?

Your vet can initially examine your dog’s ear canal for wax accumulation, infections, inflammation, injury or foreign object. For more serious cases, one common procedure is BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response). During the procedure, small electrodes are placed under the skin of a dog’s scalp to measure (visibly on a computer screen) his auditory response to outside stimuli.

It’s also a good idea to keep your dog’s ear canals clean with frequent visits to the vet and to immediately investigate a possible ear infection or suspected hearing loss.

Can deafness in dogs be treated?

Only temporary deafness can be reversed, just as in humans. And, as mentioned above, it’s probably due to a build-up of wax in his ears. If this is the case, your veterinarian may have you clean his ears daily with a prescription wash. If the hearing loss is caused by a build-up of hair in his ears, a veterinarian can remove the hair. Infections that cause hearing loss should be treated with appropriate medication.

Permanent hearing loss cannot be reversed, but your pet can still have a good quality of life. You should keep your dog safely leashed while outside and teach her hand signals so that you may communicate with her. And patience goes a long way. Hearing impaired dogs can still live a long fulfilled life.

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