Living with a Deaf Dog

Pet Health and Safety  •  PetPartners  •  Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Among humans, deafness and partial hearing loss are the most common sensory disabilities. They’re common in the animal kingdom too.

Congenital deafness

Some dogs suffer from congenital deafness, hearing loss that’s inherited rather than acquired. Cochleosaccular deafness is more commonly found in dogs with specific color patterns and may affect one or both ears. Your veterinarian will typically diagnose the condition during the first few weeks of your dog’s life. Neuroepithelial deafness is not associated with visible traits like coat color. It tends to affect both ears and also becomes detectable within a dog’s first month.

Acquired deafness in dogs

Many more dogs experience gradual hearing loss as they age. The most common form of age-related deafness is presbycusis. A lifetime of exposure to loud noises eventually wears down the mechanisms that allow the brain and ears to communicate. Like heritable hearing loss, presbycusis is permanent and untreatable. Early intervention can potentially help pet owners make environmental changes to slow the progression of hearing loss or at least make living with it more manageable.

Recognizing and testing for canine deafness

While congenital deafness presents itself early and is typically easy to recognize, more gradual hearing loss can be tricky to spot. PetMD encourages concerned pet parents to observe their dogs and look out for ongoing unresponsiveness or behavioral changes. Reach out to your veterinarian if your dog continually fails to recognize their name, familiar cues, or other everyday noises. In addition to examining your dog’s ears, they may administer a hearing exam or additional tests to identify potential infections. 

Treatable hearing loss in dogs

Some causes of hearing loss are temporary and easily treatable. If you recognize the early warning signs of an ear infection, for example, you and your veterinarian can typically address it before any related symptoms become permanent. Swelling, redness, and discharge around the ears are all common signs of infection. Watch out too for signs that your dog has lost or is losing the ability to hear. In addition to exhibiting behavioral changes, your dog may tilt its head or otherwise draw attention to the affected year. Recurrent ear infections may indicate an allergen or irritant in your dog’s everyday environment. 

Less common causes of temporary hearing loss include head trauma and ototoxicity, an adverse reaction to certain in-ear medications. Dogs may also suffer temporary or permanent hearing loss due to foreign objects in their ear canal. When in doubt, seek out emergency veterinary care before attempting an at-home extraction.

Living with a deaf dog

Communication is everything when it comes to living with a deaf or hearing-impaired dog. It takes time, patience, and dedication, but you can train your dog to recognize hand signals and gestures the same way they would recognize verbal commands. You might use words and letters from American Sign Language or devise a unique language all your own. Calling dogs from the yard or waking them up may take a little extra creativity. Consider using lights, vibration, or other non-verbal signals to get your pup’s attention.

Take extra precautions to keep your dog safe both inside and outside the house. Never leave them alone in an unfenced area and make sure their living space is free from potential hazards. Exercise care and caution while socializing your dog too. Slowly desensitize them to potentially stressful situations and ensure all new human acquaintances are aware of their condition. 

Keep your deaf dog safe

Losing a dog is always stressful and often heartbreaking. It’s all the more harrowing when they can’t simply answer your call. While pets should always wear collars and accurate identification, these precautions are especially crucial when they have sensory impairments or other medical conditions.

Make sure to include information related to your dog’s diagnosis on their tags. This will help anyone who locates them better provide care and comfort. Microchipping offers an extra level of security. The American Kennel Club suggests that microchipped pets are 20 times more likely to be reunited with their families. Ask your veterinarian about the benefits of microchipping.

Pet insurance can help!

If your dog is suffering from hearing loss, whether it be from ear infections or another illness, pet insurance may be able to help reimburse you for the costs of diagnosis and treatment. Get a quote today.

Share the Greatness