How do you know if your dog is going deaf and what can you do to help? I recently came across this question on a forum and thought it was a good topic to discuss. Deafness in dogs is something that can come with age, physical maladies or even congenital defects. Today, we’re going to talk about how to spot deafness in dogs and how to work around it. We won’t be covering all the causes because there are so many, it would take an entire post just to adequately cover them all. Rather, we’ll discuss what to watch for and how to continue to interact with your dog even if he’s going or gone deaf.
A Brief Overview of Deafness in Dogs
Deafness in dogs occurs most often in older pooches, although in some breeds it can come earlier in life.
How Do You Know If Your Dog is Going Deaf?
If your dog is beginning to lose his hearing, or if he’s lost it completely, you’ll see specific signs of the problem, especially if your dog has always been one that announces everything that he sees or hears to you. In cases of dogs who’ve always been more on the quiet side, it may be more difficult to spot. In either case, the symptoms that your dog is going deaf are there, you just need to be cognizant of them.
- Unresponsive to everyday sounds
- Unresponsive to his name
- Unresponsive to trigger sounds like doorbells, knocks, and other unexpected noises
- Sleeping through loud noises
- Being easily startled is approached from behind
Causes of Deafness
The causes of deafness in dogs can be many and varied, but they generally fall into the main categories below.
- Short-term deafness due to an ailment
- Congenital defects
- Cancers found in the ear
- Toxins and Drugs
- Breed-specific deafness
Breeds Prone to Deafness
Some breeds are more prone to deafness, whatever the cause than other dogs. In fact, there are over 30 breeds which have been found to be more susceptible to deafness than other breeds. Below are the breeds that have been shown to be especially susceptible to hearing loss.
- Australian Shepherd
- Boston Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Toy and Miniature Poodle
- West Highland White Terrier
Dealing with Deafness in Dogs
Because all dogs can become deaf, it’s important to take the long view of things. It’s far easier to train your dog in a way that allows him to respond to you by sight while he still has his hearing than it is to do so after he’s gone deaf. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, hand signals are an excellent way to establish an even stronger training connection with your dog, and they also set him up to know what you want should he ever lose his hearing. Here are some ways to both prepare for the possibility of your dog becoming deaf and how to deal with deafness in dogs after the fact.
- Train your hearing dog with clear, understandable hand signals. If he becomes deaf, he’ll still understand your commands.
- Stomp hard on the ground or floor when you call your hearing dog. He will associate the vibration with you if he becomes deaf.
- Never approach a deaf dog from behind. His lack of hearing may make him more easily startled, which could – COULD – lead to a bite.
- Never walk a deaf dog without a leash, even if you always did before.
That’s about it. The amazing thing about dogs is that even with conditions like deafness or blindness, you really don’t need to make huge changes in their lives. In fact, on several occasions, owners came into the practice where I worked asking why their dog was slow to respond to them or “spacey” only to find out that their dog had actually gone deaf.
Deafness in Dogs Isn’t as Terrible as it Sounds
Deafness in dogs isn’t a horrible malady as physical ailments go. In fact, a deaf dog doesn’t need much of anything changed in his daily life to be healthy and happy. Just remember to train your dog with hand signals while he’s young and never approach a deaf dog from a blind spot, and you should be good to go when dealing with deafness in dogs.