No dog owner wants to think about their dog having a disability, but unfortunately for most pet owners this is inevitable. One ailment that may be hard to determine and sometimes seems to come out of nowhere is hearing loss in dogs.
A dog can be born deaf or in some cases, hearing loss can strike puppies quickly or gradually in older dogs. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), anywhere from five to 10 percent of dogs in the U.S. suffer from hearing loss, and with over 76 million pet dogs in America, the chances that your dog may suffer hearing loss during his lifetime is very possible.
Older dogs that start to lose their hearing are often mislabeled as being difficult or deliberately ignoring their owners and some never receive the diagnosis that can spare both pet and owner from a lot of stress.
Owners need to pay close attention to their pet when it comes to hearing. Fortunately, there are several signs to watch for. These symptoms are important to understanding your dog’s hearing issues. There are also some solutions to communicating with a dog that has suffered hearing loss, but before we go there, here are some signs to look for:
Sudden disobedience and/or ignoring verbal commands; an uptick in startle reflex; excessive barking; unresponsive to everyday sounds, like a knocking; apathy or an increase in sleep; or shaking or tilting of its head.
While all dogs can suffer hearing loss, there are more than 30 breeds that have a higher rate of hearing problems. Some of the breeds include Australian and German shepherds, terriers, sheepdogs, settlers, great danes, dalmatians and cocker spaniels.
Studies have determined that dogs with white coats have a higher rate of hearing loss, with two genes – merle and piebald – playing a role in that disability. If you think your dog is suffering from hearing loss, get him to a veterinarian.
If your dog is losing his hearing, chances are it has been going on for quite a while. Sudden hearing loss is rare, but there are a couple of exceptions. If your dog experiences some sort of head trauma, it could lead to damage to the bone surrounding the ear canal, which can then result in acute loss of hearing. Certain medicines can also have adverse effects on canine hearing. Check with your vet if you have any medications before applying medicine in your dog’s ears.
You may suspect that your dog has suffered hearing loss and want to confirm it and maybe find out how extensive the loss is. There is a test for that.
The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test is a hearing test for your pet. It detects electrical activity in the cochlea along with checking the auditory routes in the brain. The test involves placing electrodes on your dog’s head and then sending a slight stimulus through earpieces. It is the best way to determine the hearing capacity of your pet. A deaf dog can function normally and live a long happy life as long as owners take certain steps to keep them safe. You will have to train your dog to understand hand signals. They shouldn’t be left unleashed or placed in unfamiliar situations, since sudden touches or movements may startle them.
If you’re beginning to notice that your four-legged friend isn’t responding to your calls or is slow to react to commands, talk to your veterinarian; she may be able to suggest training programs or other resources to help you and your dog adjust to his hearing loss.