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Deafness in Dogs

Deafness in Dogs

Dogs can go deaf due to various reasons, ranging from infection, loud noise, etc., or it may even be born with the defect. Here is more about deafness in dogs, and how to detect and deal with the condition.
Debopriya Bose
You bring home a dog with lot of enthusiasm and thoughts that you will be able to play and have fun with it during your free time. Dogs are known to be great pets, and are called 'man's best friends'. Nothing pleases them more than obeying their masters' commands. But what if you suddenly realize that your pet dog doesn't always respond to your commands? What if you actually have to stand in front of him and make gestures with your hands to convey what you want him to do? If this is the case, then what you are witnessing is deafness in the animal.

Deafness can be due to abnormality in the external ear, ear canal, the eardrum, or any part of the middle ear. Such kind of deafness in called conduction deafness.


How do you know that your dog is deaf? The answer is simple, 'he doesn't respond to your commands'. However, there are other signs too that a dog owner should look for:
  • Not responding to verbal commands
  • Responds only when the animal can see your commands
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Not turning in the right direction when called
  • Needs to be physically woken
  • Pawing ears
  • Shaking head more often than normal
  • Discharge from the ears

Dogs may be deaf right since their birth or may develop it later in their life. Let's consider its causes under the following two categories:

Congenital Deafness
Congenital deafness means that the dog is deaf right from birth. This defect may be due to certain problems that the fetus had while in the uterus due to intrauterine infection, effect of some drugs given during pregnancy to the female dog, or it may be simply inherited. There are certain breeds in which congenital deafness occurs at a higher rate.
  • American pit bull terrier
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • Beagle
  • Border collie
  • Bull terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pincher
  • English bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Maltese
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Pointer
  • Scottish terrier
  • Walker foxhound
  • West Highland white terrier
  • Boxer dog
This list is not exhaustive. Dogs belonging to breeds that have the probability of having inherited deafness should be tested using the BAER test, and should be removed from the breeding program if they test positive. This is because inherited deafness can't be cured. In case a dog has gone deaf in one ear, it becomes all the more difficult to assess this condition. The only sign of deafness in a dog that has been affected in one ear can be detected when the canine seems to be confused in localizing the source of a noise.

Acquired Deafness
A healthy dog can become deaf due to infection in the ear. The result may be permanent or temporary loss of hearing. In certain instances of infection in the middle ear, a substance known as 'crud' may remain in the ear even after the infection has been cured. This may hinder the canine's ability till it is removed. Certain medicines destroy the cochlear hair cells of the ear. Common medicines that cause deafness are antibiotics. Loud noise, old age, local anesthesia, and buildup of earwax are also common causes of hearing loss in dogs.


Oral medicines and topical applications help in clearing out infection in the ear that may be the cause of the problem. Hearing aids are also used to amplify sounds for those animals who are partially deaf. These devices are of no help for those dogs with complete loss of hearing due to congenital sensorineural (defect in the inner ear, auditory nerve or the brain itself) deafness. Research is going on to see the effectiveness of cochlear implants.

For the cases that can't be treated, special care is required. Owners of such dogs must train their pets to obey hand commands. They need to be extra careful while taking them out to public places or while walking through traffic. Those dogs that are deaf from birth are easier to train to obey hand commands as compared to those who suffer from acquired deafness.

In case one suspects deafness in his pet, it is important to observe the dog's behavior and take him to the vet immediately. Certain cases of deafness, when detected at the earliest, can be treated.