Closeup image of dog ear

Key takeaway

Dog deafness, whether it’s temporary or permanent, can be identified by a few key signs, including physical and behavioral changes. Once a veterinarian has diagnosed your dog, various treatments can be used to manage their condition. Additional steps, such as training, can also be taken to care for a newly deaf dog.

Deafness not only affects humans but our animal counterparts as well—but, what is deafness anyway? Deafness is a total loss or reduction of hearing that eliminates the perception of sound.1 This can occur temporarily or be permanent. It can also be caused by several factors, including old age, injuries, and illness.

Knowing the warning signs of dog deafness can ensure you take the proper steps to care for your dog and help them adjust to a new way of life without hearing. While the process may not be easy or stress-free at first for both you and your canine, being knowledgeable on what to expect can be beneficial.

If your dog is currently experiencing deafness or if your dog is presenting early symptoms, this article can guide you through this experience. We’ll provide a comprehensive overview of deafness in dogs, discussing the signs to look out for, what causes them, how they are diagnosed, and treatment options. Read on from start to finish or use the links below to get started.

Signs Of Deafness And Hearing Loss

Deafness is defined as a partial or total loss of hearing, whether temporary or permanent. As a result, there are several notable signs that can help you tell if a dog is deaf or losing their hearing. One of the most common signs is newly increased disobedience or a lack of attention. For example, a dog with hearing loss may not respond when their name gets called, fail to acknowledge familiar commands, or they are not on guard when the doorbell rings or the vacuum is in use.

Graphic listing signs of deafness in dogs

There can also be changes in their behavior, such as:

  • Excessive barking
  • Unable to rouse from sleep
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of ear movement
  • Getting scared easily

What Causes Deafness In Dogs?

From deafness due to old age to injuries, various factors can take a toll on your dog’s hearing and cause deafness. Common causes of dog deafness include:

  • Illnesses
  • Head injuries
  • Degenerating nerve damage
  • Loud noises
  • Ingestion of toxic drugs
  • Tumors
  • Anesthesia
  • Inflammation
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Infections

Some dogs can also inherit deafness or are born with deafness as a result of developmental damage in the womb. A few breeds that are most likely to develop hearing loss include:

  • Dalmatian
  • Bull Terrier
  • Australian Heeler
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Catahoula

While there are many causes for deafness in dogs, an official diagnosis is needed from a licensed veterinary professional to uncover the root of the problem.

Dog having ears examined by veterinarian

Diagnosis

If you suspect your dog is losing their hearing, it is essential to make an appointment for further examination with your local veterinarian. This will ensure your canine receives the appropriate treatment for the cause of their deafness.

At the veterinary hospital, a veterinarian may examine the external portion of their ears with an otoscope and request x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or neurological exams to reveal any underlying conditions affecting your dog’s hearing.

Graphic with acronym for BAER test

One test that’s vital in diagnosing your dog’s condition is a deafness test. The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain’s auditory pathways.3 Small electrodes are placed on the scalp, ears, head, and between the shoulders while an earphone is inserted in the dog’s ear. The test takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete and any abnormal electrical responses are recorded for evaluation. If your dog exhibits signs of stress during the BAER, they may have to be administered anesthesia.

Treatment

Ultimately, the treatment your dog receives depends on the source of their deafness. For example, some cases of deafness such as bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics or blockages can be treated surgically. Unfortunately, there are no treatments that can revert permanent deafness back to normal. Despite this, a deaf dog can continue to live a normal life with modified care.

Graphic listing training and communication tips

Training And Communication Resources

Taking care of a deaf dog requires dedication and patience. After all, deaf dogs can get startled easily and may lash out as a result. They also won’t be able to hear certain dangers, such as cars, other dogs, and pedestrians. Below, we’ve included a few tips to help you better understand and communicate with your deaf dog:

Understanding body language

While your dog is undergoing new training, it’s imperative to understand your dog as well. Being able to read their body language, from ear and tail movement to their facial expressions, will allow you to understand what your dog needs or when they require more patience from you during training. This extra attention to their body language can also help strengthen the relationship with your dog.

Mark and reward training

Mark and reward training can ensure your dog understands what they’re doing correctly and help you identify behaviors that need to be improved. Because a deaf dog won’t be able to hear the sound of a clicker when they do something right, you’ll have to think of a new marker. The American Kennel Club recommends using hand gestures as markers, such as a thumbs-up.4

Scent training

While most professionals suggest scent training begins when your dog is a puppy, the same techniques can still be applied to deaf dogs. This is especially important since deaf dogs will rely on their remaining senses. When your dog can recognize certain scents, you’ll also be able to recall them much easier and get their attention.

Owner training deaf dog

Communicating through signals

A dog with hearing loss won’t be able to hear your commands clearly, so it’s a good idea to introduce gestures that can let them know what to do. From raising an open palm for “Stay” or pointing a single finger to your face to have them focus on you, there are many ways to communicate without words. Signals can accompany mark and reward training to show your dog that these will be the new norm.

Startle training

Startle training prevents your dog from getting startled when being touched or whenever you walk up to them. To get started, create a comfortable environment for your dog and introduce yourself using certain cues to let them know you’re in the room. This can be flickering the lights, a soft tap of a nearby surface, or a gentle stomp of your foot or hand. The key to startle training is patience and creating a suitable environment for your deaf dog to learn.

Focus training

Going back to puppy basics will allow you to revisit previous behaviors your dog is used to and modify them to better fit their current situation. Playing focus-heavy games or even sitting down with your dog to enhance their skills will make the adjustment period much smoother.

Dog Deafness: Frequently Asked Questions

Although owning a deaf dog isn’t easy, it’s not impossible either. Use the following frequently asked questions to help you navigate through this new experience.

What are the signs of deafness in dogs?

Typical signs of deafness in dogs include:

  • Unresponsive behavior
  • Excessive barking
  • Trouble waking your dog from sleep
  • Confusion
  • Getting startled easily

If your dog demonstrates one or more of the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

Can deafness in dogs be cured?

Some cases of temporary deafness can be treated, while others cannot. That said, not all damage can be reversed. When dogs develop deafness as a result of age or genetics, there is little preventive care and professionals urge owners to focus on post-diagnosis care.5 You can also get your dog professionally tested to ensure they receive the necessary care.

How do you train a deaf dog?

Training your deaf dog will take some time, especially if you’re introducing new training techniques. Key tips to remember include:

  • Use visual hand gestures instead of verbal commands and markers
  • Have patience while they adjust to their new lifestyle
  • Take the time to understand their body language and mannerisms
  • Mix and match different training methods to find the best one for your dog

If you need further assistance, consider working with a dog trainer that specializes in training deaf dogs. They’ll be able to guide you in the right direction and ensure your dog can continue living a happy and healthy life.

Final Notes

Deafness can be a scary experience, regardless of whether it’s temporary to permanent. However, once a diagnosis is reached, you can take the necessary steps to ensure your dog can continue living comfortably. Supplemental training and modifying previous teachings can ease your dog’s potential stress with this new experience. With patience and time, life for you and your pet can continue as normal.

Your dog deserves to enjoy life to the fullest, which can be difficult if they’re suffering from chronic health problems, such as anxiety or allergies. However, many conditions are medically treatable, and at Dutch, we’re happy to help you find the best solution for your furry companion. We provide convenient telemedicine for pets, so you can focus on your dog instead of time-consuming, in-person veterinarian appointments. Sign up today and learn how we can support your pet.

References

  1. Strain, George M. “Deafness in Animals.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/veterinary/ear-disorders/deafness/deafness-in-animals.

  2. Strain, George M. “Deafness in Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/ear-disorders-of-dogs/deafness-in-dogs.

  3. Strain, George M. “What Is the BAER Test?.” Louisiana State University, 21 Dec. 2010, https://www.lsu.edu/deafness/baerexpl.htm.

  4. Gibeault, Stephanie. “How to Train a Deaf Dog.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 13 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/how-to-train-a-deaf-dog/.

  5.  

    Strain, George M. “Congenital Deafness.” The Canine Health Information Center, 4 May 2020, https://www.ofa.org/diseases/other-diseases/congenital-deafness.