Deaf Dog Health Considerations

Caring for a deaf dog can be a challenge. However, if you are well informed about the causes of hearing loss in dogs, specific deaf dog health considerations, and how to live with a deaf dog, you and your pet can have a healthy and happy life together.

Causes of hearing loss in dogs

Hearing loss can be genetic (congenital deafness) or it can be the result of an ear injury or infection. Hearing loss can also result from exposure to constant loud noise, certain drugs, and simple old age. It is also believed that dogs with unpigmented skin in the inner ear and/or white hair on their ears will become deaf, but at the same time a large number of deaf dogs have colored hair.

Different types of hearing loss

There are two types of hearing loss in dogs: bilateral deafness and unilateral deafness. Bilateral deafness it a total loss of hearing in both ears while unilateral deafness only affects one ear.

Health considerations for deaf dogs

Other than being deaf, most deaf dogs are perfectly healthy. In the case of white deaf dogs, the only health consideration is sunburn. If your dog has white hair and pink skin, he will burn without the proper amount of sunscreen. You can find sun block for dogs at a local pet store.

How can I tell if my dog is deaf or just inattentive?

If you suspect that your dog is deaf, you should take him to a vet to have a BAER test. This is currently the only 100% reliable testing method for this condition. During the test, the vet will insert a foam insert into the ear. The insert will make a clicking sound and the dog's brain response is recorded. The test is painless and lasts about 15 minutes. Most dogs do not have to be sedated for the test. If you prefer to perform your own tests at home, you can:
  • Call your dog
  • Ring a bell
  • Rattle a can of coins
  • Turn on an appliance such as a blender or vacuum cleaner
  • Clap your hands at a distance
  • Squeak a toy

If your dog does not respond to any of these noises, he might be deaf. The only way to be 100% sure is to take your dog to a vet for an official test and diagnosis.

Making your dog's life and your life easier

To make your lives together a bit easier, you can purchase a gentle, vibrating collar or you can teach your dog sign language. You should also keep your dog on a leash at all times when walking him, invest in a flashlight which can be used to get his attention (some pet parents also use thumping on the floor or a piece of furniture for this purpose), and get used to giving food rewards for good behavior. When your dog is unleashed, you should never allow him to run outside of the confines of your backyard. Keep your backyard fenced and your gate locked to prevent escape.