How Hearing Loss Affects Dogs
Dogs are gifted with the ability to easily rely on their other senses to make up for one that they have either lost or never had in the first place. Dogs with total congenital deafness are born deaf and never experience the sensation of sound. They do not know that they are deaf or that they are any different from other dogs. Most astute and reputable breeders will recognize a deaf puppy well before the puppies are ready to go to their new owners, and will fully disclose the dog’s condition to potential owners. Normal puppies start responding to sound from about day 10 onward after birth.
Dogs with acquired deafness usually become deaf gradually. Most owners do not discover that their dog is “going deaf” until the animal has lost most of its ability to hear. They may notice that something about their dog seems a bit “off,” but they usually do not suspect hearing loss until it has become fairly obvious.
Symptoms of Deafness in Dogs
Dogs typically show more obvious symptoms of hearing loss than do cats. Of course, it is easier to identify deafness in a dog born without hearing than in one who develops deafness gradually. In either case, signs of deafness include:
- Overly aggressive behavior with littermates (young puppy with congenital deafness)
- Lack of response to squeaky toys
- Lack of response to auditory stimuli, especially when the dog is not looking (voice commands, shouting, clapping hands, whistling, barking, doorbells, etc.)
- Tendency to startle and/or snap when physically roused from sleep or rest
- Tendency to startle and/or snap when touched from behind or outside of its field of vision
- Sleeping more than typical for a dog of its age and breed
- Decreased activity level
- Difficulty arousing from sleep
- Not awakening from sleep in response to auditory stimuli (voice commands, clapping, whistling, other sounds)
- Exaggerated response to physical stimuli (touch, floor or ground vibration, wind)
- Excessive barking for a dog of its age and breed
- Unusual vocal sound
- Gradual decline in response to own name and known voice commands
- Disorientation, confusion, agitation in otherwise familiar circumstances
Dogs at Increased Risk
Breeds with white, spotted, dappled or merle haircoats are predisposed to congenital deafness, although other breeds can be affected as well. More than 50 breeds have been identified by various authorities as being susceptible to congenital deafness. The Dalmatian is most commonly affected. Other at-risk breeds include the Akita, American Staffordshire Terrier, Australian Heeler, Australian Shepherd, Beagle, Border Collie, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Collie, Dappled Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, Dogo Argentino, English Bulldog, English Setter, Fox Terrier, Foxhound, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Ibizan Hound, Jack Russell Terrier, Kuvasz, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, Papillon, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, St. Bernard, Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Siberian Husky, Toy Poodle and West Highland White Terrier, among others. The list of affected breeds continues to expand and certainly may change over time depending upon breed popularity and breeding practices.