Is your dog deaf? How would know if it was?
Like many humans, our canine companions can lose their hearing as they age. My springer/cocker mix, Mary, is now more than twelve years old, and my husband and I have noticed a change – more than one, actually. First, she barks more than she did six months or a year ago. Normally a quiet dog who barked occasionally while in the back yard (after all, we have neighbor dogs and squirrels run through the yard!), she’s started to bark while in the house (very unusual for her) and more so outdoors. Secondly, she doesn’t respond to our voices as readily as she once did. And, third, she is sleeping more deeply than ever. We suspect she is losing her hearing.
Signs of Deafness
According to PetMD.com, these are some of the signs of hearing loss in dogs:
Causes of Deafness
There are a myriad of issues which can cause a dog to become deaf, including the natural aging process. As mentioned, our Mary dog is going on thirteen years of age, and therefore, a senior dog. She also has several allergies and subsequently, her ears are prone to bacterial infections. Inflammation of the outer, inner, or middle ear can cause hearing loss. Here are a few other potential causes:
Some breeds of dogs are susceptible to deafness, therefore, puppies can be prone to the condition (called congenital). Such breeds include cocker spaniels (Mary is part cocker), Dalmatians, West Highland terriers, and Boston terriers, among others.
Having an older dog like Mary and noticing behavior changes, including sleep patterns, can also help you determine if your dog is losing its hearing. For example, if you think your dog is sleeping heavier than normal and s/he doesn’t wake up to noises in your home, or if s/he startles from deep sleep, then your canine companion may be going deaf.
How Can You Know?
DeafDogsRock.com suggests some activities to test your dog’s hearing ability.
A Word on Deaf Cats
Like certain breeds of dogs, there are certain cat breeds that are more susceptible to hearing loss; those include Ragdolls and white Persians. In fact, white cats with blue eyes are the most prone to deafness. If you are the pet guardian of a cat and you’re concerned about hearing loss, PetMD.com and PetWave.com are good resources for you: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/ears/c_ct_deafness
What to Do?
First, consult with your veterinarian. S/he may find an ear infection that can still be treated. If that’s not the case, seek advice from your pet’s vet.
Second, if you haven’t taught your furry friend hand signals yet, do so. Dogs learn quickly, even older canines. As long as your dog can still see, communicating via hand signals is a major asset and provides your dog the mental stimulation it needs. Train your dog basic commands with hand signals. Keeping your deaf pet safe is of even greater importance as it will not hear cars coming or other noises. Find training tips for deaf dogs here: https://deafdogsrock.com/category/training-tips.
You may need to adjust how you interact with your deaf dog, but living with a canine with hearing loss is not a huge problem. Learn more about living with a deaf dog here: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/senior-dogs/preparing-a-dog-that-is-going-blind-or-deaf
No matter the type of pet you have, its health and happiness depend on you. If your furry friend is or becomes deaf, take the time to help both you and your pet adjust – there are many resources on and off-line available to help you do just that.
Our springer/cocker mix, Mary, recently turned 12. During the past few months, she’s experienced ear problems, including debris from rolling in the grass and infection, from rolling in the snow. Spaniels are prone to ear infections due to the type and length of their ears; the breed is also prone to deafness. Mary has allergies, both environmental and food, and therefore, is also easily susceptible to ear infections, especially after being groomed or rolling in snow (water in the ears).
My husband and I recently noticed Mary's lack of response when we called her name and her sleep is deeper than ever. These are potential signs of deafness.
Loss of hearing in dogs occurs for many reasons; one of those is aging. My husband and I have traveled this road before. In 2011, our then 12-year-old springer spaniel Sage became deaf. That experience was especially difficult because Sage was also blind. Her hearing loss caused her anxiety because she had relied on that sense so heavily due to her blindness. We worked with her, however, and those additional trainings via the sense of touch generated calmness and greater trust.
How do you know your dog is losing its hearing? According to the Drake Center of Veterinary Care, there are several symptoms of deafness. Those include:
Read more about deafness and its symptoms here: http://www.thedrakecenter.com/services/dogs/blog/deaf-dogs-living-hearing-loss.
Although some dogs, especially older ones who have lost their hearing gradually, may adjust to deafness, others may experience anxiety, just as Sage did. Work with your dog in different ways to help your canine friend as we did. Some ideas include:
Animal Magazine provides an article about training with hand signals. Visit their online site here to learn more: https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/sign-language-deaf-dog/..
Adjusting to a disability such as deafness can be a challenge, for both you and your pet. However, that challenge can be met with grace, perseverance, and patience. Just as we humans must adjust to our changing bodies and mental capabilities as we age, we can adapt to the changes in our pets, and be a strength and comfort to them as they, too, adjust to the changes that take place as they age.
Read more about living with a deaf dog here: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/13_10/features/Senior-Dog-Going-Deaf_20100-1.html.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.