What Causes Deafness in Dogs and How Can You Treat it?

deafness in dogs

What Causes Deafness in Dogs?

Did you know that deafness in dogs can be influenced by a dog’s coat color? That is true, psychologists confirm that fur color can determine a lot of things in dogs among them their ability to hear properly.

As we let that sink in for a while, here is another fact about deafness in dogs. Apparently, in 2010, about 2 out of 10,000 dogs in America (more stats here) were reported to suffer a form of deafness (and the numbers have risen since) either in one ear or both. This number could represent any dog straying around in the streets, confined to a shelter, or living in a loving home like yours.

Though canine deafness is real, it should not be a cause for alarm. First, you have to determine the source of the deafness, the severity of it, and whether the problem is treatable or not. It also helps to know whether your pooch belongs to a breed of dogs commonly diagnosed with canine deafness.

Types of Deafness in Dogs

There are four types of deafness in dogs. These are congenital, acquired, sensorineural, or conductive deafness.

Congenital deafness is where your dog is born partially or completely deaf. The hearing problem can be caused by an inherited birth defect either in the outer ear or the nervous system. Some dogs are born with poorly developed auditory organs which predispose them to deafness when they mature.

Acquired deafness is when a dog develops deafness later in life due to trauma, obstruction in the ear, or a degenerative condition in the nerves located in the ear, for example, geriatric nerve degeneration. Partial deafness may occur when the ear is obstructed by a foreign object, like a bean, or excess wax buildup in the inner ear.

Sensorineural deafness is caused by a nerve defect where nerve receptors in the ear fail to effectively transmit sound from the ear to the brain. Your dog may be hearing the noises, but it takes time for him to interpret what the sound is and how to react to it.

Conductive deafness is where sound does not pass from the outer ear to the inner ear through auditory nerves.

Additional Causes of Deafness in Dogs

Canine deafness may be as a result of old age. An old dog living on borrowed time may have symptoms like partial or total deafness. Hearing problems may be accompanied by eye problems both which are treatable depending on the course and severity of the condition.

Some dogs may develop deafness after repeated exposure to loud noises. Sounds such as a gun firing or loud music playing can adversely affect your dog’s hearing ability.  A dog’s ears are sensitive to audio signals and frequent high-pitched sound can damage the eardrum.

Your pup can suffer temporary deafness if the inner ear is affected by excessive hair growth. This commonly happens in dogs with thick fur coats that cover the eyes as well. You can remedy this issue right at home or have a vet do it for you.

Malignant growths like tumors can also affect your dog’s ability to hear well. Tumors that grow and obstruct the Eustachian tube often end up affecting your dog’s ability to hear partially or completely. Injuries like head trauma that damage the eardrum, ear canal, or a dog’s brain may also lead to temporary or total deafness.

Ear infections caused by bacteria or viruses may leave your dog totally deaf. Infections cause an inflammation in the inner ear causing it to fill with fluids and result in canine deafness. A professional veterinary doctor would know how to handle this issue when presented.

Genetics of Deaf Dogs

According to genetics, some dog breeds are more predisposed to canine deafness than others. Dalmatians are known to develop partial or complete deafness either in one ear or both. The French Bulldog, Great Dane, Border Collie, and Golden doodle are also some of the breeds that are predisposed to congenital deafness. You can also read a comprehensive list of canine breeds susceptible to deafness online.

Lastly, some drugs carry chemicals that are toxic to your dog’s auditory organs. Drugs with ingredients such as cisplatin, ethanol, chlorhexidine, and erythromycin may cause partial deafness on your dogs. Other drug chemicals in this category include furosemide, aminoglycosides, ethanol chlorhexidine, and chloramphenicol.

Symptoms of Deafness in Dogs

You will notice that your pooch no longer responds to squeaky toys like they used to. Your dog may also take time to respond or may not respond at all when you call him. Outside noises like doorbell ringing, cars passing, other dogs barking may not evoke any response from him.

Some dogs will not barge at all when you enter the room. Other dogs get startled when they are touched or approached unawares. In severe cases, damage to the auditory organs may cause difficulty in walking or waking up. There are dogs that will just bark continuously because they do not understand why the world is silent or they cannot hear the racket they are making.

Diagnosing Deafness in Dogs

Luckily, you can easily test for canine deafness using simple home remedies. However, there are instances where deafness in dogs can be hard to detect, for example, when the dog is partially deaf in one ear.

If you suspect your pooch is deaf, start by calling his name out loud. Taking his time before he finally heeds and comes over may be a sign of partial deafness (or maybe he is just being stubborn). When your dog does not respond to his name try clapping your hands or making any loud noise.

If there is still no response, approach your dog from behind and try snapping your fingers. A sudden turn to face you may indicate partial deafness in either both or one ear. No response at all could mean that your dog is suffering from total canine deafness.

Examine for excessive hair or wax build up in the ears. While at it check for any fluid discharge or skin reddening which are signs of infection and inflammation. When you still cannot figure out why your dog is not responding to noises or calls, it is time to make that visit to the vet.

Your vet will run some more tests to check for foreign objects in your dog’s ear or excessive wax and hair buildup. In complex cases, a vet will use special screening techniques like a brain-stem auditory evoked response (BAER) to check how your dog’s brain responds to audio stimuli. Other vet clinics would conduct tests using radiograph to find the cause of canine deafness.

Treatment Deafness in Dogs

Your dog’s hearing impairment is treatable depending on the course and severity of the condition on his ears. For partial canine deafness, there are clinical solutions that can help correct the problem. Unfortunately, nothing can be done for permanent deafness, however, sometimes surgery may attempt to correct the issue.

Partial Deafness in dogs

For partial deafness, a simple act like cleaning the wax buildup or trimming the hairs in your dog’s inner ear will correct the hearing impairment. Remember, a dog’s ears are very sensitive and using any object to remove ear wax or not having a steady hand while trimming his inner hairs can cause more damage. A local vet can do this for you if you are not up for the task. A good vet will also examine the ear canal for any injuries or infections while cleaning it.

Deafness in dogs caused by an infection is treatable through over-the-counter drugs. Your vet will recommend antibiotics to treat and clear a bacterial infection in your dog’s ear. However, be careful about the ingredients in the drug because traces of compounds like erythromycin can cause further deafness.

In the case of fluid-filled inflammation, the vet will drain the fluids out of the ear before cleaning the wound and recommending medication later. Your dog will have to wear the collar of shame as well to protect him from scratching the affected ear. It is possible to speed up the healing process of your dog’s ear by adding pet supplements to his diet. Buy pet supplements that boost your dog’s immune system besides replenishing his nutrient intake.  With your dog’s immune system stepped up, there will be fewer cases of ear infections in the future.

Does my dog need surgery?

Vets use radiographs to detect any foreign object that may be stuck inside your dog’s ears. They then proceed to use special tools to suck out the object from the ear. If the foreign object may cause more damage when pulled, surgery will be recommended; like an object with sharp ends lodged near the eardrum.

Permanent deafness caused by a congenital defect or trauma to the brain is irreversible. A vet may recommend surgery if the dog’s deafness only affects his out ear. However, it can cost you a lot of money to try and reverse the hearing impairment on your dog.

This does not mean it’s the end of the road for Bingo. Your love for him should continue regardless of the new challenge in his life. You will only need to make a few lifestyle changes to ensure he is comfortable in his new environment and help build confidence.

Tips for Living with a Deaf Dog

Even with your dog’s hearing ability gone, he still has his other senses like touch, sight, and, the most reliable one, smell. By tapping into his remaining senses, you can condition your dog to respond to calls or instructions while living with him.

You may startle your pooch every time you touch or approach him unexpectedly. However, you can turn this reaction around by training him afresh on how to respond to touch or humans approaching. It helps if you always approach your dog when his eyes are directly facing you.

On the other hand, there are those instances when your dog will not be facing you but you want to approach him. It is best to do so slowly before you reach over and touch his head. As he turns to face you, feed a delicious treat to him and have a big smile on your face. Every time you approach and touch his head immediately feed a treat, smile, and part your dog’s head playfully.

Your pooch will soon associate touch with a happy event like being fed a treat and a big smile from his beloved owner. Whenever you approach and touch him, he will know it is a harmless gesture from his favorite person. Your pup also knows when you approach by smelling your presence, so that helps too.

Deaf Dog Commands

You also have to teach your dog how to wake up on command. Approach your dog normally but this time do not touch him just yet. Place your hand over his nose so he can smell it. Your scent communicates your presence to him and when he opens his eyes pat his led lightly so he is fully awake. Touch him lightly over his head before graduating to a full pat using your entire hand.

When he looks at you, wear that big smile and feed him a treat. If you want him to follow you, beckon onto him using a ‘come to me’ gesture. Bending and snapping your fingers around your knees is also a signal that you want him to approach you. If your dog could hear well before the deafness, then many of these gestures will register with him without the need for words.

Deafness in dogs

Deafness should not be a reason to stop all the fun activities you used to do with your pup. If you enjoyed going out on walks, continue doing so but this time relying more on the leash. You can also teach your dog new commands using the leash like tagging on it to make him spot or pulling it towards you to make him turn his face to you.

You may not want to use a leash on your deaf dog if his hearing loss came as a result of trauma to his head. Instead, use a dog harness which straps around his shoulder and away from his head. Most harnesses come with a clip to attach a leash to. Only confine your dog to a harness in public places. At home, let him roam around the house or yard as freely as he wants but always keep an eye on him.


Adopting or raising a deaf dog comes with many challenges. However, deafness in dogs should not be a reason to neglect your pup or lower the quality of life he lived. With gentleness, love, and care, condition him to his new environment and teach him new commands with the remaining senses he has like smell and touch.

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