3 Ways to Tell if Your Dog Is Deaf
It is true that puppies are born without the ability to hear until they reach 3 weeks of age. However, as their sense of hearing nears completion, they can hear more than 4 times the distance of what we humans can hear. There’s a good reason why dogs have a very acute sense of hearing: it’s part of their defensive arsenal. As guardians and protectors of their masters and his property, canines have to be vigilant for any sign of an intruder or a threat. It is for this reason that hearing loss in dogs can be a severe blow to the animal’s wellbeing. It is like making the dog feel that it is useless. The question now is how do you know that Fido is deaf? Here are 3 ways:
Learn the Physical and Behavioral Manifestations of Canine Deafness
If you are serious in determining whether your pet dog is deaf or not, then you should pay attention to the different signs and symptoms that it may present. However, it is important to realize that there are certain breeds of dog that are more prone to developing congenital deafness. There are two types of congenital canine deafness:
- Hereditary Congenital Deafness
This occurs because of a gene in either or both parents of the puppy. This gene codes for the dog’s deafness. If both parents of the puppies have the gene, then all puppies will have congenital deafness. If only one parent has the gene, then about half of the puppies will have the condition. Some of the dog breeds that are prone to hereditary congenital deafness include Beagles, Poodles, Dalmatians, German Shepherds, and English Bulldogs, among others.
- Acquired Congenital Deafness
In this type of congenital deafness, something goes wrong in the development of the puppy in its mother’s womb. One of the most common culprits is the presence of toxins in the mother dog’s blood. This can have a negative effect on the normal development of the different structures of the puppy’s ears. Other causes include liver disease, medication side effects, and intrauterine infections.
While some dog breeds are prone to congenital hearing loss, it does not guarantee that they will become deaf when they grow up. As such, just because you have a dog that is low-risk for canine deafness doesn’t mean that you can already skip the assessment of its sense of hearing. You still should. Here are the things you can look for:
- May bite harder than its littermates during playtime because it is unable to hear the cries or squeals of the other puppies
- Doesn’t respond to verbal or auditory cues, but responds to visual and tactile cues
- Doesn’t respond to noise or sound coming from dog toys that the puppy doesn’t see
- The ears don’t move when there is noise
- Last puppy to go to its food bowl because it did not hear you put its meal on the floor
For adult and geriatric dogs,
- No longer anxious or afraid of loud noises like thunder and fireworks
- Is very easy to get startled when people approach it from behind
- May not be as biddable as before
- May not run to the door to greet its owner upon coming home
In addition to these manifestations, there are others that may suggest hearing impairment in dogs. However, these signs and symptoms can also point to other disease conditions. As such, you should always correlate the following symptoms and signs with other manifestations.
- Incessant shaking of the dog’s head
- Ear discharge
- Foul-smelling ears
- Increased vocalization
Perform Simple Hearing Tests at Home
The physical manifestations of canine hearing loss are inconclusive. There can be other reasons why a dog is being anxious or timid or that it is no longer as biddable as it once was. In short, the physical and behavioral manifestations of dog deafness may not indicate hearing loss at all. It may be due to other health problems.
That is why performing a very simple hearing acuity test on your dog can help you gain a better understanding of its current state of hearing. To do this, you have to coincide your testing with the animal’s resting period. It should be in a relaxed state, with its mind somewhere else. And if it is dozing off, the better.
Approach your pet from behind. Make sure that you are not wearing anything that has a very strong scent. Don’t wear cologne, perfume, or heavily-scented clothes. Your dog may be deaf, but it sure can pick up your scent. The moment you enter the scene, it knows you are already there.
The same is true when approaching the animal. Be deliberate in your steps. Don’t wear shoes or slippers that can make noise or cause vibrations. Again, the animal may have impaired hearing, but it can “feel” vibrations. It can also detect the slightest change in air pressure, which your approach can bring about. So, be very careful.
One last thing. Make sure to keep your distance from your pet. The idea here is to elicit a reaction from your dog without your pet noticing you approaching. Maintain a safe distance. You do not want to startle the animal as it can snap and bite you. There is also a greater tendency for you to generate vibrations or send your scent to the dog.
When you’re in position, make some noise. Start by clapping your hands once. If the dog reacts, then you know that it’s not deaf. However, if it doesn’t stir from its rest, try clapping louder. Now, it is possible that the animal will react by looking in the opposite direction. In such cases, then your dog may have partial hearing loss.
If the animal continues with its siesta, try blowing a whistle or banging two lids of pots. You can also try switching the vacuum cleaner on. Try turning any appliance that often makes very loud noises. However, it is crucial that your choice of a noisemaker should not produce air turbulence, give off any scent, or produce vibrations.
Seek More Professional and More Accurate Hearing Acuity Tests from Your Veterinarian
Observing the clinical manifestations of doggie deafness can help provide clues as to the state of the pet’s sense of hearing. Performing simple tests at home can help validate such observations. However, there are some pet parents who may not be conscious or observant enough of the animal’s physical signs and behavioral cues. A thorough veterinary examination may help determine whether the canine pet is deaf or not.
The first step in the veterinary evaluation is a review of the dog’s health history. The dog’s history of ear infections and medication intake can also have a bearing on the occurrence of doggie hearing loss.
After a careful review of the animal’s health history, the vet can perform a focused physical assessment of the ears. He will inspect the ear canal for the possible presence of discharge, swelling, foul odor, and lodged foreign objects. Earwax buildup is often one of the most common yet often overlooked causes of deafness in dogs. The veterinarian will take note of any abnormality and correlate it with the notable findings in the dog’s health history.
The veterinarian will then perform the very same tests that you performed on your dog at home. This is to make sure that the observations in the physical examination and the critical information from the dog’s health history all point to deafness and not something else.
If your veterinarian has a special machine that can test for the animal’s Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, then you’re in luck. This test can provide you with a more definitive picture into the state of your pet’s hearing loss. However, take note that not all veterinary clinics have such an equipment since it is expensive. As such, it should not surprise you if the veterinarian will refer you to a clinic that has the BAER technology.
The BAER test detects the electrical activity in the dog’s cochlea as well as the auditory pathways in its brain. It is almost similar to how an ECG detects the electrical activity of the heart. The only difference here is that it is the electrical impulses along the pathway between the inner ear and the brain that get detected.
Like your ECG strip, the BAER electrical activity form presents as a strip of peaks. Each peak comes with a Roman numeral, with “I” indicating the electrical activity in the inner ear’s cochlea. Subsequent peaks reflect the electrical activity in the brain. The absence of “peaks” indicates that there is no electrical activity. It is similar to a flat line in an ECG machine. Hence, if there is no “peak I”, then the problem is in the inner ear. If the subsequent peaks are absent, then the problem is in the auditory pathways in the dog’s brain.
There are three fundamental ways you can determine if your pet dog is deaf or not. These include observation of the manifestations of canine deafness, the performance of simple hearing acuity tests, and the execution of a more advanced sensory test for hearing.