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Sunday, June 25, 2017 guardian.co.tt Deafness in dogs
Deafness in dogs is the inability to hear.
Deafness can be unilateral (affecting one ear)
or bilateral (affecting both ears). Deafness and
loss of hearing can occur in dogs for a variety
of reasons. Although living with a deaf dog can
be challenging, deaf dogs are not very different
from hearing dogs. They bark, they interact with
people and other dogs, and they are well aware
of their surroundings. You just need to learn to
communicate effectively with them.
There are two types of deafness: congenital, which
means existing at birth, and acquired.
Some dogs are born without the ability to hear due
to developmental defects in the hearing apparatus.
Deafness can develop in the first few weeks of life
when the ear canal is still closed, and occurs when
the blood supply to the cochlea degenerates and the
nerve cells die. Congenital deafness is usually linked to
a defective gene and is inherited. Often the defective
gene is for coat colour. Dogs with white or merle coats
are predisposed to congenital deafness. Most of the
dog breeds who suffer from congenital deafness have
some white pigmentation in their coats.
There are approximately 85 dog breeds with re-
ported congenital deafness. Some of these breeds are
more susceptible to deafness than others, with high
prevalence in the Dalmatian, the English Cocker Span-
iel and the English Setter. Responsible dog breeding
can prevent congenital deafness. Dogs with known
deafness should never be bred.
Dogs with acquired deafness are born with the ca-
pability of developing and maintaining normal hearing
but hearing is lost at some stage of life. The canine
ear has an intricate structure consisting of tissue,
nerves, cartilage and tiny bones that work together
with the brain to conduct and interpret sound. Damage
occurring to one or more of these sensitive areas can
cause partial or complete loss of hearing. Chronic
severe ear infections, tumors, parasitic infections,
drug toxicity or traumatic injury can harm the tym-
panum (eardrum) or the inner/middle ear, resulting
in temporary or permanent deafness. Brain disease,
such as a tumor or stroke, can damage the auditory
nerve or other parts of the central nervous system
that control hearing. Nerve degeneration in geriatric
dogs typically results in gradual hearing loss, similar
to how old age affects the hearing of humans.
signs that may indicate your dog is deaf, suf-
fering some hearing loss, or experiencing some ear
problems which may lead to hearing loss include:
• Confusion when given vocal commands
• Excessive barking
• Unresponsiveness to sounds
• Being difficult to wake up
• Head shaking; head tilts toward the side of the af-
fected ear (acquired deafness)
• Itchy and/or painful ears (acquired deafness)
• Change in personality (acquired deafness)
• Change in obedience (acquired deafness)
• Smelly discharge from the ear (acquired deafness)
The BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Re-
sponse) is the only 100 per cent reliable diagnostic
test for deafness in a dog. In the BAER test, a computer
records the electrical activity of the brain in response
to sound stimulation. The test is not painful and can
be performed on dogs at least six weeks of age, but
this technology is not yet available in T&T.
There is no definitive cure for deafness in dogs.
Infections and injuries to the ear or brain may respond
to anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics, but
the damage caused may be irreversible. Every day ear
care can help prevent ear infections.
Do not be alarmed if you have a deaf dog---they can
live normal, happy lives. Owners can train deaf dogs
with hand signals and communicate through body
language. The dog can also be trained to respond to
vibrating remote collars (not shock collars) and you
can get the dog's attention by stomping the ground.
Deaf animals require special care---monitor your
pet and control the home environment as much as
possible to avoid potential injuries. Do not let your
deaf pet outdoors without a leash as they cannot hear
approaching vehicles or your call to come back. Mi-
crochip your pet and use identification collars with
your contact information in case the pet gets lost. Deaf
dogs are very adaptable so do not let this condition
deter you from owning one.
• Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2017
your pet and
control the home
much as possible
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