Dogs with deafness begin to lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds first.

Posted on September 17, 2021

Deaf dogs can feel vibrations, smell and see their surroundings, they may become frightened by sudden approaches or unexpected petting. Dr Paolo Pazzi, small animal internal medicine specialist in the Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH) of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, says deaf dogs must not be left unsupervised.

How does being deaf affect a dog?

It is important they are not left unsupervised or off the lead in new environments or parks or any situation with new dogs (because they cannot simply be called back by the owner). They are still functional pets, but they usually require special training for basic discipline skills. Their quality of life is as good as a hearing dog. 

Does a deaf dog suffer and how?

A deaf dog does not suffer. Most deaf dogs are congenitally deaf, so they are born deaf. It is the same as people that are born deaf, it is all they know, so it is "their normal".  

As dogs age, can they suffer hearing loss just as humans tend to, that is, does age play a role in deafness of dogs?

Yes, as with humans, older dogs can become deaf.  The older a dog is the more likely it is partially deaf or totally deaf. But not all older deaf become deaf. 

Can deafness in dogs be cured?

Congenital deafness cannot be cured. If the deafness is due to inflammation and narrowing of the external ear canal, appropriate treatment can correct the inflammation and allow the dog to hear again. Deafness secondary to age can also not be cured. 

How do you wake a deaf dog?

Through gentle touching. It is also important not to suddenly scare a deaf dog - they can't hear you coming. Children should always be warned the dog is deaf and they should not frighten it as sometimes these dogs might get a fright and bite through a reflex rather than real aggression. 

Is it hard to have a deaf dog?

It does take a bit more effort from the owner. They need to be aware of the dog's limitations. Also, once an owner realises the dog is deaf, they are easier to manage. Many owners think their dog is just not obedient, whereas they are just deaf.  Again, they are functional pets, but they must be managed more carefully in certain situations. 

How do you get a deaf dog's attention?

Gentle touch or hand signals.  

Which dog breeds are prone to deafness?

Bull terrier, Great Dane, Australian Shepherd, Dalmatian, amongst others...these are the ones we most commonly see. Any dog with a white coat is predisposed, even more so if they have blue eyes. It runs in certain breeding lines of certain breeds. 

- Author Jimmy Masombuka

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