Deafness In Dogs: Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is It?

Deafness is the permanent or temporary loss of hearing.

What Causes It?

Deafness can be present at birth or developed after an infection or degeneration of the cochlea, the organ responsible for hearing.

  • Congenital deafness (deafness from birth) is the most common form of deafness in dogs. It is not completely identified what causes congenital deafness. There are some coat and eye pigment colors that make dogs more likely to be born deaf. In a litter, it can be difficult to immediately spot that a dog may be deaf. Puppies typically move in a pack and pick up cues from each other. Additionally, puppies may only be deaf in a single ear. This condition is permanent.
  • Presbycusis (age-related deafness) affects dogs just like it does humans. It is considered that circulation loss to the cochlea is the most likely cause. This category of deafness usually sees higher pitches lost first. You may notice a dog will respond to a deep command but will not call when called in a high voice. This is degenerative and irreversible.
  • Ototoxicity is when a toxin causes damage to the inner ear, either the cochlea or the vestibular system. There are several medications that have been linked to ototoxicity. The most notable of these commonly used by veterinarians are gentamicin (for ear infections), cisplatin (chemotherapy), and furosemide (diuretic for hypertension and edema). This condition is permanent.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. This damage would be permanent.
  • Otitis interna is an inner ear infection. This infection is typically a result of chronic ear infections. Bacteria sneaks passed the dog’s natural defenses and a mucus from the infection blocks sound waves. If you suspect your dog has an inner ear infection, seek a veterinarian immediately. In addition to the symptoms listed below with an inner ear infection your dog my also present with dizziness, falling over, leaning to one side, and walking in circles.

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What Are The Symptoms?

  • Failure to respond to noise
  • Excessive barking
  • Confusion when given vocal commands
  • Lack of ear movement
  • Getting scared easily

Is it Life Threatening?


Are You Covered When Your Pup Gets Sick?

How is It Diagnosed?

A veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your dog including the ear. Further testing may be needed in the form of x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or neurological exams to reveal any underlying conditions affecting your dog’s hearing. The best method for testing is the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test.

This test measures the electrical activity in the cochlea and the brain’s auditory pathways. Access to this technology is not widespread, so while the best method, you may not find it available.

What Are The Treatments?

Bacterial infections can be treated with an antibiotic. Infections that cause blockages can be handled surgically. All other forms of deafness will be permanent.

You will still be able to communicate with your dog, you will just have to modify your lifestyle.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.

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