Whether you have a puppy or an adult, hearing problems can arise at any age. It can be congenital, meaning present at birth, or your dog may become hard of hearing or deaf some point in his life.
Hearing loss during your dog’s lifetime can be temporary or permanent. Wax build-up, ear infections, old age, and injuries can cause loss of hearing in one or both ears. Things such as antibiotics, antiseptics, and chemotherapy drugs, along with toxins (lead, arsenic, mercury), and even the products used to break down wax build-up, can also cause hearing loss (www.petmd.com).
Certain breeds (over 30) are more susceptible to hearing problems. According to Petmd.com the main ones are:
– Australian Shepherd
– Boston Terrier
– Cocker Spaniel
– German Shepherd
– Jack Russell Terrier
– Toy Poodle
– Miniature Poodle
– West Highland White Terrier
So if you own one of these breeds, pay particular attention to your dog’s hearing. When choosing a breeder, ask if they have any hearing problems in the ancestry and to what extent so you know if there is a high risk for congenital defects. A responsible breeder will not be breeding dogs with congenital hearing loss.
Although it seems obvious, it can actually be hard for pet owners to notice if their dog is deaf or hard of hearing. I have had dogs come to me for training because the owners claimed they were stubborn – refusing to come or listen to any cue. They ended up being deaf or hard of hearing. They weren’t refusing, they couldn’t hear their owner asking!
– Doesn’t “start” at loud or unexpected noises
– Doesn’t respond to cues
– Doesn’t turn his head at sounds – familiar or unfamiliar
– Doesn’t respond to the squeak of a toy he can’t see
– Painful ears
– Head shaking
– Excessive barking (he can’t hear it!)
– Strong odor and discharge from ears (sign of a serious infection)
– Sleeps through loud noises, his name, etc. (Do you have to touch your dog to wake him up?)
Less common symptoms can include timidity, anxiousness, and snapping/biting when you touch them from behind (because they can’t hear you coming). I would say if you notice any of the above symptoms, take your dog in for a hearing check, as soon possible. It could be something as simple as wax-build up or it could be a serious ear infection. Depending on the cause, you may be able to save your dog’s hearing, but time is of the essence in these cases.
In addition, you may save yourself a lot of training frustration, and just imagine what your poor dog is going through, especially if you have been correcting him for not listening or paying attention to you.
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