5 Things to Know About Deafness in Dogs and Cats
If you’ve noticed that your dog or cat is a bit slow to respond to your voice, it could be the result of deafness. Like humans, pets are prone to this issue for many different reasons. It can be hard to know why your pet is deaf — and it can be harder still to know how to deal with it. Here are some tips to help you identify and deal with a cat or dog who is deaf.
1. Age can have a lot to do with deafness
Aging in animals can present similar issues to what humans may deal with, like hearing loss or complete deafness altogether. It’s hard for pets, because they can’t just ask you to speak louder. This type of hearing loss is known as “sensorineural hearing loss.” It typically occurs when sensory hairs within the cochlea of the inner ear are missing or damaged. Dogs commonly experience this at around 12-15 years of age, and with cats at around 7-11 years of age.
2. Deaf cats and dogs may be more irritable and prone to accidents
When cats or dogs are missing one of their vital senses, like hearing, they can easily feel vulnerable and threatened. As a result, they may appear irritable and can act impulsively. A deaf cat may lash out, while a deaf dog may bark or bite out of fear.
Deaf pets are also more likely to get into accidents for the simple fact that they can’t hear a potential hazard near them. Owners need to be cautious with their pet around things like lawnmowers, cars, and even other animals. There are certain methods (explained further down) which you can try to train your pet to respond to things without causing harm to themselves or others.
3. Certain dog breeds are more prone to deafness
According to a study completed by Dr. George M. Strain at the Louisiana State University, the dog breeds that are most prone to deafness include:
• Bull Terrier
• English Setter
• English Cocker Spaniel
• Australian Cockle Dog
Aside from these breeds, dogs that have merle coats are also more prone to deafness. Certain types of cats with dominant white fur genes and blue eyes are also prone to deafness. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for deafness, but the management of a deaf pet’s behavior can ensure they still live a full and happy life.
4. You can still train a deaf dog
Training a deaf dog requires commitment, patience and a lot of re-learning. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
• You’ll need to use hand signals to teach them tricks or respond to commands. Keep these simple and incorporate treats to help them learn faster. In fact, as dogs are very receptive to body language, they may learn these commands a lot sooner than you think.
• Use vibrations or touch to get your dog’s attention. Simply stomp on the ground or touch them lightly to get their attention and respond to commands.
• If your dog is easily startled, try training them to respond calmly in the way you want – just as if you were teaching them to sit or lay down. One way you can do this is by walking quietly behind them, touching them gently on the back and if they turn around calmly, you can pop a treat in their mouth as a reward.
5. Not all deafness is permanent
In some cases, the cause of deafness may be the result of something curable. Some of these situations include:
• An ear infection in one or both ears
• Reaction to certain medications
• Foreign bodies
• Head trauma
• Loud sustained noise
In these cases, a visit to your local veterinarian should get these issues resolved. With treatment, your dog or cat’s hearing should return to normal.
Deafness in your pet can be a tricky thing to deal with – but it shouldn’t stop you from having a great relationship with them. A deaf dog or cat can still enjoy a happy life — so it’s important they continue to receive your devoted love and care.