How to tell if your dog is deaf - and how to help

All dog owners want to make sure their pooch stays happy and healthy throughout their lives, but one ailment that can go undetected is hearing loss in dogs. Some dogs are born deaf while others lose their hearing from injury, illness or old age. Regardless of the reason, owners need to watch out for several signs that might mean their canine companion is struggling with hearing issues.

What are the signs of deafness in dogs?

There are several signs that might indicate that your dog may be struggling to hear as they once did. Even if you think your dog’s hearing is fine, it’s always good to be aware of these behaviours for any future problems.

  • Changes in obedience
  • Becoming unresponsive to noises they usually react to (doorbell, hoover, etc.)
  • Excessive barking
  • Failing to respond when called
  • Difficult to wake up from sleep
  • Shaking or tilting their head
  • Pus or discharge from the ear
  • An unpleasant smell coming from the ear

What are the signs of deafness in puppies?

It can be harder to determine deafness in puppies as you are still learning about your pup and their unique behaviours as they grow and might be a little distracted by their cuteness! But there are a couple of simple tests you can perform at home so that you can tell your vet about any concerns you might have about their hearing.

Observe your puppy

Simply watch your puppy as they walk around the house. If they don’t turn their ears toward the sounds to help determine its cause, your pup could be deaf.

Play with noisy toys

While your pup is resting, shake some keys or play with a squeaky toy away from their view to see if they come running to the sound. A deaf puppy tends not to react to "exciting" sounds or voices.

Your vet will conduct their own tests following your concerns and any evidence you’ve collected since having your puppy.

Ways to help a dog with hearing loss

Discovering that your dog has hearing difficulties can be worrying, but they can still live a full and happy life as long as you help them every step of the way.

Go to the vets

If you’re concerned about your dog’s hearing or notice a change in their behaviour, it’s important you take them to your vet for a check-up as it could be something as simple as an ear infection that’s causing temporary deafness.

A dog at the vets

Keep them safe

If your dog is deaf, they won’t be able to hear any potential dangers that could be around them, such as passing cars or other animals. Keeping your dog on a lead during walks will help them stay safe as you’re able to help them navigate their surroundings.

Teach hand signals

Dogs can learn hand signals very quickly, with these easy gestures letting them know what you’d like them to do. Designate a hand signal for each trick (sit, lie down, stay) and give them a treat every time they do it. They’ll soon realise that they’re rewarded for a certain behaviour following the signal, it’s just like teaching a hearing dog!

Provide a warning

Collars or harnesses that tell other owners or people around that your dog is deaf can be a good way of making others aware of your pooch’s condition and helping you ensure they stay safe.

Know where they are

Certain pet trackers can be fitted onto your dog’s collar so that you can know where they are at all times. Or you could tie a bell to their collar so that you can hear them around the home and garden so you can locate them more easily!

Try not to startle

When your dog is sleeping, it’s important that you approach them from the front to avoid startling them. If they’re lying on the floor, stamping your feet can help announce your arrival as they’ll be able to feel the vibrations while switching the lights on and off can also let them know that you’re around.

Remember: If you're beginning to notice that your dog isn't responding to your calls or is slow to react to sounds it’s important to speak to a veterinary professional so that they can be properly diagnosed.

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