It is human nature for everyone to boast that they have the perfect family, including their pets. But sometimes life throws us a curveball and we have to adjust to make it the best possible. Our pets sometimes have impairments like deafness that make it harder for them to adjust to everyday life. During the third week of September we recognize this impairment as Deaf Dog Awareness Week. Whether it is congenital or acquired it can lead to frustrations in training the pet, which isn’t the pet’s fault.
Deafness can be caused by some hereditary issues which is known as congenital deafness. Hearing loss can also happen due to an ear infection, injury to the ear or it may be due to old age. Loud noises may also cause hearing loss, as can certain drugs.
Congenital deafness is most commonly related to the white coats of dogs. The white coats have unpigmented skin which produces white hair. If there is unpigmented skin in the inner ear, the nerve endings atrophy and die off in the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, resulting in deafness. This deafness can affect both ears or it can affect only one ear.
Early signs that your pet may be deaf is that it plays more aggressively or bites too hard because it is not deterred by the other puppy’s yelp of pain. It may not awaken during feeding time unless it feels vibrations or is bumped by a littermate. The owner may notice that it doesn’t respond to being called when sleeping, too far away or looking at you. There are several tests that you can do at home to assess that your pet is deaf, but the most reliable method is BAER testing. It is 100% reliable in determining if your pet is deaf. This test is a procedure using computers to record electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimulation.
Outside of the obvious physical defect, deaf dogs are just everyday normal dogs. They play, sleep, and share their lives with us as companions, but they just don’t hear. A person that discovers this will be often faced with many negative warnings from misinformed people but with proper training, your impaired pet can lead a happy and active life. There are very few health considerations that apply to all deaf dogs.
Most people think that they are hard to train which could not be farther from the truth. They just need to be trained with the positive reinforcement approach to training. Since they can not hear, they rely on using visual signs instead of sound. This can be an advantage, since they are more focused and doesn’t have the noise distractions from other pets in the class. They may need more available time spent with them to build a solid foundation for training. So a person that has little time to train them may not be a good match. It is also good to have them interact frequently with other people and dogs.
Since a deaf pet cannot hear, it may be best to take steps to assure their safety. To prevent them from running off, it is important to exercise them on a leash frequently or have them in a fenced area. There are vibration collars available that can aid in getting the dog’s attention to call them back with hand signals.
Pets are always perfect in our eyes, even though some of them are impaired to some degree. If you have any concerns or questions please feel free to contact us.