Although deafness in dogs and cats is not a dangerous condition, early detection and proper treatment is absolutely necessary for the well being of your pets. In most cases the first sign of deafness is when pets stop responding to commands or loud noises.
The progress of deafness in dogs is usually slow. Moreover dogs try to compensate the hearing loss with their other sharp symptoms which is the reason why most pet owners fail to detect their pet's deafness in time.
Dogs in the early stages of deafness are confused or unsure of the commands and as the poorness progresses they slowly stop responding to commands altogether. Some of the other symptoms are sleeping for prolonged periods, waking only when touched physically, responding only to commands that are given when they can see you, continuing shaking of their head and pawing at their ears.
There are two types of deafness in pets: conductive and sensorineural. Conductive deafness is caused mostly due to some abnormalities in the outer ear, middle ear, ear canal or the eardrum. This type of deafness can also be caused by excessive build up of ear wax or severe ear infections. Conductive deafness usually causes only partial hearing loss in pets and can be resolved by medical or surgical treatments.
The sensorineural type most often results in total hearing loss and involves the inner ear of pets and is caused due to abnormalities in the nerves present in the inner ear or in the brain.
Deafness in pets can also be hereditary in nature. Certain breeds like Dalmatians, border coolies and Boston terriers are more prone to hereditary deafness than other breeds. Cats that inherit white coat genes and blue iris genes are predisposed to deafness and similarly, dogs that inherit the merle coat gene are at higher risk.
Hearing loss can also be unilateral or bilateral when it occurs in one or both ears respectively. Unilateral or partial deafness is hard to detect in pets without the help of specialized diagnostic equipments. Typically, deafness in dogs and cats can be confirmed only with their response to commands or other sounds. Consult your vet immediately for a complete ear and neurologic examination if you think that your pet is having hearing problems.
Other diagnostic procedures include the BAER Test or Brainstorm Auditory Evoked Response Test that employs electrodes to determine the neuro-electrical activities in the brain that are associated with hearing.
Treatment for deafness will depend on the outcome of the physical and other diagnostic tests. For pets suffering from construction deafness the problem can be easily solved by cleaning which must be done only by professionals. If deafness is due to ear infections then your vet may prescribe antibiotic. For sensorineural type of deafness treatment options include medications and surgical procedures. While hearing aids can also be used to resolve deafness in pets, most pets are not comfortable with them.
Home care is an important part of treatment of deafness in pets. Make sure that the prescribed medications are given in a timely and appropriate manner. If the problem is irreversible then it is very important to teach your pet the necessary skills that it requires to be safe.