A Deaf Dog Can Live a Happy Life — With a Little Help

Dalmatian on a leash
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Nothing ever gets a good dog down. As a veterinarian, I’ve seen it time and time again: dogs with handicaps find a way to not only cope but to live joyously. How others see them doesn’t matter. They find their way and live each day with joy that is infectious. When we care, they share.

Amazing the lessons we can learn from our dogs, don’t you think?

I’ve met some dogs coping incredibly well with all kinds of handicaps, including Faith, the dog who was born without her front legs. Faith is an inspiration to people — and pet owners — around the world. But more commonly, I see pet owners wondering how they can help their dogs cope with more common conditions, such as deafness. I love to reassure them that their dogs can and will do just fine with their help.

Deafness Comes in Different Ways

This condition can be broken down into three categories:

  • Congenital. Although any dog (like any person) can be born deaf, congenital deafness is most common in dogs with white, piebald or merle markings, notably in breeds such as the Dalmatian. While it was once common practice for dogs who were born deaf in both ears to be euthanized, that’s no longer the case thanks to people who have shown that deaf dogs can be raised and trained to be good family pets.
  • Illness or injury. Loud noises or other injury to the ear can cause deafness, as can some medications. Chronic, severe ear infections can damage hearing as well. In some cases temporary hearing loss can be treated with medication or the “tincture of time” to restore full function.
  • Old age. In aging dogs, as in aging people, gradual hearing loss is common. In many cases people will not notice a dog’s hearing loss until it’s severe. That’s often because dogs are very keyed in to us and can adjust to this change, observing body language and using other senses to keep up with normal household activities.
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