What dogs are at the greatest risk for being born deaf?

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Congenital deafness, which means the condition is present at birth, is particularly prevalent among Dalmatians, Border Collies, English Setters, Bull Terriers, Collies, Old English Sheepdogs and Rottweilers. It’s been shown that prevention isn’t as simple as removing a deaf dog from the breeding cycle; a dog can hear perfectly and still give birth to a deaf puppy.

Deafness is caused by defects in the cells, nerves and/or tissues responsible for conduction and interpretation of sound. It’s not known whether this is a genetic issue.

Congenital deafness is also associated with incomplete pigmentation of the hair coat, especially on the head and around the ears. Dogs with predominantly white or speckled coats have an increased risk of congenital deafness, especially if their heads are entirely or mostly white.

However, it’s important to note that deafness can occur at any point in a dog’s life. It can be a temporary or permanent situation, and can be the result of wax build-up, infection, injury or old age. Wax build-up is more frequent in dogs with narrow ear canals, such as the Poodle, or in dogs with a lot of hair around the ear. In these dogs, the hair attracts the wax, which eventually forms a “plug.” The best prevention is to always keep your dog’s ear canals clean and schedule frequent check-ups with the vet.

If you notice any of the following, it could indicate that your dog may be experiencing some hearing loss, and a trip to the vet would be warranted:

  • Your dog doesn’t know you’re in the room until you physically touch them.
  • Your dog turns the wrong way when you call.
  • The dog does not show a response to ringing doorbells, barking dogs or other     noises.
  • The dog seems confused when given familiar vocal commands.
  • The dog barks excessively and/or has consistent head shakes.
  • The dog paws at his ears.
  • A smelly discharge comes from the dog’s ears and/or they seem itchy.

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