How to Tell if a Puppy is Deaf

How To Tell If a Puppy is Deaf
Photo by Manpreet Singh on Unsplash

Puppies are like children to most dog lovers and therefore as owners, we are always looking for ways to keep our puppies as healthy as possible. It’s very normal to feel overly obsessed with our pups during the first few years, as we feel that we have a responsibility to keep them safe and sound, and we will want to keep our little friends out of harm’s way.

If you feel that you are always thinking about their health and worrying about even the smallest of problems, then you aren’t alone! This is very normal. Responsible owners are always on the lookout for any problems and treat them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, not all health problems are easily detectable and a very common concern among owners is deafness. This is why dog owners often wonder how to tell whether their puppy is deaf and the signs to look out for – as it’s not commonly discussed or known.

It can be a scary thought to think that your puppy may be deaf, but we’ve covered everything you need to know in this article to ease any worries, and give you the information you need to seek professional help.

How do you know if a puppy is deaf?

You may have concerns already or are just checking to make sure that your puppy is all OK, so we’ve covered everything below for you to help detect deafness in puppies.

Symptoms of deafness in puppies

Deafness in puppies is very tricky to detect, as they can’t tell us, so we will need to look out for the signs. It can be easier if you know all of the different symptoms of deafness in puppies.

First and foremost, the first sign of deafness in puppies is when they stop responding to your commands and calls. It could be that they never responded in the first place, or over time, have started to respond less. If the latter, this could signal deafness that’s impacting them over time, rather than an abnormality that they were born with. If your puppy isn’t responding from the get-go, it could be that they were born deaf.

Picture of puppy not listening to commands
Photo by Manpreet Singh on Unsplash

Puppies, especially those undergoing training, don’t ignore commands; therefore, it can be a sign of deafness in your puppy if they aren’t responding or reacting.

A quick test that you can conduct to check whether your puppy is able to hear your commands or not is to stand in the opposite direction of your puppy and clap loudly. If your puppy fails to show any response to your claps, then you should immediately book an appointment with your vet. 

Below are some additional symptoms of deafness in puppies that owners should be aware of:

  • Excessive barking
  • Tilting their head continuously
  • Sleepiness
  • Easily startled
  • Lack of any response to sounds
  • Confusion when given commands
  • Lack of ear movement

Is there a hearing test that a puppy can take?

Yes, puppies are able to take a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test (BAER) to test their hearing capabilities.

In this test, electrodes are placed on your puppies head, which are completely harmless, and then light stimuli are sent through the earpieces placed in the pup’s ears. This test aims to observe electrical activity in the cochlea of the ears. This test is also used to map the auditory routes of the brain. This test has been proven to be the best method to tell if a pup is deaf or not.

This test is completely harmless and won’t cause any pain to your puppy, it is very safe.

If you have any concerns regarding this test, you should raise them with your veterinarian beforehand and they will be able to reassure you.

Can puppies go deaf?

Yes, it’s very possible for puppies to become deaf. In fact, here is a statistic provided by the American Kennel Club of how many deaf dogs there are in the United States. 

“It is estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from deafness, either in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).”

American Kennel Club

Deafness in puppies may be present at birth, however, there are some cases where puppies can develop hearing loss, that could eventually lead to them being deaf. This could be a result of an untreated infection, the degeneration of the cochlea (the organ responsible for hearing) or significant trauma to the ear (loud noises that damage their ear drum).

It’s important to note that dogs are known to have more sensitive hearing than humans, and this allows them to hear sounds from far away, know the source of a sound and its location, and be able to differentiate between different sounds. Their eardrums are very sensitive, so if something seems loud and uncomfortable to you, it’s very likely that it’s severely uncomfortable for your dog too. This should be kept in mind when playing loud music around you dog, or when taking them to busy environments.

If a puppy is deaf at birth, it was very likely inherited from the mother, or a result of a complication during the development process in the mothers womb. 

How do you know if a puppy is deaf?

The most noticeable symptom of a deaf puppy, or one that has significant hearing loss, is to say something and see if they respond to it. This could be their name or a loud noise to see if they react.

If you notice no ear movement and no initial reaction, it could be very possible that they have difficulty hearing, or no hearing at all.

If you suspect hearing loss in your puppy, you should contact a veterinarian and they will be able to perform tests.

How can you care for a deaf puppy?

Just because a puppy is deaf, doesn’t mean they can’t have a normal life. It’s very possible to live a fulfilling life if they receive the required care, attention and training from their owners.

Picture of puppy
Photo by Connor Home on Unsplash

Below are some considerations to make when caring for a deaf puppy:

  • Never leave them alone in unfamiliar situations;
  • Keep them on a leash, as they are easily startled, which might lead them to run away;
  • Try not to touch them unexpectedly, as this can scare them;
  • Consider teaching them hand signs;
  • Let them know when you plan to leave the room or house – make sure they see you leave to ease any worries or separation anxiety.

Deaf dogs won’t hear you coming, so it’s important to not approach them from behind, or make any unexpected movements when you are near them. As humans, we are able to sense when we are about to be touched, due to our ability to hear nearby sounds, but when an animal is deaf, they aren’t able to know that you are coming nearby. Sudden movements will scare them.

A great way to ease the anxiety of touching them is to make sure they can see you, and gently touch them in an area that isn’t sensitive, like the foot. Once you have touched them, smile and reward them with a treat. Repeat this a few times over the course of a week or so, and this will help ease any anxiety of being touched.

Conclusion: How you can tell if a Puppy is deaf

Puppies that are deaf can have fun and fulfilling lives, but require special care and attention to keep them safe.

If you suspect that your puppy is deaf, or is suffering from hearing loss, you should take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible, they will be able to conduct a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test (BAER).

The most obvious sign of deafness is not responding to commands, or reacting when you say their name. If you notice this, as well as excessive barking, tilt of their head, and being surprised when you touch them, could indicate trouble hearing.

It’s always worth having your puppy checked by a professional veterinarian if you have concerns.

How To Tell if a Puppy is Deaf by Miniature Friends
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