Deafness in dogs

Deafness in dogs

Deafness in dogs can be acquired or something that the puppy is born with. Congenital deafness (something the puppy is born with) can be genetic or caused by something that happened during foetal development such as an infection in the mother. Chronic infections and medications can bring on deafness in dogs, and age-related deafness is also very common – just as in dog owners.

Breed-specific deafness prevalence in dogs

Some dog breeds are more prone to congenital deafness than others. A study carried out on over 5000 Dalmatians did for instance show that nearly 22 percent of them were unilaterally deaf, and 8 percent bilaterally deaf. Another example of a dog breed with an elevated risk for deafness is the Bull Terrier. In this breed, white bull terriers are much more prone to deafness compared to coloured Bull Terriers.

Causes of sudden onset of deafness in dogs

When a dog suddenly goes deaf, it can be caused by a wide range of reasons. It should also be noted that the sudden deafness might not be as sudden as your think; dogs are good at compensating for a gradually decreasing hearing capacity and can keep the dog owner in the dark for long periods of time. One day the hearing loss will be so severe that it is no longer possible for the dog to compensate and the dog owner will think that the dog has “suddenly” turned deaf. Another important thing to keep in mind is that even a one sided problem can cause complete deafness, because the dog might have been deaf on one ear since birth without the owner ever noticing.

Ear inflammation

Infections of the middle or inner ear can lead to temporary or permanent deafness. Always consult a veterinarian in order to get the proper treatment for your dog and prevent deafness.

Infections in the middle ear of the dog can produce “crud” that stays there even after the infection has ended, and this material block the sound transmission and make the dog more or less deaf. Eventually, the body will remove this debris from the ear but it can take some time.


A lot of different drugs can cause deafness by destroying cochlear hair cells. (Such drugs can also make the dog unbalanced and make it walk in circles, tilt, etcetera.) Medications containing aminoglycoside antibiotics are one example of drugs capable of causing deafness. Examples of such antibiotic drugs include gentamicin, neomycin, kanamycin, and tobramycin. Due to this risk, these antibiotics are normally only used is very serious cases where the dog might die without this treatment.

Cleaning solutions containing chlorhexidine can produce deafness, but such cleaning solutions are no longer commonly used.


A loud noise can cause temporary or long-lasting hearing loss in dogs. In order to reduce the sound transmission into the sensitive inner ear, muscles in the middle ear of the dog will always contract by reflex. Very sudden noises – such as gun fire – are however too fast for the ear to react and the sensitive inner ear can suffer. Repeated exposure to gun fire, fireworks and similar can lead to cumulative hearing loss for the dog.

Ear problems in dogs: (click for more info)
Deafness in dogs
Ear infections in dogs
Fly strike dermatitis in dogs