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Senior dog loses his hearing

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Q: I have a 40 or so pound short-legged mutt, healthy and reasonably active for his entire life that is now about 12 years old. He appears to have gone from functional hearing to completely deaf in the last six to 12 months. No trauma, no apparent illness, no rock band practice sessions at home. Does that sound odd? It seemed to come on very quickly, but it occurs to me that conditions may appear to advance more rapidly in animals with much shorter life spans than us humans. The funny thing is that he’s always had selective hearing — he could formerly hear “cookie” from half a mile away, but “come” rarely registered at any range. Is it fair to assume that older dogs or animals can lose their hearing just like humans? Other than his hearing loss, he seems to be in good shape and still seems to enjoy his life with a good appetite and regular walks. He is just about due for his annual visit to the vet, and I wonder if there is any testing that can be done or is it even necessary at this point? I guess getting old is no picnic for any species.

A: It does not sound odd at all. Just as in humans, older dogs can have hearing losses that can be gradual, or even acute. There are many possible causes for hearing loss in dogs. In old dogs, this is usually attributed to naturally occurring degeneration of nervous tissue in the ear or the hearing center in the brain. Some breeds are more prone than others to hearing issues and Dalmatians historically have had hearing problems. All species can develop hearing loss associated with aging and your dog and we are no different. Your thought that it advances more rapidly in those species with shorter life spans than humans is not necessarily correct. Older dogs sometimes also develop selective hearing just like old timers might. Jokes abound with respect to selective hearing, but true hearing loss is no joke.

In the absence of smell or discharge from the ear, there is probably no more serious issue going on other than old age hearing loss, but I would still have a thorough examination done to be sure there is nothing systemic going on or something that can be addressed, but it sounds unlikely. As for testing, some veterinary specialty hospitals may be able to offer the BAER test to determine with certainty as to your dog’s hearing loss but restoring the hearing is unlikely anyways. You should consider retraining your dog with hand signals to keep him safe and to achieve the responses you may want. Getting old is no picnic but you can still enjoy your dog!


Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.



Q: I have a 40 or so pound short-legged mutt, healthy and reasonably active for his entire life that is now about 12 years old. He appears to have gone from functional hearing to completely deaf in the last six to 12 months. No trauma, no apparent illness, no rock band practice sessions at home. Does that sound odd? It seemed to come on very quickly, but it occurs to me that conditions may appear to advance more rapidly in animals with much shorter life spans than us humans. The funny thing is that he’s always had selective hearing — he could formerly hear “cookie” from half a mile away, but “come” rarely registered at any range. Is it fair to assume that older dogs or animals can lose their hearing just like humans? Other than his hearing loss, he seems to be in good shape and still seems to enjoy his life with a good appetite and regular walks. He is just about due for his annual visit to the vet, and I wonder if there is any testing that can be done or is it even necessary at this point? I guess getting old is no picnic for any species.

A: It does not sound odd at all. Just as in humans, older dogs can have hearing losses that can be gradual, or even acute. There are many possible causes for hearing loss in dogs. In old dogs, this is usually attributed to naturally occurring degeneration of nervous tissue in the ear or the hearing center in the brain. Some breeds are more prone than others to hearing issues and Dalmatians historically have had hearing problems. All species can develop hearing loss associated with aging and your dog and we are no different. Your thought that it advances more rapidly in those species with shorter life spans than humans is not necessarily correct. Older dogs sometimes also develop selective hearing just like old timers might. Jokes abound with respect to selective hearing, but true hearing loss is no joke.

In the absence of smell or discharge from the ear, there is probably no more serious issue going on other than old age hearing loss, but I would still have a thorough examination done to be sure there is nothing systemic going on or something that can be addressed, but it sounds unlikely. As for testing, some veterinary specialty hospitals may be able to offer the BAER test to determine with certainty as to your dog’s hearing loss but restoring the hearing is unlikely anyways. You should consider retraining your dog with hand signals to keep him safe and to achieve the responses you may want. Getting old is no picnic but you can still enjoy your dog!


Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.

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