Depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. A human has 5 million scent glands, as compared to a dog that has 125 million to 300 million. When a dog smells something, it can tell a lot about it; it’s almost like reading a book—where the object has been, what it has eaten, what it has touched, etc. Deaf dogs rely on their nose and eyes, and those senses become even more sensitive. It is important when grooming a deaf dog not to cut off its whiskers, as dogs use these to sense the distance of things around them.
When a dog gets old, it may begin to lose its eyesight and ability to hear. While this may be traumatic for you to witness, it is much more stressful on the dog. Imagine suddenly not being able to hear familiar noises, find things around the house, or see who is approaching you.
Deafness refers to the lack/ loss of an animal’s ability to hear, this can either be complete or partial loss. If the dog is deaf at birth, it will be very apparent to you at a young age.
More than 30 breeds of dogs have a known susceptibility for deafness, including the Australian shepherd, Boston terrier, cocker spaniel, Dalmatian, German shepherd, Jack Russell terrier, Maltese, toy and miniature poodle, and West Highland white terrier. Typically, it is more common in senior dogs.
Dogs that are undergoing hearing loss may appear disobedient and ignorant of commands. A dog with extreme hearing loss will not typically respond if you snap your fingers next to its ears or make an unfamiliar noise that typically warrants a reaction. A dog’s ears tend to move around and twitch as they take in sounds around them. If a dog has ears that remain still, this could be a sign that they are going deaf.
Dogs typically show more obvious symptoms of hearing loss than do cats. Of course, it is easier to identify deafness in a dog born without hearing than in one who develops deafness gradually. In either case, signs of deafness include:
- Overly aggressive behavior with littermates (young puppy with congenital deafness)
- Sleeping more than typical for a dog of its age and breed
- Lack of response to squeaky toys
- Tendency to startle and/or snap when physically roused from sleep or rest
- Lack of response to auditory stimuli, especially when the dog is not looking (voice commands, shouting, clapping hands, whistling, barking, doorbells, etc.)
- Exaggerated response to physical stimuli (touch, floor or ground vibration, wind)
- Tendency to startle and/or snap when touched from behind or outside of its field of vision
- Disorientation, confusion, agitation in otherwise familiar circumstances
- Decreased activity level
- Difficulty arousing from sleep
- Unusual vocal sound
- Not awakening from sleep in response to auditory stimuli (voice commands, clapping, whistling, other sounds)
- Gradual decline in response to own name and known voice commands
- Excessive barking for a dog of its age and breed.