Have you ever had a deaf Chihuahua? Unlike humans, deafness is a little harder to deal with since dogs can’t talk. Fortunately, dogs will pick up cues from us and can even learn a type of sign language.
Deafness is defined as partial or complete hearing loss. Levels of hearing impairment vary from mild to a total loss of hearing. Dogs of any breed can be affected with hearing loss or deafness from a variety of causes, but breeds with white pigmentation are most often affected. The Chihuahua is among the list of dog breeds that present congenital (at birth) deafness (Strain, G.M.)
• Congenital Deafness. Some dogs are born without the ability to hear in one or both ears. In these cases, the disease is inherited and irreversible. Congenital deafness is most commonly identified in dog breeds with white pigmentation and blue eye color; however, albinism is not usually associated with deafness.
• Obstructive Deafness. In this case, deafness or hearing loss results from obstruction of the sound transmission as a consequence of occlusion of the outer or middle ear. Otitis of the middle or external ear can cause an excessive build-up of earwax that occludes the outer and/or middle ear.
• Age-related Hearing Loss. As dogs age, it is common that they lose their hearing progressively and this is not related to trauma, genetics, or other diseases. Even though this occurs progressively, most owners perceive the hearing loss as an acute event because most animals only show signs of deafness when they have a complete loss of their hearing ability.
• Toxicity. Certain drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapeutics can cause hearing loss. The hearing loss may be reversible if diagnosed early but will, in most cases, result in permanent hearing deficits. Some of the drugs that may cause hearing issues are: aminoglycoside antibiotics, tetracyclines, ampicillin, chloramphenicol, cisplatin, vinblastine, vincristine, furosemide, benzalkonium chloride, digoxin, insulin, potassium bromide, prednisolone, and salicylates.
• Other Causes. Exposure to intense sounds may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Other possible causes of deafness are trauma, infection, anoxia, and anesthesia.
• He or she is unresponsiveness to everyday sounds
• Your Chihuahua turns the wrong way when you call him or her
• Your Chi does not wake up when there is a loud noise
• Constantly shakes his or her head
• Your dog doesn’t respond or seems confused when given familiar vocal commands.
• Excessive barking
• Your dog has itchy, painful ears
• A smelly discharge comes from his or her ears (could be a sign of ear infection)
If you identify any of the above signs you can test your dog’s hearing by stepping quietly behind him and clapping once loudly to check his/her response. Any deafness present in the dog at birth is irreversible and these dogs should not be bred but of course, they still can make great pets.
The treatment of temporary deafness depends on the cause. If hearing loss is caused by an inflammation of the ear it can be treated with antibiotics and analgesics. If your dog has wax build-up in his ears, he/she will need daily ear cleaning with a prescription wash.
Dogs that are genetically predisposed to deafness should not be bred. Appropriate ear hygiene and care are essential to prevent hearing loss. Whenever your dog is groomed you should clean the external ear (only the visible part of the ear) using a small gauze or cotton ball and mineral oil in order to prevent excessive earwax buildup. Whenever you visit your veterinarian, make sure that they check your Chihuahuas’ ears.
How Can Pet Parents Help Their Dogs With Hearing Loss?
• Deaf dogs can be trained to understand hand signals.
• A flashlight or laser penlight can be used to get your dog’s attention.
• Let your dog know that you are entering or leaving a room by tapping him/her gently on the back or shoulder.
• Never let a hearing-impaired dog go unleashed outside the house because they won’t be able to hear traffic.
So, have you had to deal with deafness in your Chihuahua or any other dog you have had? How did you handle it? Leave a comment and let us know!
ASPCA. Deafness. Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/deafness.
Strain, G.M. (2013). Deafness in Dogs and Cats. 2013 SAVMA Symposium, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, US.
Dr. Sara Ochoa
This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.