The Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort invested in a device that’s able to test deafness in dogs. Currently, the device tests 20-30 dogs per month.
“It’s important for dog breeders and people getting a puppy to make sure that there is no congenital deafness in the line, particularly in breeds that are more susceptible to it,” says the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital’s (OVAH) Dr Paolo Pazzi. “Other reasons for testing include owners who are concerned that the dog they have adopted is deaf, or if their elderly dog has become deaf.”
Congenital deafness means the dog is born deaf and it cannot be cured. There are no implants or operations available in veterinary science that can enable dogs to hear, the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort explains.
“If, however, the deafness is related to otitis externa (inflammation of the external ear canal, also called “swimmer’s ear” in humans), the deafness should resolve, if treated early enough and appropriately,” Dr Pazzi points out.
Dr Pazzi also confirmed that there is a way for a reliable test to be done called a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER). The device used is the American-manufactured UFI BAERCOM. It’s able to assess the dog’s level of hearing or deafness quickly, and without causing any pain or discomfort.
“We had an older, larger, clumsy device prior to this one as we have been doing deafness testing for some time, but it had become unreliable to the point that we could not do any BAER tests for about two years,” says Dr Pazzi who is also OVAH’s Small Animal Medicine section head and senior lecturer.
The BAER test detects electrical activity in the cochlea and auditory pathways in the brain. The puppy or dog is then lightly sedated as movement may interfere with the readings.
Small electrodes are placed on the dog’s head, connected to a device that reads and interprets the brain’s response to a clicking noise generated by it. Each ear is tested individually as a dog may only be deaf in one ear.
If they can hear in the ear, the machine’s screen shows a recording of waves, but if they are deaf the screen will show results of flat lines.
“Deafness in the dog – and cat – the population is low overall, but responsible breeders of predisposed breeds should ensure their puppies can hear and that deafness is not carried in their breeding lines,” says Dr Pazzi.
The Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort outlines that Congenital deafness is most commonly diagnosed in Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, Australian Cattle Dogs, English Setters, English Cocker Spaniels and Boston Terriers.
Dogs of this disability can be trained like hearing dogs using hand signals instead of speaking. There are many trainers who can assist with this.
If you are concerned about your pup or adult dog and would like to test for deafness, kindly contact the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital Small Animal Medicine clinic on 012 529 8302 or email [email protected] for more information.
Picture/s: Facebook / Faculty of Veterinary Science / Unsplash