Just like humans, dogs can experience hearing loss for any number of reasons. Dogs may be born deaf (congenitally deaf) or become deaf due to poor ear care or ear mites and wax. They can also experience deafness due to an ear canal infection or inflammation, or from trauma to the ear or head. Also they can experience drug-related (antibiotics, etc.,) deafness, as well as hearing loss from noise trauma and old age. Lastly, dogs can lose their hearing due to illness. Here’s how diabetes can affect your dog’s hearing.
Does A Dog’s Breed Play A Role In Diabetes? Yes
While not 100% of an indicator, there are certain dog breeds that are more prone to diabetes. These are, from the highest to lowest risk are: Australian Terrier, Bichon Frise, Cairn Terrier, Fox Terrier, Finnish, Keeshond, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Spitz, Standard Schnauzer, and Toy Poodle.
The Bottom Line: How Diabetes Can Affect Your Dog’s Hearing
Research indicates that approximately 1 in 200 dogs will develop diabetes (source). However, just like with humans, it is not exactly known why hearing loss is common among dogs with diabetes. Current thought is that diabetes can affect your dog’s hearing due to neuropathy (nerve damage). Neuropathy is common in mammals with diabetes.
There’s been a lot of research on the topic of hearing loss due to diabetes, and current findings point to prolonged high blood glucose levels. This affects the supply of blood (carrying oxygen) to the very small nerves and blood vessels of your dog’s inner ear. Given enough time with diabetes, your dog’s ear/hearing nerves and blood vessels become damaged, affecting their ability to hear.
What Are The Signs Of Hearing Loss?
Diabetes can affect your dog’s hearing in a gradual way. So slow in fact that you may not notice it. But, there are things you can look for – and if you start to notice one or more of these signs it could indicate hearing issues or deafness. It’s helpful to perform quarterly hearing tests with your dog: gently tap on things and watch to ensure they respond to the sounds. Do this quietly and make sounds on each side of your dog’s head to focus on each of their ears.
Signs of hearing loss include:
- Change in attentiveness or obedience.
- Confusion or lack of ability when following familiar vocal commands.
- Barking for no reason or for prolonged time.
- Slow to or has difficulty waking up.
- Head shakes or tilting, particularly in a repetitive manner.
- Smelly ears with or without discharge or pain.
- Personality changes.
When Should You Take Your Dog To See The Vet About Potential Deafness?
When you take your dog to their annual exam, make sure that your vet performs a hearing test. Also, ask them to check their ear health. While you should look in your dog’s ear with regularity, it’s always good to have someone with a clinical background confirm your dog’s ear health. Also, take your dog to see their veterinarian if you:
- Failed the hearing test described above.
- Sign of an ear infection.
- Notice any of the signs of hearing loss from the above list.
- Note a sudden hearing loss in one or both ears.
Ways To Help Your Diabetic Dog Retain Their Hearing
One of the key ways you can help protect your dog’s hearing is through proper nutrition. While some dogs may be on diabetes medication, the goal for nutrition is to keep your dog’s blood glucose levels close to normal (between 65 and 120 mg/dl). Most veterinarians recommend a diet low in fat and high in fiber – this will help keep your dog’s blood sugar levels stable. Avoid moist, pre-packaged meals as they are high in carbohydrates.
Another way to help fend off diabetes-based deafness is through exercise. This is because exercise is great for weight management, and it lowers blood glucose levels. The key is to be consistent and within normal exertion levels. Unusually long or vigorous exercise sessions can cause blood glucose levels to drop dangerously low.
Lastly, it’s important to note that your diabetic dog’s hearing is precious – and needs to be protected. The best way to do that is to buffer all loud noises for your dog. This includes minimizing your dog’s exposure to fireworks, thunder, construction/remodeling, lawn equipment, hunting guns, and other noises that can cause hearing trauma.