Deafness in Rottweilers

Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Folkhalsan Research Center have located the variant in the LOXHD1 gene that causes deafness in Rottweilers. This type of deafness starts in puppyhood and progresses until the puppy is a few months old. The gene plays a key role in the function of the cilia of the cochlear sensory cells. Both humans and mice suffer from the same type of deafness.

The researchers also found deafness in mixed breed dogs that were part Rottweiler. The availability to test for the defect will help breeders avoid spreading this inherited deafness. Since this is a recessive issue, it will only occur in puppies if both the dam and sire have the gene.

Eradicating the defect will take the cooperation of all Rottie breeders. Those dogs that are mixed bred should not be used for breeding.

Author’s Note: It can be difficult to determine if a puppy can hear or not. Realize that dogs can feel sound, so it is important to carefully observe your puppy to determine if he is deaf. Especially if the puppy reacts to sound before he becomes totally deaf. To help dog owners determine if their puppy is deaf watch for a few signs. First, note if the puppy/dog only responds when he sees you. Do not assume if your puppy does not obey that he is being stubborn. Try clapping your hands behind the puppy when he cannot see you. If he does not react in any way, he may be deaf. A deaf dog will bark but usually only if he sees something. Watch to see if your dog looks at you or watches you more than usual. Remember that a deaf dog will rely on his other senses to navigate his world. You can successfully train a deaf dog but when they are in an unconfined area, they must be on a leash. A deaf dog is just as tempted to chase things, wander and stray as any other dog. Find a dog trainer that has experience training a deaf dog for help. If you suspect that your puppy is deaf, make an appointment with a veterinarian neurologist to have your dog tested so that you will know for sure if your dog is deaf or not. But most important, understand that a deaf dog can have a very safe and happy life.  

Dogs suffer from hearing loss

A recent study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confirmed that dogs can suffer from hearing loss the same as humans. What is important about this study is it shows that dogs can suffer from hearing loss due to loud noises. This is especially important for people who use dogs to hunt, and dogs that must work around loud noise such as airports and other types law enforcement jobs.

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If dogs must work around loud noise, you can get them Mutt Muffs, earmuffs designed for dogs. This will help prevent deafness due to loud noise.

The other causes of hearing loss are disease, inflammation, aging and hereditary (congenital). The breeds and individuals that have the Merle, piebald, and harlequin coloration are more likely to have congenital deafness. For example about 30% of Dalmatians are born with partial to total deafness. There are about 30 breeds of dogs that suffer from deafness due to genetics.

If you plan to get a puppy from one of the breeds that have a high instance of deafness, you can get a Baer test done to determine if the puppy has a hearing problem.

Better breeding can help reduce congenital deafness in dogs. If breeders avoid breeding dogs with the Merle gene, or who are deaf already, in time the instance of deafness will be reduced. In breeds where the Merle gene is not predominant, avoid breeding dogs that have the Merle coloration.

If you notice a change in your dog’s response to your commands, have him checked by your veterinarian to determine that your dog does not have an infection which is causing a hearing loss.

Most importantly, be aware if your aging dog starts to lose hearing, you will have to watch and be careful that your dog does not become injured because he cannot hear the approach of cars and other dangers. With care, a deaf dog or a hearing-impaired dog can life a long, healthy and safe life.