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  • Deb Bauer

Are All White Dogs Born Deaf?

Today kicks off Deaf Dog Awareness Week! Of course, this week is very near and dear to my heart, as I’ve worked with and lived with deaf dogs for over 30 years.

Deafness in dogs is a relatively common occurrence. Many of us are first introduced to living with a deaf dog when our beloved dog becomes older. Many senior dogs begin to lose their hearing from the natural process of aging.

Some dogs may lose their hearing from an injury or an infection. And many other dogs are deaf from birth. There is a myth that all white dogs are deaf. While this may often be true, it certainly is not always true.

When I was first learning about deaf dogs, a veterinarian explained it to me this way:

There are cells called melanocytes that create pigment in the body - this is what causes coloring. The lack of these cells will mean there is no pigment in that area of the body (this can lead to the color we see as white).

People often think if a dog’s ears are white, the dog will be deaf. But what’s really important is whether those pigment cells are present way down inside the inner ear, where we can’t easily see. Without the pigment cells in that area, the nerve endings won’t develop properly - and neither will the dog’s hearing.

Pigment is important for the development of the nerve endings that allow the dog to develop normal hearing. But the color of the outside of the ear is not a good way to predict deafness. An ear may appear white, but there could still be enough pigment cells in the inner ear to allow hearing to develop.

Deafness is known to be more common in some breeds than others. It is also a known problem in mixing some of the popular designer mixed breeds and can also be linked to genetics surrounding dogs with the merle color pattern.

Please check out my website for more information and resources.

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