Probably. The most common form of deafness in us dogs is congenital, i.e., deafness at the time of birth. Almost always, the problem is inherited.
Congenital deafness occurs in 14.5 percent of blue heelers, also known as Australian cattle dogs. Only Dalmatians, with a rate of 30 percent, surpass heelers in the prevalence of deafness in one or both ears.
Deafness in dogs is associated with certain coat colors and patterns, particularly white, merle/dappled and piebald/spotted. Many deaf dogs also have pale irises. Geneticists believe the genes for these traits lie near one another on canine chromosomes.
Only 2.4 percent of heelers are deaf in both ears, like your dog. The remaining 12.1 percent, often referred to by breeders as “uni’s,” are deaf in just one ear.
Dogs that are unilaterally deaf can’t locate sound well. If someone standing out of sight makes noise, the dog looks around, trying to find the person. In contrast, a dog with normal hearing looks directly toward the sound’s source.
Dogs deaf in one or both ears can transmit the genes to their offspring, so it’s important not to breed them.
The hearing of each of your dog’s parents should be evaluated before either is bred again. The most common test, the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test, can determine if a dog is deaf in one or both ears.
The BAER test, usually conducted by a veterinary specialist, can be done as early as six to eight weeks of age, before a puppy is sold. If you’re looking for a puppy to breed, be sure she is BAER tested before you buy her.
Have your deaf heeler spayed to prevent an unwanted litter and keep her healthy. If you need help training her, visit our Web site at www.askthevetspets.com and search on the word “deaf.”