Hereditary Deafness in Bull Terriers - Paw Talk - Pet Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thumbs up Hereditary Deafness in Bull Terriers

I thought I would re-type this article out of "Bully Breeds-All About America's Favorite Dogs" for Scarlette. This will be word for word and quite long, but I think you and others with Deaf Dogs will find it quite interesting:
Hereditary Deafness
Although it is neither life-threatening nor life-shortening, bilateral deafness can have dire consequences. According to George M. Strain, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, "Unilaterally deaf [deaf in one ear] dogs can make great pets; however, bilaterally deaf [deaf in both ears] dogs present unique training challenges to overcome aggressive or anxious personalities that may result from their deafness. When startled, they bite in reflex, including family members, although not every deaf dog will develop these personality challenges."
Because of the bully breeds' forceful bite, bite injuries can be severe and the subsequent financial liability to the owner very costly. Bilaterally deaf dogs also live in some jeopardy because if they escape from the yard or leash-escape attempts are a common problem in bully breeds-they cannot hear oncoming traffic or their owners' calls. Dr. Strain recomments that breeders euthanise bilaterally deaf pups rather than place them.
Deafness has several causes: infection, blockage of the ear canal, trauma, poison, and genetics. With hereditary deafness, permenant and total hearing loss occurs either unilaterally or bilaterally when puppies are about 3 to 4 weeks of age. "There's a normal period of post-natal auditory development in dogs occuring before the ear canal opens, which happens at about 3 weeks of age," says Dr. Strain. "The dogs go deaf because the blood vessels in the inner ear (the cochlea) degenerate. When that happens, the nerve cells in the cochlea die, and irreversible deafness occurs."
The prevalence of total deafness in Bull Terriers is about 11%. Says Dr. Strain, "Deafness is about 10 times higher (19%) in white Bull Terriers. In colored Bull Terriers, incidence is about 2%." He adds, "Deafness associated with white [coat color] does occur in American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pitbull Terriers, but I have not seen it in enough to have any statistics. For that very reason my guess would be theat the prevalence is lower in those breeds-but not totally absent since I've seen it in both."
In young pups, unilateral and even bilateral deafness can be difficult to detect. "Bilaterally deaf dogs cue off the behavior of littermates," explains Dr. Strain. "If it's a feeding time and the other puppies scramble, they wake up the deaf puppy and it rins along with them. If the other puppies go chasing after something they hear, it will also follow along. But if the dog is sleeping by itself, it won't wake up in response to loud noises. A unilaterally deaf dog is ever harder to detect, as the only behavioral deficit is some difficulty in localizing where sound comes from." Consequently, many breeders test their puppies' hearing before placing them.
Although a general veterinary practitioner can make a presumptive (but not foolproof) diagnosis of bilateral deafness through behavioral testing, and electodiagnostic test called the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Reponse) can provide a definitive diagnosis of either bilateral or unilateral deafness. BAER equipment is available at most veterinary colleges and a few specialty veterinary practices. Specialists sometimes also offer hearing tests at dog shows. (A list of known BAER testing sites worldwide is posted at Dr. Strain's website, along with other helpful informations on deafness: www.lsu.edu/deafness/deaf.htm )
Although the mode of inheritance for the defective genes is unknown, Dr. Strain, who has been researching deafness for 15 years, believes that both parents must contribute defective genes and that one of the involved genes is the piebald gene, the gene that makes white hair. "If the breeds have any white in the coat, they nearly certainly also have one of the versions of the piebald gene present," he explains. "To get all-white dogs requires that the gene be strongly expressed, so the deafness is probably therefore more likely in Bull Terriers and other breeds that allow all white." American Pitbull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers all may come in all-white coats or combinations of white and other colors. Although all-white American Staffordshire Terriers are not allowed according to the breed's standard. up to 80% of the coat may be white. Dr. Strain continues, "White Boxers have a lot of deafness, white it is uncommon in the fawn, twany, or brindle colors. Parti-colored English Cockers have a good bit of deafness, while solids are essentially free of deafness. Increasingly stron expression [of the piebald gene] increases problems with deafness."
Dr Strain adds, "I believe there is an additional gene that regulates how strongly the piebald gene is expressed, and hence how likely deafness is to result." He is working on a study with Keith Murphy, Ph.D., associat professor, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University College, to identify the gene defect(s) responsible for deafness; the AKC Canine Health Foundation provides funding. Although the focus of Drs. Strain and Murphy's study is on Dalmations and English Setters, the research should benefit all breeds. Identify the mode of inheritance and the markers linked to the defective genes that cause deafness could lead to screening tests that identify clears, carriers and affecteds, permitting breeders to breed away from the problem.
In the meantime, Dr. Strain urges breeders to avoid breeding dogs that have a history of deafness in their lines. "The further you can get away from known producers of deaf offspring, the less likely you are to have deaf offspring," he says. "Remove from breeding all dogs affected with unilateral or bilateral deafness. Don't re-breed dogs and *****es that produce deaf puppies. Assume both the dog and ***** were contributors to the problem, because deafness appears to be either polygenic or recessive in mode of inheritance." he continues. "Look at siblings, parents, and other closely related kin of deaf animals as potential sources of deaf offspring. This is the only course presently available until we develop a blood test for carriers," Dr. Strein concludes.

Taken from Battling Genetic Disease by Marcia King...Pages 85-86 of Bully Breeds...All About America's Favorite Dogs.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 09:51 PM
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None of the deaf dogs I know are snappy due to their deafness, or are snappy at all. I've never been bitten by my neighbors' 150+ lb. Mastiff who's totally deaf. Our Lab, AJ, is going deaf as well. He's a bit more jumpy and easy to scare, but never once snapped. Nor have any of the other deaf dogs I've had the pleasure of knowing.

I can see why it might make the dog snap at people. But I still have never met one that bit when scared, etc.

Fears of deaf dogs biting out of fear are one of the reasons why many deaf pups are euthanized. =\ I plan on rescuing deaf pups and dogs as soon as I have the room for more doggies.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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My Kali's father is deaf and although Nine (his name is the number) is not people aggressive, he is very much male-dog aggressive...mostly because he can't hear them coming...
My Chow growing up went deaf in her old age...she DID become snappy...simply because the slightest thing made her jump. I could not and would not let my young children near her because of it. If you walked heavy, she could feel the vibrations in the floor to let her know you were there and she would be fine, but soft little toddler feet weren't enough to warn her beforehand

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 09:55 PM
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I think Euthanasia is a bit extreme myself. These pups can be just as wonderful of companions. I'd say just be super cautious in placing them.

I do agree that a responsible breeder should quit breeding that pair. But then again, how many actually will.


Great info Mandie. Thanks for sharing.


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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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I totally agree Chrisanne...new owners of a deaf dog of any breed need to use different forms of precaution...like with my old chow...walk heavy enough and she knew you were coming from the vibrations on the floor...also, she had to be able to see you before you touched her, otherwise she would startle and get snappy...once she knew who it was and what it was, she was fine, but she wasn't born deaf either.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2004, 10:04 PM
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Poor baby. It must be that much harder going deaf later in life than being born with it.

I'm not looking forward to AJ losing his hearing completely. I don't think it will make him snappy, but it might. Right now if you walk up behind him and he can't hear you and you startle him, he growls. Sometimes he'll move away from you.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2004, 12:43 AM
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before i ever had penny (and eventually chaquita) i had a dog named abby for a little while. she was a dalmation mix from a shelter and she turned out to be deaf. if the lights were off and she couldn't see you, she would growl and bare her teeth. the problem was that you couldn't really make sudden movements (or not sudden) to turn the lights on once she was freaked out. she also had extreme seperation anxiety. we tried to work on the seperation anxiety, but to be honest, we didn't know much about dogs then. we had to eventually take her back, but because she attacked a puppy once she was there, they put her down. i still don't know if she attacked it cause she was aggressive or because we left her.


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2004, 01:50 AM
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Sad story...

I don't think any less of you for it. You were doing what you thought best for the dog. I agree with Chrissanne. I think its wonderful thing if you can have a dog like that and treat it properly and give it love.

If you know you don't have the capacity--Euthanasia may not be the solution, but it's just as unfair to keep the dog if you know you can't handle her.

Stated simply IMO: It says more about you if you can deal with such a pet, than if you cannot.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2004, 02:03 AM
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thanks. well, this all happened a looong time before i found pt. i had no idea what to do. i didn't even know what crating was. she was living with me in a small apt and i just couldn't give her the time she needed. so jim (my friend) aggreed to take her because he was the one she was severly attached to. she was NOT happy unless he was in her sight. so he took her (was living with his mom in a house at the time) and she would growl and bare her teeth at his mom if the lights were off. his mom made us take her back. so we did and i cried for days after that.
the shelter we took her to called to tell us that she had attacked a puppy and that if we didn't come and get her, they'd euthanize her. we didn't know what to do. i guess we felt that if we went to get her, her hopes would get really up and then we'd just have to leave her again. i don't know...
so she was put down. i'm still upset about it and it's been almost 2 yrs.


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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2004, 09:43 AM
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I stumbled across an article similar to this when I did a google search on deaf dogs. Thanks for posting it.


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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2004, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Your welcome Scarlette...I was thinking of you when I found it. I don't want it to discourage you though...Bull Terriers are not usually prone to aggressiveness and with your dedication to your pup, things should work out well with her. Just be sure to expose her to as much as possible, and she should be startled at easily as some others might. You may want to check out the book that this article is from...Bully Breeds...got it at petsmart. It has a lot of great info about all the bully breeds especially Bull Terriers. There are some more articles in there that I might post in the future...they're great and very informative.

Chin Mom to Lila, Skye, Ty, Rolex, Calypso, Lizzie, Jax, Sam, Sage, Lorenzo, Spitfire, Holly, Dylan, Leia, Punky, Kylie, Skylar, Jetta, Oreo, Emma, Forest, Georgie, Alexis, Picador and all the kits!
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