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Loud Noise Can Damage a Dog’s Hearing

BY Lee Pickett TIMEFebruary 9, 2022 PRINT

Q: My husband began taking Winchester, our 5-year-old Labrador retriever, hunting with him this season. Win seems too young to be going deaf, but I’m convinced his hearing isn’t as sharp as it was before hunting season. Could the gunfire have damaged Win’s hearing? Can it be tested?

A: Yes, any loud noise can damage a dog’s hearing. Hunting dogs and those involved in police and military work are most often affected.

Two factors play a role in hearing loss: the duration of exposure to the sound and its intensity, measured in decibels, abbreviated dB.

Gunshot noise ranges from 120 to 190 dB, depending on the firearm.

Sustained exposure to 90 dB or more leads to hearing loss. Even brief exposure to 140 dB can cause permanent damage.

If you want to have Win’s hearing tested, ask your veterinarian to refer you to a neurologist for a BAER—brainstem auditory evoked response—test.

If Win enjoys hunting, and you and your husband wish him to continue, you can lessen his hearing damage by training him to tolerate ear plugs without shaking his head or pawing at his ears.

Hearing aids worn in the ears and anchored to the collar have been tried in some deaf dogs, but they are expensive and not readily available, and most dogs won’t put up with them. Cochlear implants also are not available for dogs.

By the way, dogs boarded in loud kennels can suffer hearing loss, too. One study measured noise levels in kennels and tested the hearing of dogs boarded there for 3 to 6 months. Kennel noise levels averaged 100 to 108 dB, and all the dogs experienced hearing loss.

Q: A cat has been sleeping on my porch and trying to enter my house. He or she seems friendly, and I would be happy to have the cat live indoors with me, but I don’t want to steal someone else’s companion. How do I determine whether the cat is a stray or owned by someone?

A: Take several photos of the cat and share them with your neighbors. If one of them owns the cat or knows who does, you can tell the owner the cat visits you. At the very least, you will get to know your neighbors better, and building community is always a good thing.

You should also post the photos on local social media and bulletin boards.

If you can’t find the owner, take the cat to a nearby shelter where the staff can scan for a microchip.

A microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is injected beneath the skin over the shoulder blades to provide a pet with permanent identification. The microchip’s unique identifying number is linked to the owner’s name and contact information, which helps to find a lost pet’s owner.

If your feline visitor has no microchip, ask the shelter to check their reports of lost cats and to add the kitty’s photos to their file of found cats in case the owner comes forward.

If the owner cannot be identified, you may adopt the cat who seems to have adopted you.

Take your new kitty to the veterinarian for an exam, vaccinations, routine lab testing, and sterilization, if needed.

Lee Pickett
Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at AskTheVet.pet. Copyright 2021 Lee Pickett, VMD. Distributed by Creators.com
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