Following a recent case, the Neurology team at CVS’ Bristol Vet Specialists are keen to highlight a condition that may be flying under the radar within the field of canine health – early adult-onset hearing loss in Border Collies.

The condition typically progresses subtly, with owners only noticing significant changes when their pets become profoundly deaf, failing to respond to familiar commands or the sounds of daily activities.

Peripheral hearing loss can manifest as conductive or sensorineural deafness, while central deafness pertains to dysfunction along the auditory pathway within the brain. To accurately diagnose and pinpoint the nature of hearing loss in pets, advanced imaging techniques like CT or MRI may offer insights into structural abnormalities, but functional assessments are necessary to gauge the animal's actual hearing ability.

The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Responses (BAER) test employs electrophysiology to measure the neural responses to auditory stimuli. A 6-year-old male neutered Border Collie recently presented to the neurology team at BVS with acute-onset suspected partial hearing loss. Despite a seemingly unremarkable clinical and neurological examination, the neurology team carried out the BAER test which revealed bilaterally absent responses, indicating a degree of hearing loss and narrowing down potential causes to cochlear dysfunction or conductive deafness.

Further investigations, including CT scans and genetic linkage tests, confirmed the diagnosis of early adult-onset hearing loss, highlighting the genetic predisposition to the condition within the breed.

Neurology Resident, Jon Prager who led the case, emphasised the importance of recognising and addressing hearing loss in pets: "Partial hearing loss or unilateral deafness in pets may be under-recognised and it can significantly impact their well-being. Identifying and characterising hearing loss not only allows for appropriate management changes but also facilitates early intervention, especially in cases with a known genetic origin.”

Neurology Specialist, George Nye who assisted in the case added: “By leveraging the tools available to us here at Bristol Vet Specialists such as BAER testing, we can provide valuable insights into the extent and nature of hearing impairment and, crucially, improve the quality of life for these animals affected."