Breeding, Diseases

Dog Genetics: Hearing and Eye Testing in Dogs

Eye clinics and hearing screenings can allow for efficient and cost-effective testing to help detect any abnormalities your dog may have. This information can be especially helpful for breeders when considering a dog’s genetics. I suggest contacting a local veterinary school or specialty clinic if you wish to start testing.

Hearing Loss in Dogs

There are a small number of dogs born with congenital hearing loss. It can involve one or both ears. Frequently, the dogs affected have white as their background coat color. The puppy hearing test to assess for deafness is called a BAER or Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test. The BAER test for dogs is done awake or with mild sedation. It can be done at a very early age – after the ears open. Each ear is assessed individually. A computer readout showing the brainstem response is shown on the screen and printout. Dropping your keys behind the puppy in a room is NOT a dog hearing test.

Eye Disease in Dogs

There are several forms of eye disease in dogs. They can be described by the portion of the eye they affect. These areas include the eyelids, sclera, cornea, anterior chamber, lens, posterior chamber, retina, and retinal nerve.

Some are serious and lead to blindness and/or pain; some don’t cause vision loss or pain but are inherited. The testing may be phenotypic – a complete eye exam with dilated pupils by a board-certified ophthalmologist; or it may be genotypic – using DNA testing. Knowing your breed’s predispositions, the results of an eye and genetic test, and your goals for breeding will help you determine what to do. One DNA test, standing alone, does not eliminate the need for an eye exam by a board-certified ophthalmologist in the college of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).

Is There a Vision Test for Dogs?

Technically, a dog eye exam is good for one year. Most breeders test their dogs young, before placing or breeding, and don’t repeat annually unless there is a condition the ophthalmologist wants to track. The frequency of rechecks may be determined by the breed as some inherited or congenital disorders not present in a young dog may appear later in life. If you keep a dog long term, it is recommended to test young, at middle age, and a third time, at old age to assess for changes that progress with age.

For more questions on dog eye disease, hearing loss or dog genetics testing, call a Revival Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.