Steroid Hearing Loss in Dogs

Dogs can suffer from hearing loss just like people can, and certain drugs may contribute to deafness.
Dogs can suffer from hearing loss just like people can, and certain drugs may contribute to deafness. (Image: little watchdog image by Brenda Carson from

Steroids are used to treat certain autoimmune symptoms and related ailments in dogs. Anti-inflammatory steroids are commonly used to treat joint and tissue inflammation or arthritis, as well as certain skin conditions. While steroids can be effective in helping your dog feel better, there are several potential side effects from the medicine's use in canines.

How Steroids Are Administered

Steroids for dogs are typically administered orally as a tablet, on skin directly as a cream or ointment or as ear drops. If your dog is being prescribed a steroid for a condition, ask about its side effects and whether there is the potential for hearing loss or deafness. Hearing loss can sometimes occur from damage occurring in the ear canal or inner ear. Make sure a veterinarian explains a particular medicine's benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision.

Hearing Loss as a Side Effect

Hearing loss from an infection and/or use of certain medications can occur, though in some cases it is temporary and will be restored over time. In other cases, the medication will actually cause permanent hearing loss, and in extreme cases, deafness. Some steroid medications can cause side effects that include an unhealthy coat, diarrhea, vomiting, weight gain and elevated liver enzymes, but hearing loss is not typically associated with the use of steroids in dogs. Using certain drugs that are inserted directly into the ears can lead to hearing loss, so ask about potential side effects of any such medications.

How Long Hearing Loss May Be Experienced

If your dog experiences hearing loss while being treated with steroids, check with your pet's veterinarian immediately. Sometimes, hearing loss can be associated with other symptoms or ailments, such as an ear infection, and is considered only a temporary condition. If the inner ear canal or other parts of the ear are injured, whether as a result of a disease, an ailment or drugs that are applied to the ears, hearing loss can be permanent.

Other Side Effects of Steroids

Steroids can cause various side effects in your pet, so make sure you find out from your veterinarian what to look for while your dog is taking them. Digestive issues, excessive thirst and panting, skin problems, degeneration of muscles and behavioral changes are possible consequences of steroid use. At the same time, steroids can improve your pet's quality of life and may be the best course of treatment. Many side effects noted occur after longer-term, continued use and not as a result of short-term treatment.

Other Reasons for Hearing Loss

Steroid use may not actually have anything to do with a dog's hearing loss, but if you detect your pet is struggling ask a veterinarian to check your dog's symptoms to see if a more effective treatment plan should be considered. Prolonged steroid use an sometimes lead to renal failure or diabetes and develop into hearing loss. If your dog is older, hearing and vision loss may be unrelated symptoms that are a function of his age and not drugs.

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