Q: I was looking to adopt a dog and I saw a picture of puppy on a rescue site that was all white with blue eyes. He looked like he was a boxer and I fell in love with him from the picture. My wife would not let me have him because she said that all white dogs are deaf. Is this true?
A: White boxers can be deaf in both ears about 8 percent of the time. Some will only be deaf in one ear. Some will have normal hearing. The inherited form of deafness is caused by a lack of pigmented cells in the ear that results in the loss of cilia needed for hearing.
Deaf dogs can still be wonderful housedogs. They can learn hand signals and can be trained to do many things. They can be loving, friendly, and smart. It may take patience and understanding to train a dog with a disability but most owners feel it is worth the effort.
Not all white boxers are deaf and not all white dogs in general are deaf. Many breeds such as poodles and West Highland White Terriers that have white coat color don’t have deafness. This is because these breeds actually have a dilute coat color pattern.
Mixed breed dogs that are all white or mostly white have also been associated with deafness. I have also seen many white cats that are deaf.
I recommend that you go and meet this dog of your dreams. He may turn out to be the best companion you have ever had.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.