It is a sad fact that koolies are sometimes born deaf, this is not to say it is a common occurrence in the Koolie breed, certainly not as common as some other breeds. Many breeders have only ever had one or two after several litters. Usually it is not difficult to predict which in a litter are going to suffer this defect. White around the head, particularly over the ears and around the eyes are indications that the puppy should be carefully checked for the ability to hear and see before being sent to new homes. A lack of pigment in the hair in the ears makes it impossible for sound to be transmitted along the hair into the inner ear. Sometimes though it is not so obvious and all conscientious breeders will be aware anyone can breed an affected puppy. Occasionally a puppy that is strongly coloured can be deaf. Most cases of deafness are caused by the puppy being a homozygous merle (MM) where the mating was merle to merle and the puppy has inherited the merle gene from both parents. Heterozygous merles (Mm) usually have no problem, but deafness can be from other causes although less common. Homozygous merles are also often quite pale in their merling and often have large areas of white over the body apart from what is often around the chest, collar, stomach and socks usually called Irish Trim. Some are all white with just a touch of colour or merling here and there. This isn't a guarantee of problems, sometimes these dogs can hear and see OK but they are more than likely homozygous merle anyway and should not be bred to another merled dog. Certainly dogs of this colouring that are not affected still can make very good working dogs, agility, obedience or companion dogs.
Scientists have recently discovered the merle gene and have developed a DNA test which will hopefully soon be available. This will allow breeders to make informed breeding decisions, such as breeding a Homozygous Merle (MM) to a solid coloured dog (mm) which would result in all offspring being Heterozygous Merle (Mm) - unaffected by deafness caused by the merle gene.
It can be a dilemma when a breeder discovers a puppy that looks perfectly normal, is in fact deaf. Often breeders do what they see as their responsibility and humanely dispose of the pup, it is each breeders decision as to what happens, but some decide to give the puppy a chance, or haven't been aware of the problem until the puppy is several weeks old and it is then very difficult to make the decision to cull. There are some people who have given homes to deaf koolies very successfully, with some patience and special training these dogs have gone on to live long healthy happy lives. Giving a deaf dog a home is a decision that should not be taken lightly as you must be prepared to make special consideration, give extra time and effort and understand this is a lifelong commitment - koolies often live until 15 or 16 years of age. It is a very special person who takes this on and through these pages we hope to offer assistance to those who welcome a deaf koolie into their lives.
It should be understood that deaf koolies should not be bred from, they are welcome into the club and may be registered under our P (pet) section (no offspring to be registered), it is advised also to have the dog de-sexed, if for no other reason than it will stop
the influence of hormones creating a wander lust.
Our intention is to have as much member input as possible into this club website and we were pleased to receive the following email requesting that information on deaf koolies be made available on the site and that Liz has agreed to help by providing information but also by being a contact, so people who do bring a deaf koolie into their homes can contact someone who has already had experience. Input from others with similar experiences is very welcome and like the rest of the site we hope to build it up as time goes by.