Cats and dogs can now have their hearing tested at a new specialist-led clinic in Essex which is one of just a handful in the UK offering a pioneering electrodiagnostic technique.

Some dog and cat breeds, predominantly white-coated breeds such as Dalmatians, English Bull Terriers, English Setters, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and White Boxers, are more likely to suffer congenital hereditary deafness, so early testing is often recommended.

The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test recently launched at Linnaeus-owned Southfields Veterinary Specialists in Basildon is also recommended for other cats and dogs where hearing loss is suspected.

Each test, carried out by Southfields’ specialist-led neurology team, is usually completed within 10 to 15 minutes with no need for sedation or anaesthesia.

Among the first patients at the new hearing clinic was a boisterous litter of nine energetic Dalmatian puppies, owned by Emma Whiting, herself a locum veterinary nurse currently at Southfields.

Emma has grown up with Dalmatians, this new litter being the latest addition, so knew a hearing test was sensible. The results showed that all were OK, apart from one female puppy which had no hearing in one ear.

Emma said: “The puppies were running around, keeping everyone busy at Southfields! But the visit went really well and the team were very patient with them all.

“I’ll be keeping two of the puppies and we’ll find good homes for the other seven, so it was really reassuring to have the tests carried out.”

Ane Uriarte, head of neurology at Southfields, which opened the doors to its state-of-the-art £16 million hospital at Cranes Point last summer, said: “Some puppies and kittens are born with defects in the neural pathways between the ear and the brain.

“Unfortunately, you cannot simply tell from their behaviour whether they are deaf or not, but a BAER test can provide a definitive answer.

“While hearing cannot be regained in an animal that tests negative without any sign of ear infection, it does allow owners to adapt the way they communicate with their pets.”

It is recommended that BAER testing for congenital deafness is carried out at around five to six weeks of age, though cats and dogs can be tested at any age after that.

Ane, an RCVS and European specialist in neurology, added: “Each ear is tested individually and it is completely pain free for the pet, such as for Emma’s Dalmatian puppies who really kept our hands full!”

As well as the hearing clinic, Southfields referral centre also offers specialist services such as anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology and interventional cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, exotics, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, radiation and soft tissue surgery.

For more information about the new hearing clinic go to, while for Southfields in general go to or search Southfields Veterinary Specialists on social media.

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