Dr Susan Sommerlad

Honorary Lecturer

School of Veterinary Science
Faculty of Science


Dr Susan Sommerlad graduated as a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, from The University of Liverpool. After completing an intern year at the Small Animal Hospital, University of Liverpool, UK, and spending time in small animal practice in UK, she became a Lecturer in Small Animal Surgery and Medicine at the School of Veterinary Science, The University of Nairobi, Kenya. After moving to Australia, and working in small animal practice, Dr Sommerlad joined the School of Veterinary Science at The University of Queensland in 1990, as a Clinical Resident and Surgical Registrar, and then as a Lecturer in Small Animal Surgery until 2009. During this time she developed a keen interest in small animal soft tissue surgery, particularly of the ear nose and throat and also in surgical correction of portosystemic shunts and vascular surgery in the dog and cat. She founded an audiological testing service for congenital and acquired deafness in the dog and cat. She obtained a membership by examination of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, in Small Animal Surgery. In 2013 Dr Sommerlad completed a PhD in Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland entitled " The Treatment of Acquired Conductive Deafness and Management of Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness in the Dog". She is now an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Veterinary Science, providing clinical audiological facilities combined with the promotion of further research into the genetic nature of Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness in the dog and the surgical treatment of Conductive Deafness in the dog.

Research Interests

  • Investigation into the genetic basis of Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness in the Dog, and the Surgical Treatment of Conductive Deafness in the Dog
    Deafness is a significant problem in dogs and our research explores two common forms, Acquired Conductive Deafness (ACOD) and Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness (CHSD). Surgical treatment of conductive deafness: Research into conductive deafness resulted in the first surgical placements of Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (Baha®) in dogs that had undergone salvage surgery for Otitis Externa and Media. These Baha® placements led to successful surgical treatment of ACOD. Bone augmentation around Baha® fixtures: Further research into the use of guided bone augmentation to increase cranial bone depth around the Baha® fixture was explored. This procedure facilitated the use of the Baha® in smaller dogs and may have paediatric application. Further surgical research is planned. The Diagnosis of Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness using Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Testing: Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness is an inherited form of deafness and affects pups by 4-6 weeks of age. A Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) testing programme, assists breeders in the design of a selective breeding plan to reduce the prevalence of this disease. Research into phenotypic analysis for markers linking pigmentation and CHSD was performed in Australian Cattle Dogs: Both bilateral facial masks and pigmented body spots were independently associated with a reduced risk of CHSD. The odds of deafness in female dogs were estimated to be 1.9 times higher than in males. Breeding for bilateral facial masks and body spots, may assist in reducing the prevalence of CHSD in the Australian Cattle Dog. Exploring the genetic basis of CHSD: Initial candidate gene studies led on to a microsatellite genome-wide screen was performed on a pedigree of 315 ASTCD,The deaf phenotype mapped to CFA10 and was consistent with the model of an autosomal recessive trait with incomplete penetrance of 0.72. Further genetic research is planned in Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs.

Research Impacts

Dr Sommerlads research has promoted the health of pedigree dog breeds through the investigation of Congenital Hereditary Deafness and the surgical treatment of Conductive Deafness in the dog. The research also fostered cooperation between The University of Queensland and the Dept of Biomaterial and Handicap Research, School of Medicine, The University of Gothenburg Sweden.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


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