Tips for old dogs with hearing problems that can be startled and act aggressive


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Our question this week was:

What can you do about an old dog that is hard of hearing. He startles easily and I'm afraid he will bite someone.

Bill H. Ofallon, Missouri


Hi – thanks for your email Bill. This is common in some older dogs and dogs that are hearing impaired. Many times the dog will be in a very deep sleep, become startled when someone touches him or walks by and actually "snap". Some veterinarians think of this like a grumpy old person that can occasionally "say what they think" a little quicker than when they were younger.

The best way to prevent this type of situation is to try to approach your dog from the front where he can see you first. Don't touch, step over or move your sleeping dog. This is a common time when they are awoken, startled and snap. If there are kids around, I'd not leave them unsupervised. Busy kids can annoy old tired dogs and this is not a good mix.

An article that might be helpful to you is How to Live with a Deaf Dog. There are some more really good tips in this article.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.