Caring for Dogs that are Blind and Deaf
A difficult phase in a dog’s life is the last 20-25%. As dogs age, changes occur in their bodies that lead to loss of vision and hearing. Many dogs of this age also have arthritis, mobility issues, and other physical limitations related to the natural (but still sometimes distressing or painful) effects of time. Most dogs will experience some kind of vision impairment, and some develop cataracts. A degradation of hearing ability is common, and arthritis and mobility issues are a frequent concern, especially in dogs that are overweight.
This process is not dissimilar to that in aging humans in that as people approach their senior years, we don’t see or hear quite as well, can develop arthritis, and generally “slow down.” We may take a little longer to get up, turn the TV a little louder, and need glasses to read the daily paper. We may feel more easily confused or tired and can experience weight gain or appetite loss as an effect of our changing needs.
It is typical for a veterinarian to have an appointment with a “healthy” senior dog and find out that the animal has a history of not hearing when the owner gets home, not seeing that well, and experiencing difficulty moving up and down stairs or with general mobility. These things are a common part of that aging process, although they might seem upsetting for the owners.
If you are one such owner, you no doubt want to make your beloved pet as comfortable and happy as possible. What can you do? Below are some tips for living with dogs who are blind, deaf, or experiencing arthritis. Your dog might have some or all of these symptoms, so I hope you find this advice very helpful.
Tips for Living with Blind and Deaf Dogs
Blindness is defined as the loss of vision in both eyes. There are many reasons why dogs go blind, including glaucoma, corneal problems, cancer, trauma, retinal diseases, and cataracts. For a more complete list and explanation, go to our article on Blindness in Dogs.
Blind dogs require extra care, but they can continue to live a long and happy life. Many dogs adjust to blindness or a loss of vision rather quickly and do well by relying on their other senses. A dog’s sense of smell is very good, as is their hearing. In the case of many older dogs who lose both their sense of hearing and vision, they rely on their sense of smell. Dr. Rhea Morgan wrote a very nice article on tips for living with a blind dog that I think is really great.
Living with a blind dog is one thing, but caring for a dog that is blind and deaf is much more difficult. Depending on the degree of hearing loss, some dogs don’t hear at all, and others can hear certain frequencies. Some may hear a murmur of something and understand it is from a familiar person but don’t understand what is being said.
Dogs with no hearing will rely on smell and touch to help them determine when someone is near, so they may stick much closer to their human companions than before.
In my opinion, blind dogs with some hearing really appreciate you talking to them. The loss of senses can be confusing and scary, and a soothing voice can help orient and guide them.
Below are some tips to help you help your dog with vision and hearing loss to have a happy and healthy life.
1. Be Patient. When dealing with a blind or blind and deaf dog, it is important to be patient. They often navigate slower, especially if some of their other senses are limited. Most dogs adjust very well in the end, but it can take a little while.
2. Be Consistent With Your Dog. When dealing with a dog that is blind and deaf, consistency is important. They rely a great deal on their memory and enjoy predictable routines for stability and comfort.
a. Feed your dog and keep the water in the same location. Some dogs like fountains because they can sense the vibration of the pump as a way to orient them to their food and water area. Some owners of blind and deaf dogs believe their dogs began drinking more healthy water after they installed a pet water fountain.
b. Keep their bed in the same location.
c. Minimize redecorating or furniture changes if possible. Some dogs compensate so well for their loss of sight that many pet owners only realize their pet is blind when they move furniture around and realize that suddenly, the dog is bumping into things. A number of dogs are also discovered to be blind when they are taken to the vet clinic, where they bump into walls and cabinets in the unfamiliar rooms.