How to Care for Blind and Deaf Senior Dogs

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d. If you have a fenced-in yard as we will discuss below, you may also want to minimize landscaping changes (such as the planting or cutting of trees or bushes) that can disorient dogs with vision loss.

3. Routine. Dogs with disabilities seem to appreciate a regular routine. They go outside the same time each day and evening, walks around the block the same way, and are fed in the same place at the same time. If your dog has any hearing abilities, you can use a bell or other soft noise (even a pop can with rocks in it can work) as a “call” to tell your dog it is feeding time. If you maintain a routine, most dogs will learn to be waiting by the bowl right on schedule.

4. Neatness. If you have a vision- or hearing-impaired dog, it is ideal to keep your home consistent and fairly neat. If your dog has a preferred path from the door to the bedroom, don’t leave toys, shoes, or other “stuff” lying around that he or she can bump into. If you move things, put them back. If you have company over and move 2 more chairs into a room for extra seating, put them back when you’re done so your dog isn’t confused or injures himself when trying to navigate around them.

5. Safety for Dogs. Once you realize your dog is blind, it is very helpful to try to look around at your home from the dog’s perspective. It can even help to get right down on the floor and see things from their level. It might look silly, but it can expose some hidden dangers that would otherwise be missed.

a. Look for anything sharp that he or she can run into. Don’t leave coat hangers or other pointy objects on the floor, and keep an eye out for corners that can bruise or damage delicate skin. Keep cabinets closed (a dog can accidently ram an edge, causing an injury). Cover any sharp edges with soft foam or other materials; those designed for baby-proofing homes are especially useful.

b. Place barriers around pools and hot tubs and ensure your dog doesn’t have access to ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.

c. Use baby gates to limit access to open stairways, decks, balconies, and uneven walkways.

d. Block access to fireplaces in use, and secure all pokers and gates so your dog cannot inadvertently run into them and become injured.

e. Don’t burn candles near any low tables; dogs can knock over lit candles with their tails.

f. Eliminate thin throw rugs that may get bunched up and cause a tripping injury or a fall.

6. Let Your Dog Walk. Some pet owners naturally want to pick up and carry their pets. This may seem like a kindness, but when you put your dog down in a new room, he or she has no idea where they are. If they walk from room to room, they can develop a sense of awareness.

7. Talk to Your Dog. If your dog seems lost and has some hearing ability, you can talk to your dog so he can sense your location based on the sound. (If your dog can’t hear at all, this doesn’t help.)

8. Don’t Startle Your Dog. Dogs that don’t see or hear well can be easily startled. They can develop anxiety and always seem “on edge.” If your dog can hear at least a little, you can make a noise or talk to them before touching or approaching them so they know where you are. Suddenly touching your dog can startle them, and some dogs will bite when surprised. When your dog can neither see nor hear well, it is difficult to announce your presence. You can walk heavily toward your dog so he can sense the vibration of your footsteps. Another option is to use a buffer between you and him. For example, to wake your dog, you could gently touch them with a toy. If he does startle and nip, it will be at the toy that gets bitten, not your hand.

9. Don’t Groom Canine Whiskers. Many dogs use their whiskers to sense the world, and they will use this ability more when they have vision and hearing loss. The whiskers, also called vibrissae, can act as sensitive antennae with which to detect objects, air movement, and even vibrations such as those made when a door is open or someone is walking past. Don’t allow your groomer to trim these hairs or, if it happens, give your dog some extra space and consideration until they grow back.

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