Caring For Deaf Dogs
The care of senior deaf dogs is something that is very relevant to myself. My old dog Pippa's hearing was fine until about 2 years ago since when it has rapidly declined to the point that she is now more or less completely deaf. Her deafness along with her canine dementia makes for some difficult situations and the need for me to always keep her on a lead for walks now (I live by woods and in the past never needed to keep her on a lead for walks). I found that if when we were out on a walk, she got a bit confused about where I was or the direction we were walking in she would start to walk off in the wrong direction. Normally I would shout to get her attention in this situation but I soon discovered she could not hear me. This would result in me frantically sprinting off after her to get her attention! I suppose one positive thing that has come from her deafness is the fact that she no longer responds to fireworks or thunder - something she use to get so worked up about I was sure would finish her off in old age.
Deafness is a significant loss of hearing. Hearing can be defined as the detection and comprehension of sounds. Sounds come to us in the form of waves. These have varying amplitudes and frequencies. When these cannot be heard or understood, a hearing impairment is present. The highest levels of impairment are referred to as deafness. The same is true for both deaf humans and deaf dogs.
The cause of deafness in a dog could be congenital, environmental or have come about with advancing age. Those with the congenital form are born without the ability to hear. This can be related to the pigment of the skin in their inner ear. If the skin is white, as is the case with many Dalmatians, it can die in the early weeks of the puppy’s life. The environmental form can be brought on by an injury or some type of infection of the ear or exposure to an extremely loud noise.
Nerve deafness in older dogs happens when the nerve impulses fail to reach the brain’s auditory centre. This can result from damage to the auditory nerve or to the cochlea. This is more likely to happen as the dog advances in age. Age related deafness usually comes on gradually. Your pet may begin to not respond when you call or may sleep more soundly. This can be frightening to the dog just as it would be with a human who has lost a sense. They are used to hearing familiar sounds and when they no longer can it is distressing to them.
Owners need to take special precautions with deaf dogs. A deaf dog cannot hear potential dangers such as an oncoming car. Their deafness can also cause some degree of disorientation. They may turn the wrong way and become lost or frightened. They should be monitored closely when near a road. They should also be kept on a leash for their own safety.
Training can also be more difficult when your pet cannot hear your commands. Hand signals rather than voice commands can be used. It is typically easier to train a puppy who was born without hearing than an older dog who is suffering from age related deafness. It can be done, however. I have achieved this with Pippa with some basic commands. Persistence in this task will pay off in a pet that has their behaviour in check and has a way to communicate with their owner.
Deaf dogs do require some modifications. The lack of hearing is not a problem that cannot be overcome. With some added precautions and changes in the way you communicate, your companion can continue to live a happy life without the ability to hear.
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