Hearing and Vision Loss in Elderly Dogs
As people age, their sight or hearing can become impaired. It’s not uncommon for the elderly to need eyewear or hearing aids.
As your dog ages, the same can happen to them. Unfortunately for our pets, there aren’t many aids that can help them cope with the loss of their senses. As their caregiver, you can help them age gracefully though. Here’s what you need to know about hearing and vision loss in elderly dogs.
What Causes Vision Loss in Elderly Dogs?
As your dog ages, losing its sight might be inevitable. Not all dogs will go blind, but they may have a degradation of their vision. The good news is that dogs rely much less on sight than humans do.
For humans, sight is the main sense that allows us to perceive our world. For most people, being without sight or even having impaired sight would affect their work, mobility, and life in general. Dogs rely more heavily on their other senses, so the loss of vision is not as catastrophic. A dog that loses its vision will use its smell and hearing to compensate. There are also ways you can help your dog to adapt.
Most commonly, if your dog is losing its sight, it would be from these causes:
- Untreated infections
- Chronic dry eye
- Tumors or cancer
A dog who is losing sight will become clumsier. They may bump into furniture or may miss stair steps. They might have trouble finding toys or even their food and water bowls. Dogs with vision loss may become needier for your attention. They might be relying on you to get around, so you may find them shadowing you wherever you go. At worst, your dog may get aggressive because they may feel threatened because they can’t see what’s near them.
How to Help a Dog with Impaired Sight
Because dogs don’t use their sight as their main sense, they can still get around well enough without it. One of the most important things you can do to help a seeing impaired dog is to keep things in your home clear and keep the layout the same. Because your dog can’t see, they won’t know if you change the layout of the room, so they’ll likely start running into furniture if you change things up.
For homes with children, be sure they know not to leave toys or backpacks in the middle of the room. Your dog won’t expect these items to be there and could trip over them. If you do need to rearrange a room, put your dog on a leash after and walk them around so they can safely experience the room. This will help them to get used to their “new” environment. You can also help guide them so they don’t hurt themself.
If you suspect your dog is losing its vision, you should try teaching them direction words as soon as possible. Words like left, right, or stop can be extremely useful when you leave your home for a walk, or even if you have to remind your dog where they should be going in the house.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Elderly Dogs?
Many senior dogs have to contend with hearing loss too. Hearing loss doesn’t seem to be as drastic as loss of sight. It might be as simple as your dog “ignoring” your commands. They may also not get as excited by their squeaky toys as they used to be since they can’t hear them. A dog with hearing loss may also sleep more deeply, and they may be easily startled by normal household sounds.
The cause of hearing loss in dogs is the same as in humans. It’s caused by the death of cells within the inner ear. For humans, listening to loud music or working in loud environments can cause hearing loss. For dogs though, it’s usually just caused by old age and genetics. Most dogs don’t go to rock concerts or work on jet engines, so you can’t account for auditory abuse to be the cause of hearing loss.
Helping Your Dog Manage Without Hearing
If your senior dog is dealing with hearing loss, there are few things you can do to help them along. Hearing loss is usually gradual, so it’s important to act as soon as you notice it. Once your dog starts losing its hearing, you should begin teaching them hand signals.
You can create hand signals that make sense to you and say a command word when you show it to your dog. As long as you are consistent with showing them the signal and saying the word, your dog will eventually understand that the hand signal is the command. If your dog ever goes fully deaf, you will at least be able to communicate with them through hand signals.
Once your dog can no longer hear you, it will be important that you get their attention before doing anything with them. If they are laying on the ground, be sure to make your presence known by stomping on the ground a bit before getting close. Your dog will be able to feel the vibrations you make and will not be surprised by your presence. You can also try a vibration collar. This is a collar that shakes at the click of a button. It’s a simple way for you to get their attention.
Elderly Dog Care Takes Patience
Dealing with an aging dog takes a little bit of work, but your dog can still live a fulfilling life even while its senses are in decline. With a little patience, you can work on tools such as hand signs and routines to help your dog as they near the end of their life.