Pets are family. They are with us through all the small moments, the big life changes and the ordinary. A pet’s love never ceases, and their loyalty is for their lifetime. Our constant companion is used to hearing our voice and seeing us every day. So what happens when they can’t hear the people, places, and things around them on a daily basis? The experience of a pet becoming deaf will not only affect the pet but will have an impact everyone in the home. If you are at the start of your journey with a newly deaf pet, here are resources on how to help make this transition easier on everyone.
Deafness in Pets: How to adjust to this life change
Signs/symptoms of a pet going deaf
If you think your pet may be losing their hearing, it can be hard to prove on your own. “If your pet is going deaf you may notice your pet doesn’t wake up from sleeping to certain sounds (such as calling their name) like they used to or they may have a difficult time trying to determine where sounds are coming from,” explains Trupanion on-site veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold. If you notice changes like this and you are concerned about your pet’s behavior, the best course of action is to talk to your veterinarian.
Conditions that can cause deafness
As pet parents, we often wonder when our pet gets sick if it is something we could have avoided or caught early. In most cases, deafness is not something that you can predict or prevent. There are a wide variety of reasons why a pet could be experiencing hearing loss. “Certain breeds have a predilection for deafness and most often these breeds are seen with white pigmentation. Dalmatians are the most commonly reported breeds with deafness,” adds Dr. Nold. In addition, some other causes of deafness include ototoxic drugs (which cause inner ear damage), foreign body (such as grass awn), birth defects, toxins, inflammation, and or ear infections in the ear, head trauma, and age-related hearing loss.
How to alleviate stress during this adjustment stage
Any life change can bring about stress in the home environment. As a pet parent, it can feel overwhelming when your pet is sick, and often it is helpful to incorporate new routines. “Make sure other people are aware of your pet’s hearing loss, so they can take precautions such as avoiding coming up suddenly behind your pet or touching your pet without first letting your pet see them,” recommends Dr. Nold. You want to prepare for any situation that could pop up. You wouldn’t want an additional injury or accident to take place, due to someone surprising you’re pet.
An adjustment period for all family members
If you are introducing new family members, young and old, they should be aware of any changes that are occurring with your pet’s hearing. Dr. Nold suggests that you take extra precaution with young children, as they may need additional reminders. As always, with any pet (even those without hearing loss), direct supervision of young children at all times is recommended.
It might seem like second nature that all parties are aware of the situation, but taking the time to point out the condition and best practices is a wonderful way to assure safety for all parties.
In terms of your pet adapting to the hearing loss, it really depends on the sensitivity of the condition. Often the pet parents have a more difficult time with their pet’s hearing loss than the pet. “Once the pet parent sees how well their pet is dealing with their hearing loss, they usually become more accepting of the change,” points out Dr. Nold. The most common exceptions may be for pet parents that participate in activities with their pet that depend on good hearing, as they may find they have to find another activity to enjoy together. Likewise, taking the time to explore new bonding activities and assessing the condition day by day is the best practice.
Training for pet deafness
There are multiple training resources available if your pet is experiencing a hearing impairment. “When training deaf dogs, I’ve seen them respond to vibrations in the floor, better than anything,” observes Trupanion on-site vet technician Amber Sanborn. Also, “If your dog is only used to verbal commands, you will have to retrain with visual commands, such as hand signs,” emphasizes Dr. Nold.
While taking the steps to assess a new training regime, might seem daunting, it is a way for you and your furry companion to overcome this hurdle together.
Any pet experiencing a sickness or condition can often feel devastating for the pet, owner, and family. But with patience, love, and learning a new training routine the road to healing is right around the bend.