Oftentimes senior dogs will develop and suffer from hearing impairment as they age. They may become less responsive to you and the world around them. Your ability to communicate with your dog becomes more difficult when your pet can’t hear what you have to say. This can be frustrating for you and stressful for your dog as well. However, there are steps you can take to help your older pet deal with hearing loss.
There are multiple causes of hearing loss in dogs. However, for elderly dogs, the cause is often degenerative changes in the nerves inside the ear. This is similar to the hearing loss seen in older adult humans. The changes are often gradual. Therefore, the symptoms will begin slowly, and you may not notice the hearing loss right away.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Dogs
Symptoms of deafness include little or no response to sound:
- No response to squeaking toys
- No response to clapping
- No response to doorbells, loud noises
- No response when called by name
- No response when you enter the room
- No response to other dogs barking
- Difficult to wake
- Startled when woken
- Excessive barking
Ways to Test Your Dog’s Hearing
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from hearing loss, here are some simple ways to make some noise to see if your dog responds to these cues:
- rattle your keys
- squeak a toy
- clap your hands behind the dog
- ring a bell
How Can You Help Your Pet with Hearing Loss
Observing your dog becoming less responsive because of hearing loss can be frustrating and discouraging. While there may not be a good way to restore your dog’s hearing, here are some things you can do to manage the issue and make a positive difference for both you and your pet.
- Make a vet appointment. Verify that the only cause of your dog’s hearing loss is age-related. Ear canal disease, such as a growth, foreign body, or infection, may be the cause. Treatment of an ear canal issue may restore an acceptable level of hearing.
- Enrich your dog’s smelling life. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell. Olfactory stimulation is known to impact canine behavior. Open a bag of your dog’s favorite treats. By providing a richer smelling life for your dog, you may help fill in some of your pet’s sensory gaps caused by the hearing loss.
- Teach your dog hand signals. When your dog experiences a significant amount of hearing loss, your ability to communicate with him via hand signals will create greater safety for your dog. This training can also create more support for the emotional bond you share. Dogs naturally communicate via body language. Therefore they tend to quickly learn the meaning of hand gestures. Ideally, training your pet with hand signals in conjunction with verbal cues should begin as a puppy. Someday, your young dog will become a senior with hearing loss. The hand signals that were learned will be useful in the future. If your older dog hasn’t been taught to respond to hand signals, begin the training process as soon as possible. Most senior dogs are very capable of learning these new cues especially when treat motivated or reinforced.
Sometimes the trick with a hearing-impaired dog is simply getting their attention. After all, your pet can only respond to your hand signals if in your line of sight. To get your dog’s attention, you can make a strong vibration by stomping your foot on the ground. You can also wave your hands or train him that a light touch on the back or neck. Another option is a vibration collar. These are not shock collars but are designed to gently vibrate when you press a remote control. With proper training, your dog will learn to look at you or come to you when he feels the vibration.
It’s also important to take some additional precautions outside your home. Don’t let your dog off-leash. With hearing loss, your pet may not be able to hear traffic or other dangers. People on the sidewalk may also take your dog by surprise if he can’t see them coming. Also, consider keeping interactions with other dogs limited to familiar dogs and in places where you can supervise their activities like a dog park.
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