How to Make Life Easier for Deaf Dogs

National Deaf Dog Awareness Week (September 20-26) is an excellent opportunity for pet lovers to learn how deafness affects dogs and how to interact with them on a daily basis so that as loving family members they are unaware of their hearing affliction.

According to an excellent article published by Petfinder, “deafness in animals can be congenital (inherited from birth) or acquired through trauma, drug reactions, or old age. Deafness is more common in white animals, though any animal can be deaf. Some breeds, such as Dalmatians and Boxers, are more prone to deafness than others. Other medical issues such as blindness or impaired vision also sometimes accompany deafness.”

Deaf pets are just as intelligent as hearing pets. It’s simply a matter of accepting their disability and working around it.

The best way to interact with a deaf dog is by introducing a hand sign language system, which you both understand. Many people actually adopt official sign language but you can institute any signals as part of your training routine.

Because they lack the ability to hear, it’s very important to step up your dog’s security by ensuring your home environment is safe and secure. Check your borders to ensure there are no holes in the fence through which a dog can escape, as they are unable to hear traffic noises.

It’s a good idea to engrave a notice on your pooch’s ID tag that your dog is deaf.

And use a flashlight (not directly in her face) as a way of indicating that you are trying to attract your dog’s attention.

It’s important to wake a sleeping dog without startling her. Walking toward her slowly will allow her to feel the vibrations of your footsteps. A treat or the food bowl will instantly attract her attention, too, because there is nothing wrong with her sense of smell!

Typical signs that you dog may have a hearing problem include:

  • Inattentiveness or change in obedience
  • Inability or confusion when following familiar vocal commands
  • Prolonged barking
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Repetitive head shaking or tilting toward side of affected ear
  • Change in personality

A proper assessment needs to be done by a veterinarian using the standard hearing test known as the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test. Board-certified veterinary neurologists perform this test.

While it common for pets to suffer a hearing loss as they age, it’s also important to remember that an ear infection can also lead to the sudden onset of deafness. This is what happened to celebrity dog Preston Casanova, a regular on the Hallmark channel’s Home and Family program.

“He is such a well-trained dog and it was heartbreaking to see him totally unresponsive to me. And it was equally frustrating for him too,” says his pet parent Laura Nativo.

The BAER test confirmed Nativo’s suspicions about his sudden hearing disability.

Recently, both people and pets that have experienced a sudden hearing loss have had their hearing restored as a result of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room, the air pressure is raised up to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, the lungs can gather up to three times more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. This oxygen is carried via the blood stream throughout the body, stimulating the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

Nativo noticed a radical improvement in Preston’s hearing after only four HBOT treatments. There are specialized veterinary practices around the country that offer this type of treatment for pets.

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