Our senses are important for helping us to navigate our world. The experience is no different for our animals. Sudden deafness in cats or dogs can happen, and the results can be very disconcerting. Caring for a deaf pet has some challenges, but is a task that Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care can help you through.
When Your Pet Has Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can happen in any age pet, in dogs or cats, occur slowly or quickly, and can be in one or both ears. You might notice that your pet is not as attentive as normal, confusion about normal commands or routines, incessant barking, or a change in sleeping habits.
Causes of deafness could include:
- A congenital problem (something a pet is born with)
- Obstruction of the ear canal with dirt, wax, ear mites, or foreign material
- Infection or inflammation in the ear canal
- A side effect of certain medications
- Head trauma
- Exposure to loud noises
- Changes due to the aging process
Many times we can detect full or partial hearing loss through observations, however we can also do a dog deafness test called BAER testing (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response). This is typically most useful when genetic or congenital forms of deafness are suspected.
It is also a logical thing to wonder what cat and dog hearing loss treatment options exist. In some cases, addressing the medication reaction, ear infection, or obstruction may be possible. In most cases, though, pet hearing loss is an irreversible change without any viable treatment options.
Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Deaf Pet
Regardless of why your pet has lost their hearing, there are some things that you can do as their caregiver to help them to get around successfully in the world.
- Think about safety—Hearing helps alert animals to hazards such as a nearby car, a potential predator, or an approaching person. A deaf pet needs extra help staying safe. Animals with hearing loss should be supervised when outdoors. Keeping them on leash or within a fenced-in yard is ideal. Consider putting a bell on your pet’s collar so that you can locate them quickly if they do get out of your line of sight. Also be sure to teach children how to not startle your deaf pet so that an accidental bite does not occur. Consider putting information on your pet’s identification tag to identify them as deaf as well.
- Get creative about communicating—Since your pet cannot hear you, you will need to find other ways to let them know what you want or need. Hand signals can be a great way to teach pets commands like sit and stay without your voice. You can teach them a command to indicate when you are happy, when they need to look at you and pay attention, when the answer is “no,” etc. The sky’s the limit! Training your pet with a tool such as a flashlight or laser pointer can also be helpful, especially if you need to get your pet’s attention from a distance. Remote vibrating (NOT shock) collars can also be useful.
- Manage anxiety—Sudden deafness in cats and dogs can bring on anxiety especially as their experience with the world changes abruptly. Be sure to help your pet adjust by being deliberate about letting them know when you come and go. Use vibration, motion, or smell when possible so as not to startle your pet. If your pet is showing signs of anxiety you may also consider contacting us for other suggestions or potential anti-anxiety aids.
Having a deaf pet really isn’t all that different from having a hearing pet. They can still make wonderful companions and have long and fulfilled lives. They just need a little extra help from their person—you! The team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care is also here to help.