canine column: canine hearing loss
I thought he said, “Let’s tie one on,” a strange suggestion from my husband on a Monday afternoon.
“Tequila or rum?” I offered.
He stared at me blankly. “I said that the toothpaste is all gone.”
Hearing loss is a problem in our house—and it’s not just mine. Chip no longer comes when he is called. Ernie has taken up preventative barking to keep intruders at bay. And though I must repeat myself frequently to my husband, he insists his hearing his fine—but that it’s my voice that’s the problem.
It’s ironic that the only creature whose hearing remains intact is Johnny’s—our 14-year old dog. Our old guy still comes trotting to the kitchen when he hears the refrigerator door open, or magically appears by my side when I stick my fingers into the box of dog biscuits.
It’s well-documented that our canines outperform us in the auditory realm. Their ability to detect higher-pitched sounds and softer noises—from even a long distance away-— is astounding. When I worked at the veterinary clinic, we often knew an owner was minutes away from our parking lot by the sudden agitation of his or her dog in its kennel. But what if your canine starts becoming startled or aggressive when you wake him from a deep sleep? Or is suddenly disobeying you when he’s always been such a good boy? A trip to the vet is in order to rule out anything serious when our dog has behavioral changes. The problem, however, may be his or her hearing.
Like us, our dogs can lose their hearing for a variety of reasons, both temporary and permanent. Chronic ear infections, medications, disease or injury can be culprits. When Chip and Ernie stopped charging the door whenever my husband or I put the key in the lock, we joked that they were downstairs taking advantage of our Netflix subscription. Being senior dogs—both 13-years old—appeared to be the tipping point in their hearing deficits.
Hearing loss is not the end of the world for our dogs. Being the resilient critters they are, they adapt. As owners, however, we do need to help them out. Keep your four-legged friend on a leash to prevent her from darting into traffic on walks. If she is sleeping, approach her cautiously and tap her gently. Get a personalized dog tag—which you can buy and have engraved locally—that has his or her name, your phone number and the word “deaf” on it.
Use hand gestures to get Abby to follow you or go outside. And always remember to say “I love you” a little louder and closer to their ears.
Our 15 year old pit has difficulty hearing our voices. We call her now with hand claps and use hand gestures to signal her to come. The adjustments we’ve made help her to remain a participant in our 3-dog family.