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Hearing Loss In Your Pet

Some pets are born with a congenital defect that causes deafness but most experience a loss of hearing gradually over time as they age. You will notice this in your older pet when he or she does not react to everyday noises, does not respond to the sound of a favorite squeaky toy or does not react when you call his or her name.

In dogs, hearing loss is often expressed as a startle reaction, especially when they've been awakened suddenly. Always approach a sleeping dog with caution and let family members know (especially younger children) to gently and slowly awaken an older dog who may lunge out to a perceived "attacker" with an accidental nip or bite.

If your hearing impaired pet is a cat, only let them outside in a safe enclosed area so they cannot run out into the street where they may be in danger of being hit by a car that they can no longer hear. If this is not possible, provide your older cat with a variety of interesting interactive toys to help her pass her time safely indoors. you may also consider getting your older cat a companion.
The use of hand signals will greatly enhance your dog's safety when walking outdoors. Start by walking in an area that is relatively free of traffic and don't bring something that might distract you, like your cell phone. While she is on leash (and for safety's sake, always keep a hearing impaired dog either on leash or contained), start by asking your dog to look at you by gently touching her as you walk. When she is paying attention, smile broadly and pet her to let her know that this is what you want. She will not be able to hear you say, "Good girl!" so acknowledge her immediately with a different form of sincere, positive praise.

You can start your hand signal training by pointing in the direction you want your dog to go. As soon as she does this, again, immediately praise her. You can use a hand up to indicate that you want her to stop and wait. Be consistent with your signals and she will soon begin to look to you for cues. If you need to gently tug on her leash to show her what you're asking or to get her attention, that's fine too. The goal is to have you work together as a team - she will be relying on you to keep her safe.

There is no reason to curtail your older dog's walks even if he is experiencing a loss of hearing. Be patient and persistent and make it your personal goal to become a bonded team that can enjoy your time together in the great outdoors.

Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer