March 20, 2009,
S.P. asks from Quechee, VT on March 19, 2009
Aging Dog Going Blind and Deaf
Does any one know how to care for a dog going blind and deaf? He is 12, but with 3 little kids he startles easily. I am not sure what to do.
M.L. answers from New York on March 20, 2009
Several things. First, they make special collars for deaf dogs that vibrate so the dog knows you are trying to get his attention. I don't know if it's a good option for an aging dog who is becoming deaf, but it may be something to discuss with your veterinarian.
Next, now would be a very good time to create a space for your dogs that is kid-free. If he's crated-trained, then make sure he gets some quiet time in his crate. Cordon him off when he's eating and sleeping so that the kids cannot disturb him and trigger a panicked response. Try to make sure that every single interaction between your dogs and children is supervised. Never leave your dog alone with any of your kids.
Finally, teach your children never to approach the dog when he's sleeping, eating, or not facing them. If possible, and I know this might drive you a little crazy, they may want to walk a little harder to create vibration in the floor to warn the dog he is being approached. You may want to initiate the interaction between children and dog by approaching the dog yourself to let him know you're there.
There are some good resources here:
Also, I want to emphasize that of paramount importance is safety. deaf and blind dogs cannot see the signals of other dogs, they can easily become disoriented and lost outside, and are prone to being struck by cars. Never leave your dog in a backyard where it can get through a fence. Never walk a deaf and blind dog off leash. Never leave him alone in the same area with another dog and never leave him alone with your kids. I strongly recommend crate training; it gives the dog a safe "den" where he can rest away from threats and retreat to when he needs comfort.
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A.G. answers from New York on March 20, 2009
We had a dog that was 10 and he was bling and deaf when he passes. He had been blind for about 9 months prior to that. His was caused by diabetes.We found it was best to have him confined to a room, where the kids were not, and his food and water dish had always been in the same place so he could find it. As for the children they knew they had to go slow if they wanted to pet him so he could smell them coming. Taking him out was a challenge because he loved to explore. We had to build a side on our outside steps so he could put his side up against it and go do. We used the plastic lattice. it is strong, cleanable and wide enough that he couldn't fall through the gaps. We then had to stay close with his leash that we made a loop with to put it around his neck to stop him when needed. He was definately more work but he was a member of the family so to take areof him was just part of the love that was shared. Your 4 and 2 yo can understand fear and I would tell them that they scare the dog when they go to fast to him. Have them learn to approach slow and put out their hand near the dogs nose so they can be "smelled coming". Also try to not move furniture in the room the dog hangs out in. We had to learn to always push in the dinning room chairs. "Beast" had one spot he liked to lay and we kept his bed there and tried never to move it much. It was right in front of the basement door but as long as we closed the door he stayed safe and the bed was only a foot moved and he could find it.At this point in your dogs life it is safer for all to have a special spot for the dog and the children need to know they don't mess with the dog unless you say it is OK and there to supervise. Even the best dog can snap quick and do a ton of damage to skin from fear or pain. It is often not intentional but a natural reaction. (an example: my kids know that if they have to wake me up they need to talk to me and touch my feet. If I get "scared" awake I come up punching. My husband has been hit once and the 8 yo thankfully has fast reflexes. Even the 2yo understands to touch my feet. ;)) Even blind and deaf your dog can have a good life and you can enjoy the time you have with the dog. You just need to be more cautious and move slower. A.
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A.D. answers from New York on March 20, 2009
Depending on the type of dog you have, one thing that may help a little with the deafness is taking him to get groomed. We had a standard poodle when I was a kid. She did ultimately go blind and deaf, but if they clipped the extra hair from inside her ears, her hearing improved a little. She would follow my mom around the yard by tracking the path my mom took by scent instead of taking a more direct route. Every once in awhile you'd see her stick her nose in the air to re-find the scent. In the house, my mom would call her by stamping on the floor.
Otherwise, I think you need to keep your kids separate from the dog, and make a safe room for the dog that your dog is very familiar with and comfortable in. You don't want the dog biting the kids, and that is a very likely scenario. You can bring the kids slowly over to the dog for whatever interaction you want them to have.
D.B. answers from New York on March 20, 2009
If you've had this dog for a long time, and he's grown up with your children, I really don't think that you need to worry about his harming them. He may be losing his sight and his hearing, but he certainly hasn't lost his sense of smell....he can tell when the children are near him. Also, as long as you don't move the furniture around, he should be able to get around in your home just fine, even if he loses his sight completely. Animals are much more adaptable than people to a handicap like that.
I think that the most important thing to do, is to sit down with your children, and explain to them that their canine friend can no longer see and hear as well as he should, because he is getting old. Caution them about suddenly grabbing him, or bothering him when he's sleeping, and let them know that doing that may scare him, because he may not know what's going on. Tell them that they should talk to him before touching him, so that he'll know they're near. Also, warn them that if they leave their toys lying around where the dog usually walks, he may fall over them and hurt himself.
Children seem to have an affinity for understanding any animal that they've grown up with, so if you remind them frequently that "the doggy isn't feeling well". they may surprise you with how they give him extra attention, and are careful not to scare him.
Most dogs, who have grown up with children, would never, ever hurt them, so as long as you don't hear any growling from him if the children startle him, I don't think that you have anything to worry about. As long as your dog doesn't seem to be in pain, or suffering from his loss of sight and hearing, I would just let him live out his life. He may amaze you with just how well he gets around, even with his worsening handicaps!
K.J. answers from New York on March 20, 2009
Keeping the dog safe and your children safe is the utmost important thing. However, with that said, my next question would be, and I ask this with sadness in my heart from having "been there-done that", have you thought about the quality of life of the dog. I know that he is a member of the family and assume you have had him for all of his twelve years, but with three small children, I would be more concerned that his quality of life is going to be somewhat hampered with the fact that they might forget to "be easy" around the dog and that you kinda need to sequester him away from the family so that he doesn't get startled and accidentally harm one of your children.
Just a thought!!
Take care and good luck.