toys for blind dogs

Toys For Blind Dogs

toys for blind dogs

Blindness should not stop your dog from playing, so in this post I’m going to be talking about toys for blind dogs.

I often use my senior dog Red and my life with her, as an example for many of my articles. Although she is blind, and has been since we adopted her almost 7 years ago, she doesn’t know how to play, and no amount of effort on my part has gotten her interested.

Having said that, I do have a lot of insight into life with a blind dog, and this topic is of great interest to me, so let’s see what we can learn.

A toy doesn’t have to be marked as suitable for a blind dog, it’s really a matter of trial and error. Since we know they rely heavily on other senses like smell and sound, keep that in mind when making your selections. Look around and choose toys that activate those senses.

Remember, blind dogs get bored as easily as any other dog that isn’t getting the proper physical exercise, or mental stimulation.

One other thing I’d like to mention, and this is obvious but I’ll say it anyway. Just like with sighted dogs, not every dog will like the same type of toys…

Treat/food dispensing toys

The one thing I can say is that Red is extremely motivated by food. Not much would stand in the way of her getting her little paws on anything edible, if I let her.  A great toy for a blind dog is one that you can stuff with treats. Red’s inability to see in no way affects her finding that food filled toy, and licking every last morsel out of it.

Here are a couple of examples….

Kong

Kong for blind dogs

I use a Kong as an example simply because she has one, and it works for her. But there are so many styles of treat toys on the market, start with one and see how it goes.  

Buster Food Cube

Buster Food Cube toy for blind dogs

Made of bite proof plastic, fill it with some of your dog’s favourite treats, and watch him have a great time. If he’s having trouble with it, you might want to try something with a stronger smell – hot dogs if he’s allowed!!

Chew toys

A great way to relieve boredom and help with oral hygiene, chew toys are fun it’s a matter of finding the ones your dog will enjoy. 

Petstages ORKA StickPetStages ORKA stick suitable for blind dogsStrong enough to withstand some tough chewing, this will give your dog something to keep him busy. The different textures massage your dog’s gums and, in conjunction with a regular dental care routine, will help keep his teeth nice and clean.

Jaws Pretzel

jaws pretzel toy for blind dogs

Another great chew toy, that massages gums and teeth, and good oral hygiene is critical in keeping your dog healthy. Durable, this toy measures 6″ x 5″ x 1. 

Scented toys

Scented toys are another option your dog may like. Depending on how strong the scent, they can be easy or more challenging to locate, and a great way to involve your dog and keep her active physically and mentally. If the scent is quite faint you don’t want to put it too far away from her, because no matter how excited you’re sounding, she will likely get frustrated if she hasn’t found anything. 

Planet Dog Orbee

planet dog orbee scented toy for blind dogs

Made in the USA and 100% recyclable, it has a nice scent your dog might be able to follow. It isn’t recommended for heavy chewers though!!

Gum Gum Ice Cream Cone

gum gum ice cream cone scented toy for blind dogs

A fun toy with an enticing strawberry smell, it is made of durable rubber, but best to keep an eye out if your dog is a heavy chewer.

Interactive toys

Interactive toys with compartments that hold treats, in varying degrees of difficulties, is another example of a toy suitable for blind dogs. Again it uses their sense of smell to draw them to the toy, and to figure out the puzzle.

Dog Tornado

dog tornado interactive toy

Not the most challenging toy you’ll ever come across, but that’s why it’s perfect for my dog Red. She doesn’t need to be able to see anything, she just nudges the parts out of the way to get to the treats she smells.

Noisy toys

Toys that squeak, have bells, or even balls that make noise when they roll, can entertain your dog.

KONG Squeezz Dumbbell 

Kong Squeez dumbbell amazonEasy to squeak, it is durable, non toxic, approximately 6″ in length, and comes in an assortment of jewel tones. 

Grriggles Quackling Plush Toy with Soundchip

Griggles plush toy for blind dogs

This 100% polyester plush toy comes with a chip inside that makes a quacking duck sound. Available in two sizes – Small 5″ and Large 7″.

Hide and seek

How about a game of hide and seek? Hiding close by, call your dog. If she’s having a hard time finding you, make a bit of noise to guide her – knock on the wall for example, and praise her like crazy when she finds you. A delicious treat is a great reward!! I do this with Red, and the more enthusiastic I sound, the more excited she is when she finds me.

A little advice based on my experience, which I know will differ with every dog… I do this with Red every once in a while, but I don’t drag it out too long because what started out as fun, just becomes annoying for her. Gauge your dog’s reaction and adapt accordingly.

Instead of you physically hiding, you could hide a treat very near to her, and let her sniff it out. Encourage her by using words like “where is it” or “go find it” to make the game a little more exciting.

The shell game

We’re all familiar with the shell game aren’t we? Hiding a small item under a shell, and having to pick which one it’s under!

So adapt it as a game to play with your dog, which I do. I take a plastic cup and put a smelly treat under it, and encourage her to “find it.” I did this right under her nose to begin with so she’d get rewarded quickly, encouraging her to want to play some more. I used one cup initially to help her get the hang of it, then upd (is that even how you spell it?)  the challenge by adding another cup, then one more.

You could also try moving the cup(s) a little further away, then a little more just to make it more fun and challenging, but not so it’s annoying or frustrating.

Toys that talk

There are balls that talk when rolled, and plush toys that bark. If your dog is a chewer I would be careful since he could destroy the voice box, and you don’t want him swallowing any pieces. If your dog has never been a chewer, it doesn’t mean he won’t start now, so watch him when he’s playing. As I mentioned, not all toys will be suited for all dogs – your dog may love the sounds, and others may be wary so see how he gets on.

PetQwerks Talking Babble Ball 

PetQwerks babble ball

Made of tough plastic, it can take a beating from your dog, but still best to supervise him. The toy is very sensitive, so will talk not only when played with, but even if you walk by. Could be slightly annoying to the humans, but dogs love it!! 

Make your own interactive toy

Grab a muffin tin and some tennis balls and put one in each space, hiding a smelly treat under one of the balls, then telling her to “find it.” If she’s having too hard a time, put the treat under a few. If that doesn’t work, hide a treat under a cup and let her find it.  

Are you crafty?

Actually you don’t have to be terribly crafty for this next idea. You may be able to adapt some of the toys your dog already has by sewing a bell or noise maker inside.

Add scent to your dog’s toys

To help your dog locate her toy, a drop of essential oil or even a doggie perfume will help.

I am not too familiar with scents and safety, so I recommend you do a lot of research before using them. However, I do know that essential oils like Eucalyptus and Lavender, for example, are used in natural flea control mixtures so are safe for use around dogs. It is a whole other story when it comes to what’s safe if your dog licks.

Which hand is holding that tasty morsel?

Put a treat in one of your hands close to your dog’s nose, and say “find it” or “where is it.”

Pairing up words to an action will teach your dog what you’re expecting of her. When you say them often enough, just hearing those words will get her excited.

Cat dancer….for dogs!

cat dancer

Are you familiar with those dangly cat toys, you know the ones with the long handles with a toy dangling at the end of a string? Why not buy, or make, one for your dog? Add a bell, and maybe even a drop of scent and have her chase it as you pull it along the floor. I know my cats (well most I should say, some couldn’t be bothered and gave me that look that said “who are you kidding, you think I’m going to chase after that thing!!) were seriously amused by this, why not dogs as well?

Having just written this, I may try this on my sighted dog Jack and see if he likes it. He may only be motivated if food was tied to the end of it, but who knows, it’s worth a try!

Treat in a bag

Rather than buy any more toys, what about putting a treat inside a paper bag, and letting her tear her way through it. Some dogs will chew the paper, which you don’t want to happen so if that’s the case, it may not be the right “toy” for your dog.

Make your own “milk jug” toy

Have you ever seen how much some dogs love playing with an empty milk jug? You spent a small fortune on toys, and he’s happiest with that!

Put some small cookies in the jug, leave the cap off, and shake it to attract your dog’s attention. Once she’s come over she will smell the food and hopefully start batting it around. Finding food coming out of it, will keep her even more motivated to play. If your dog isn’t particularly food motivated, that’s okay because the toy itself will keep her busy.

Toys for blind dogs – conclusion

Whether your dog is blind, partially sighted or even fully sighted, you should supervise your dog when playing, especially with toys that have squeakers, bells, noise makers or batteries. Your dog could start chewing, swallow something and choke.

Whenever you’re playing with your blind dog, always pay attention to how she’s reacting. What I mean by that is, if it’s too complicated or too challenging she may end up agitated and frustrated. When playing games with toys for blind dogs, make it fun and make it rewarding, and your dog will have a ball (no pun intended!!).

How to care for a blind dog

How to Care For a Blind Dog

How to care for a blind dog

I have shared my life with two vision impaired pups, so when people ask me how to care for a blind dog the first thing I say is “like you would any other dog.” The next thing I say is….I wrote everything down in this post!!

UPDATED OCTOBER 20/18 – the love of my life, Red, gained her wings May 18, 2018

When you realise your dog is losing his sight or may have already lost it suddenly, there are a whole host of emotions you must have been, and are still feeling. My number one recommendation is for you to head straight to an eye specialist. While your vet may be wonderful, he will not have the expertise or equipment a specialist will have. I would also explain the urgency to get seen as soon as possible. In some instances there may be things that can be done to help, so don’t assume there’s nothing to be done unless you know that for sure.  

You may not believe it right now, but your dog can still have a wonderful, happy and good quality life even if he or she is blind. Sure you’ll have to make a few minor adjustments, and yes you will have to be more aware of your surroundings, but she can still take walks, join you for family outings, travel, take boat trips and anything else you used to do.

How to care for a blind dog

My experiences

The first dog my husband and I adopted who had vision issues was Josephine. She was old, no idea how old, deaf and mostly blind. I felt like she could see shadows or light, enough to help her find her way to the door and around the house.

One day we were in the car (which she absolutely hated so I only took her when I had no choice), and on the way home she started howling like I had never heard before. When we got home I realised very quickly she was completely blind. In that split second when she started to cry she had lost what little vision she had. It was beyond heart breaking.

My second dog Red, the absolute love of my life and muse for this website and FB group, was blind when we adopted her. She was around 8 years old at the time, but no one really knew. We took her to an eye specialist because her eyes were bulging out of her head and we wanted to understand what was going on. We were also kind of hoping we could do something to help her get back some of her sight. It turns out she had glaucoma and the pressure was building to the point her eyes were, literally, about to explode out of her head. I also learned it is a very painful condition.

She was such a good-natured dog she never complained about the pain, and who knows who long she was in that state. She had been dumped in an animal control facility about a year before, and she was already blind when she got there. Poor baby!

We only had two options to help her – remove her eyes or give her an injection in each one to shrink the tissue and relieve the pressure. To be honest I didn’t like the idea of her not having eyes even though they weren’t working, so we opted to have the injections. I wish I knew what was used but all I know is that she got one injection in each eye and that was it. Over the years her eyes shrank until they got tiny, and she was on eye drops for life.

care of a blind dog

Something to marvel at

When we first brought Red home it used to amaze me watching her navigate her way around the house, not bumping into anything. She would find the water bowl in the kitchen then make her way to her bed down the hall in my bedroom. If she realised she was going the wrong way she would stop, reorient herself then carry on to her intended destination.

She was the same when I would take her to other peoples’ homes. I would show her where her water bowl was and she would manage to find it. Incredible!

After her dementia diagnosis she was still able to find her way around, but sadly the confusion would cause her to bang into things. That’s when I had to start tweaking our homestead!

Red had a great life

I’ve taken her:

  • On short haul flights where she’s with me in her Sherpa bag in the cabin
  • Many long haul flights where she had to be in cargo
  • Two day car trips UK-Spain and back
  • More day trips in cars, buses and trains then I can count
  • Ferries
  • Homes of friends and family

I’ve learned a lot

Naturally I’ve learned a lot about how to keep a blind dog comfortable and safe, so here are my best tips.

How to take care of a blind dog

I never move furniture around, but to be honest I’m not the type that enjoys that anyway! My mother loves trying new looks, and is constantly moving the couch here, and a chair somewhere else. I could live in the same house for 30 years and never move a thing, which is good because if you’re living with a blind dog, you don’t want her to bang into something that wasn’t there yesterday. Red knew the layout so why confuse her? If I need a change, I buy a new pillow for the couch, or a new accessory.

I was always mindful of my other dog’s toys on the floor. Even though they’re stuffed and soft, Red had really skinny little legs so even stumbling over a small soft toy could have caused an injury.

I never moved her water bowls.

I never moved her beds around. If one needed replacing I would of course do that, and if I decided to add another bed somewhere I would do that as well but never move them.    

When it was time to wash her bed(s) I didn’t leave the spot(s) empty. I at least put a blanket down so she knew she was in the right place.

She understood the word “careful” which I taught her over time, and it was such a useful cue for her to know. Whenever she banged into something or came close I said “careful” and she gradually made the association. She learned it so well that as soon as I said it she would immediately stop and change direction. It really was adorable to watch!

If Red was asleep on the couch and there was something I had to do that would take me out of the room, I waited until she woke up or put her on her bed. When I couldn’t wait and I knew it would only take seconds, I put a chair next to the couch so she couldn’t fall. You have to really be mindful if you do this because it’s too easy to get side tracked, and the next thing you know you hear a thud. It’s not worth the risk to leave your dog unattended.

If I had to wake her up for some reason I called her name first or very gently touched her to get her attention. I did my best to never startle her.

When she wandered around and I knew she needed a quick pee, I never just picked her up without first saying something like “you have to go out?” This way she knew what was going to happen next.

When I had to leave the house, no matter for how long, I always said “I’ll be right back” or “I’ll be back soon” – this way she’s not wondering where everyone went. It’s exactly what you shouldn’t do if a dog has separation anxiety, but Red didn’t so it was fine.

Red’s water bowl was in the kitchen very near a drawer handle, but it was literally the only spot to put it. When I decided to elevate her bowl that’s when it became a problem, so I wrapped the handle in a piece of fabric and problem solved! 

Be careful of leaving doors open if there are stairs she can fall down, and that applies to both in the house and out.

When I took Red for walks of course she was always on a leash, but when she just needed a quick pee I didn’t use one. I always stayed near her and talked to her so she wouldn’t wonder where I went. I don’t live near a busy road, there was never a danger she could take off, she would just pee and be done. Your situation will be different from mine so if there is the slightest chance he can bolt, even if he never has before, don’t risk it and always use a leash.

I put foam pieces on the edges of doors and around table legs at her head level, so if she bumped into them the foam would cushion her. They are similar to a pool noodle and I bought them at a home improvement store like Home Depot.

When it’s time for a walk I always let her know by either asking her or telling her so she knew what was going on.

I never closed doors she knew were always open. She was used to walking straight down the hallway from the living room to the bedroom, so why would I allow her to hurt herself by closing a door and blocking off her access? 

If you have stairs in your home, baby gates will be your new best friend. A gate should be used both at the top and bottom of the staircase, but I know getting into the habit of closing them can take a bit of time, but you’ll get there.

You may want to consider buying a dog stroller. I can’t say enough good things about it, how much easier it made my life, and better it made Red’s! In my case I got it more because of mobility than blindness, but it could make your dog feel more secure in crowds or on uneven terrain. I’ve written a lot about pet strollers which you can find on this site under “mobility issues”, but here is a link to one post “21 Reasons Why You Need to Buy a Pet Stroller.”  

Dr Mercola Eye Support

Some members of my FB group were talking about this product, so I thought it was worth a mention. I don’t know anything about it so please do your research and ask your vet before you give it to your dog. They were very pleased with the results, but their situations will be different from yours. 

How to care for a blind dog – conclusion

If you’ve adopted a blind dog, your dog is experiencing vision problems or has already gone blind, it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out how to cope. It’s a question of looking at your home, surroundings and even lifestyle in a whole new way. It’s about getting down to your dog’s level and figuring out what can be a problem, and what isn’t. My “real life” tips are a great place to start!!

 

What adjustments have you had to make? Do you have a tip that has made the biggest difference in terms of quality of life? Sharing helps others so please post in the comment section below.

 

**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. It is a wonderful community where you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please help my dog is going blind

Please Help My Dog Is Going Blind

Please help my dog is going blind

 

I understand the panic you must be feeling now that you suspect your dog is going blind. The first thing I recommend you do is make an appointment with an eye specialist, since typically your regular vet won’t have the experience or equipment to properly diagnose what’s going on. If you need a referral to see a specialist, explain to the vet staff why you feel the situation is urgent, and get things moving so no time is wasted. 

Okay you have an appointment now you can carry on reading. 

 

UPDATED September 20, 2018

Please Help My Dog is Going Blind

Vision problems can be tough to catch early, even if our dogs are showing us there’s a problem. Sometimes they are so subtle or come on so gradually we don’t even realise something is going on. Here are some signs to watch out for. 

Signs

  • Walks on objects or surfaces he would normally avoid
  • Rubs his face on the ground
  • Eyes are bulging
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Stepping high – like he’s unsure when walking
  • Closed eyes
  • Discharge
  • Sleeping more
  • Bumps into walls, furniture
  • Can’t catch toys you throw at him
  • Tearing
  • Redness
  • Rubbing his eye
  • Confused/disoriented
  • Is startled when approached 
  • Having trouble finding his toys/food/water bowls
  • Doesn’t want to go out at night
  • Walking slower than usual
  • Not interested in walking as much 
  • Aggressive when he never was before

Oh no, I missed the signs!

Once a vision problem has been diagnosed we can easily look back and think “oh now I understand why he…” but at the time there are lots of “logical” explanations. Or it could simply be we’ve never dealt with blindness in senior dogs, so it’s not something that would immediately pop into our heads.

Don’t beat yourself up about it, because if you don’t know you don’t know and we’re all doing the very best we can.

Be watchful!

This is something I talk about frequently, so it’s time for me to mention it again here!! If you notice any changes in your dog’s behaviour – even if it’s something you consider too minor to bother your vet about – make the call anyway. You know your dog best so if you’re concerned there’s most likely a reason. Things can go downhill quite quickly, and definitely when it comes to sight, so it’s best not to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. 

How do I know if my dog is going blindHere’s an easy experiment to do at home  

Move a couple of pieces of furniture, turn off the lights and watch how your dog gets around. Does he know where he’s going, or is he bumping into things? Now turn the lights back on and watch again. If he’s completely blind, you see the same results. If he has some vision, he’ll perform better in the light.

My two experiences with vision problems in dogs

Josephine

The first dog I had with vision problems was Josephine. She was an older dog my husband and I fostered…and kept of course. Not only was this sweet soul deaf, she was also only able to see shadows. She got on very well, could always find her way to her food bowls and the front door. There was nothing to be done for her other than love and care for her. I remember the second she lost what little sight she had. We were in the car when all of a sudden she started to howl…loudly. She was afraid of the car so would bark anyway, but I instinctively knew there was something very wrong.

We got home, I brought her into the house and after watching her I realised she had gone completely blind in that split second. She cried for about a week before she was able to start adjusting, but boy was that heartbreaking. The worst part was, my husband was working in England at the time and we were in Florida and he was Josephine’s favourite person. 

She was never the same after that, and with other health issues affecting her quality of life we said goodbye about a year after that episode. 

What should I do my dog is going blind

Red

Red, my 16 year old Chihuahua/Min Min who features so prominently throughout this site, is the second dog and she’s totally blind. She was from the same shelter as Josephine and was about 8 when we got her, with eyes so big they were literally bulging out of her head.  

After we brought her home we took her to an eye specialist hoping her blindness was reversible, which sadly wasn’t. We were also told her eyes were bulging because of the pressure building up due to glaucoma, a condition that had been ignored by her previous owners. Immediate action was required due to the severity of her condition, and the amount of pain she was in. Red is such a good natured dog, I don’t know if she would have ever complained about it, or she had just gotten used to it. Waiting much longer would have meant her eyes would have blown out of their sockets…literally.

The terrible state of her eyes and her obesity shows how terribly neglected she had been. 

The procedure was incredibly simple, at least it seemed that way to me but obviously required a great amount of skill from her eye doctor!! A needle was inserted into each eye to relieve the pressure, and her eyes began to get smaller almost immediately. It’s been 8 years since we had it done, so I don’t recall the name of the procedure or the drug used, all I know is that it worked.

She was probably blind from the time she was about 6 years old so she’s had a lot of time to get used to it, and of course I do my absolute best to keep her safe. More tips on how to keep your blind dog safe later…  

(Sadly my sweet girl Red earned her wings May 18, 2018 when she was approximately 17 years old.) 

Conditions that can affect your dog’s vision

Nuclear Sclerosis or Lenticular Sclerosis

Have you ever looked into a dog’s eyes and noticed they appeared cloudy, a bluish haze? Although many people assume that’s cataracts, most of the time it isn’t.  

What is it?

  • Result of age related changes to the lens
  • Often seen in dogs over 7 years old
  • Usually develops in both eyes at the same time
  • Isn’t painful

How does it happen?

The lens, which cannot expand, is made up of clear fibre cells that constantly grow. In young dogs the lens is clear, because there is plenty of room for new cells. As a dog ages, the new cells push the old ones towards the centre of the lens, hardening it and causing it to cloud over.

Treatment

No treatment

Living with it

Doesn’t affect vision in any significant way, although your dog may find it a little difficult to see things close to them. All in all, your dog should get along fine.

Cataracts

Like Nuclear Sclerosis, cataracts cause cloudiness, but unlike it cataracts affect vision. Thankfully, it is not a painful condition.

How does it happen?

Changes start in the centre of the lens, then move outwards. Vision suffers as  the lens becomes more and more opaque. Cataracts due to age tend to develop in both eyes, but may progress at different rates. 

Cataracts can develop as the result of trauma, infection, diabetes, or hypothyroidism – low thyroid function. Inherited conditions are the most common cause.

When does it usually happen?

Cataracts generally first show up at 6-8 years of age, but can be found in very young dogs as well.

Diagnosing cataracts

A check up is needed for confirmation. 

Treatment

The only real treatment is surgery, but not if cataracts are the result of a secondary disease like diabetes. By the time many pet parents notice, a large portion of the eye will have been affected.

Prevention

To avoid cataracts caused by diabetes, keep your dog at an ideal weight. Overweight dogs are at risk of developing this disease. Having said that, diabetes can strike dogs of any size.   

Glaucoma

Simply put, Glaucoma is pressure caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye. Left untreated, the optic nerve and retina are damaged beyond repair, leading to partial or total loss of vision. Glaucoma is quite a painful condition, and the most common cause of blindness in dogs. If this condition goes untreated for even 48 hours it may be too late to save the sight in that eye, and when one eye has it, the other usually gets it. A common symptom is the sudden development of a red, painful eye.

There are two types of Glaucoma – Primary and Secondary

Primary Glaucoma

The fluid is not able to drain through the filtration angles of the eye, and is genetics based.

I read this very sobering statistic, once again emphasising the need to act quickly. Over 50% of dogs with primary glaucoma will develop complications in their unaffected eye within about 8 months.

Symptoms include:

  • Blinking
  • Cloudiness in the eye
  • Eye is shrinking into the head
  • Redness of the blood vessels in the whites of the eyes
  • Bulging eyes
  • Obvious sight loss

Secondary Glaucoma

This occurs after some other eye problem – trauma, slipping of the lens, inflammation, injury that caused blood to collect in the front of the eye…

Symptoms include:

  • High pressure in the eye
  • Redness of the blood vessels in the whites of eyes
  • Cloudy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not interested in playing
  • Constriction of the pupil

Diagnosing Glaucoma

Go to the eye doctor!

It’s entirely possible your vet has all the equipment needed to diagnose glaucoma and medications to treat it, and he may be fully qualified to perform as an eye doctor, I can’t speak to that. However in my case when we adopted Red who was blind, we went straight to a specialist. Our vet was wonderful, but going to him first would have wasted time, and in some cases that extra time could impact the outcome.

Treatment

Depending on the condition of the eyes, and the test results, your vet/eye doctor will discuss with you the options available. It could involve drugs, draining fluid, surgery, possible removal of your dog’s eyes.

Prosthetic eyes could replace the damaged ones, or the eyelids sutured shut. I know it sounds gruesome, but I have been assured by the eye doctor we went to, dogs can live with it.

How can I tell if my dog is going blind

Diabetes

I touched on cataracts briefly above, but since I’m mentioning diabetes specifically it’s important to be aware that within 9 months of a dog being diagnosed with diabetes, 3 out of 4 will develop cataracts and go blind. Cataracts can develop, literally overnight, and if they’re not treated glaucoma develops, which is an extremely painful condition.

Here is a piece of very helpful advice I read – As soon as your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, head straight for the eye doctor. Yes start diabetes treatment, but don’t wait until it’s under control because by that time it might be too late to save your dog’s eyesight.

This article”Cataracts, Blindness, and Diabetic Dogs” goes into a lot more detail, but it’s worth taking the time to read it. 

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome, or SARDS

A not very well known cause of sudden blindness in dogs is something called SARDS. Most often diagnosed in dogs around 8 1/2 years old, the cause is not known or understood. An article I read recently called “What Causes Sudden Blindness in Older Dogs?” will give you more information about this condition. 

Eye irritants and other issues

Dust, sand, and other foreign bodies affect dogs of any age. If you notice your dog blinking a lot, tearing, rubbing his eyes, unable to open his eye(s), call your vet (or eye doctor) right away. Ask what you can do immediately at home, then get him down there as soon as possible. It doesn’t take long for a minor issue to affect vision.  

How to help your blind dog adjust

If your dog goes blind gradually, you might not even realise it for quite some time. They know their homes and territory so well, they don’t seem to struggle. Other senses become more acute, and they adapt rather well. However, if a dog goes blind suddenly it can be very scary and traumatic…for everyone, and it will take time to adjust. 

Blind dog proof your house

Don’t move furniture around

Get down on the floor and see your house from your dog’s eye level. Are there doorknobs or handles sticking out that can hurt him? Sharp edges of a coffee table? Cables he can trip over? Cover them in a spongy material for safety. 

Don’t leave anything on the floor he can stumble over – toys, shoes…

Put baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs

Do the same around your garden. If you have a pool either fence it off, or don’t let your dog wander in the yard alone. Any holes in the grass he can get his foot caught in? Sharp pieces of fencing sticking out? 

For helpful tips on how I cared for my blind dog Red, read this ⇒ How to Care For a Blind Dog

How do I figure out if my dog is going blind

A new way to approach and communicate

Over time other senses will become more acute, and while adapting to these changes your dog can become very fearful or anxious. 

I never pick Red up when she’s sleeping so I don’t startle her. I’ll call her first so she knows I’m around.

I have taught her the word “careful” and it’s a very handy cue for a blind dog to know. It’s simple really – whenever she got too close to banging her head for example I would say “careful” and she would switch directions. Obviously it took a bit of time for her to learn that, but she did.  It’s also a good opportunity to do some retraining. I use careful but you can just as easily remind your dog of the “sit” and “stay” command to accomplish the same thing. 

Talk a lot more to your dog in a calm voice. Make her feel safe and let her know what’s going to happen. Let her know in words that you’re going for a walk, or that it’s time to eat. 

When you want your dog to “come” for example, you will likely have to repeat that cue several times to give him a chance to follow the sound of your voice. 

Your dog can still play and have a great life

Of course it’s going to be a big adjustment for everyone, including your dog, so help her by keeping her active and an important member of the family. If she always loved her toys make sure she still has access to them, but you may want to try a few different types to see which ones she prefers now. Toys that make noise and dispense treats are all good options to try.  

She’ll still need her walks and will rely on you to guide her at the beginning. If you’ve always used a flexi leash it’s time to switch to a 4′ or 5′ leash and keep her close to you, on one side. If possible take her out when it’s relatively quiet so she’s not too overwhelmed by all the sounds outside. 

She may have enjoyed her runs off leash, but you’ll have to keep her on leash now. As she becomes more familiar with her surroundings and more confident, you could buy a super long training lead or rope to let her get some distance for a bit of a run while staying safe. 

To finish….

It’s my hope you enjoyed this article  – maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word – let’s say found it helpful. Any concerns relating to eye problems in dogs, please see your vet but preferably an eye specialist ASAP. 

 

Do you share your life with a blind dog? Was she born blind, blind when you rescued her or something that developed as a result of illness or injury? How have you managed, and what have you found works well in your home? Sharing your stories helps others.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running. **

Everything you need to know about hearing loss in older dogs

Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Loss in Older Dogs

Everything you need to know about hearing loss in older dogs

While hearing loss in older dogs is not uncommon, it certainly does not mean every senior dog will go deaf, or even suffer partial hearing loss. If you do suspect your dog is having trouble hearing don’t panic, just keep reading.

Would you be surprised to learn dogs are euthanised simply because they can’t hear well…or at all? So sad, especially because it does not have to detract from their quality of life or yours.

What causes hearing loss in dogs

When I refer to hearing loss that means partial or total, temporary or permanent.

  • Heredity
  • Tumours/cancer
  • Untreated ear infections
  • Birth defects
  • Old age
  • Exposure to heavy metals
  • Blocked ear canal due to wax buildup, inner ear hair, grass
  • Trauma/injury
  • Drug toxicity
  • Repeated exposure to loud noises
  • Inflammation

 

Everything you need to know about hearing loss in older dogs

Signs to watch out for

  • Sleeping more deeply
  • Doesn’t react to noises/squeaky toys/doorbells/knocking/clapping/barking the way he used to
  • He doesn’t know you’re in the room until he sees you, or you touch him
  • Shakes his head a lot
  • Barks a lot
  • Paws at his ears
  • Doesn’t respond when you give him a cue
  • Startled when he wakes up because he didn’t hear you approaching
  • Difficulty waking him up

Diagnosing hearing problems 

A simple check is to stand behind your dog and jingle your keys or clap really loudly. Do his ears move? Does he turn his head? How quickly/or slowly does he respond? If your dog has lost hearing in both ears you won’t get a response, but what if it’s only one ear/partial hearing loss? Try snapping your fingers close to each ear and watch for a reaction. While doing these tests make sure your dog can’t see you or feel vibrations or he may react because he knows or senses you’re there.  

Now that you’ve determined your dog is experiencing some degree of hearing loss, your next step should be a visit to your vet. When booking the appointment I strongly advise you let them know the problem and convey a sense of urgency to get yourself seen as soon as possible. The longer it takes the worse the problem can become, and a reversible condition may no longer be. 

A good way to prepare for your visit would be to make as many notes as you can about –

  • When you first noticed a problem
  • What made you think there was something wrong 
  • Any changes in behaviour – eating, sleeping, interest in playing…
  • Whatever else you can think of

During your appointment your vet will ask you questions (and that’s when your list will come in handy), and then he’ll do a general checkup and of course examine your dog’s ears. Things he’d be looking for include – the state of the ear drum, buildup of wax, a foreign object, hair, inflammation… He may also take a swab or culture for testing. 

There is a test called Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response procedure (BAER) which measures the brain’s response to clicks directed into each ear. You would have to check with your vet to find out if he offers this test and how much it costs. Is the “dropping the keys behind the dog” test enough to determine he has a hearing problem, or do you need a more definitive test? Discuss the pros and cons with your vet, or do your own research to help you decide whether it’s beneficial or not.  

What you need to know about hearing loss in older dogs

Treatment and Prevention

There’s not a lot you can do about age related hearing loss. However, regular vet checks to keep your dog’s ear canals clean and free from wax and hair build up are a good idea, especially if you have a dog with floppy ears. If you suspect he has an ear infection or any problems with his hearing, please see the vet right away. DO NOT assume it’s a natural part of aging and therefore nothing can be done.  

A deaf dog is still a dog

A dog who is deaf or has some hearing loss is first and foremost still a dog, with the same needs as any other.

How to communicate with a deaf dog

The best way is by using sign language, and you can either get tips through training videos for American Sign Language or come up with your own hand signals. Everyone living in your home and caring for your dog should learn them,  and that includes dog walkers and pet sitters so there is always someone able to talk to your dog. 

Although Jack is not deaf, when I taught him to sit I always paired the word with a hand signal. I no longer use the verbal command only the hand signal, and should he ever lose his hearing I can still ask him what I want him to do.

If your dog is already deaf, look out for a behaviour you like and reward it. If your dog happens to be sitting, use the hand signal you’ve chosen for “sit” then give him a treat, and do it each time he’s sitting. It shouldn’t take long for him to understand what you’re asking. Choose another signal for come etc…  Make sure each one is different, clear and visible from a distance. 

Other means of communication include –

If your dog is only partially deaf, talking louder will help. Okay that was obvious!!

If your pup is playing in the garden at night, flicking the lights on and off will get his attention, and in the house you can use a small flashlight but never shine it in his eyes. Okay that last part was obvious too!!

To wake him or get his attention, a stomp on the floor with a heavy shoe or boot will cause vibrations your dog will feel. You could also stand near him and lightly touch him, or put a treat under his nose so he wakes up to something pleasant

Throw a very soft and light toy into his line of sight

Keeping your deaf dog safe (a lot of these tips apply to all dogs)

Make sure he is wearing a well fitting collar with ID tags and is microchipped

Harnesses, collarsleashes  and dog tags are available with the words “deaf dog” on them

Attaching a bell to his collar means you can hear him in the house or garden 

Pay closer attention to your surroundings when out walking because your dog won’t be able to hear what’s approaching – he’ll rely on you for that now

A GPS tracker is something to consider, especially if you’re taking him travelling or on days out

If the dog park is too overwhelming right now, play dates with his doggie friends will keep him active and socialising, but in a more controlled and stress free setting

If you have a porch, blocking off the entrance/exit with a gate or lattice can prevent your dog from running off should he get out the front door

If you have kids running around the house or visitors dropping by don’t let them startle the dog, suggest the best way to approach.

If you have pets then you know how important it is to keep hazardous materials out of reach, and to keep an eye on them when they’re out walking. A hearing dog can easily be told “leave it” or “drop it” and hopefully the danger or potential danger is averted/over. In the case of a deaf dog he has to be looking at you in order to see what you’re asking, so for safety sake you may have to go over and physically take the item away from him.

Off leash – yes or no

You may feel very confident letting your dog off leash in an enclosed space, but what about an unenclosed area? That is a personal choice, and only you can make that decision.

Let’s assume you’ve taught him a hand signal for “come” and he’s great at listening every single time. What happens if he’s not facing you and there is an oncoming danger such as a car that he does not see? I’m not saying not to let him off, just giving you something to think about. 

An alternative is to use a long training leash. While it won’t give him the same level of freedom as being off leash, he will have the chance to explore and do some wandering around. 

 

Josephine was a victim of hearing loss in older dogs

Adopting a deaf dog

If you’re thinking of welcoming a deaf or partially deaf dog into your heart and home there’s only one thing I can say – congratulations and you’re amazing. Okay that was two things!!

A deaf dog is as great a family addition as one who can hear, and there’s no reason they can’t fit into a home with children as well. The same criteria you would use for adopting a hearing dog is what you would use when adopting a deaf one. 

All dogs, hearing impaired or not need love, time, patience, training, socialisation, help building confidence and a happy home. It’s true training with hand signals is different than using verbal commands, but with practice and an awareness of how you use your hands around your dog you’ll get there. 

Everything you need to know about hearing loss in dogs – conclusion

I know it’s a difficult time for you, but imagine how your dog is feeling? You can understand what’s going on, he doesn’t and may be feeling confused, scared, or nervous. Of course there will be challenges while everyone acclimates to what will be your new “normal” – but as long as you keeping loving him, showing compassion and patience you’ll all be fine.

I hope this post on hearing loss in dogs has helped you see that life for and with a deaf dog can be just as wonderful as before, with a few “minor” adjustments. 

 

Did you adopt a deaf dog or did your dog lose his hearing? Do you know the reason? What adjustments have you made that helped? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below. 

 

**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**

 

 

**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running. **