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Still agile old dog, how best to deal with hearing/vision loss

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  • Still agile old dog, how best to deal with hearing/vision loss

    Hi! My little guy Harry, a Norwich Terrier, is getting on in years. He'll be 13 this fall. His joints, muscles, tendons, etc are still in really great shape, he still plays keep away (his version of fetch ) and runs around with me, though he understandably takes more naps.

    The only health issues he's having, aside from teeth, is his hearing and vision is deteriorating. His depth perception and low-light vision pretty bad right now, but as long as someone carries him up and down the stairs, he's happy as a clam. But as for hearing, it's absolutely terrifying every time I come home and hear one dog barking for joy that I've finally come back, and I have to run around the first floor of the house to find Harry, most likely asleep and blissfully unaware that he just about gave me a heart attack. Even if we're in the room and he's paying attention to us, if we don't talk super loudly he doesn't hear us (and no, it's not the typical terrier stubbornness )

    So any tips for dealing with/helping an aging dog/vision and hearing impaired dog? The depth perception thing does get annoying, because he tends to get stuck on the stairs and then bark for us to come get him, but he's better about realizing he should just wait for someone to carry him down in the first place.
    Last edited by Electrikk; Jul. 13, 2012, 01:28 PM. Reason: title
    I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know-it-alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
    Titania: 50% horse, 50% hippo
    Unforgetable: torn between jumping and nap time, bad speller

  • #2
    I have an aged rat terrier with some of the same issues. My house is one floor but if I had stairs I would baby-gate them. Not much you can do about the hearing issue. Yes, I have to look around to check on my Fred, he doesn't join the welcoming committee of the other dogs at the door. You may start to encounter some "night wandering" that I have experienced with elderly dogs...another reason to block the stairs.


    • #3
      As someone who has had lots of very senior dogs in my life, having a dog with loss of hearing and vision is not something that worries me too much anymore. My current 16-yr old mini poodle has cataracts in her right eye, and also reduced vision on her left eye. Turning on lights in rooms that are a little darker help her see better - she has no night vision left. Baby gates at the stairs, arm signals (noticed I said arm and not hand signals, due to her poor vision) for the very important command "come". She can feel floor vibration and will jump up and happily wait for me at the bottom of the stairs when I am walking down the stairs. She still takes long walks in the dog park and tries to keep up at my heels, but sometimes she'll get distracted and loose me. I have to come back closer, signal and she then catches up with me.
      I had one dog that went totally blind and deaf in his old age. I kept all furniture in the same place and he could navigate very well inside the house, and fairly well in the yard.
      It is hard to see them age, but they can adapt amazingly well with a little help from us.
      I think if my current senior dog goes totally blind, I'd still take her to walks on a leash in an open field.
      "Another member of the Barefoot Eventers Clique"


      • #4
        For blindness- Putting down floor mats in front of the door to go out/steps/food that are a different texture than the floor can help the dog know that they are in a certain area. plug in air freshener scents in different scents, for different rooms can help them orient themselves.
        baby gate off stairs so dog doesn't fall dn them if they are upstairs.

        For deafness, they sell vibrating collars that you can train them to, in order to get their attention.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you all for the suggestions! I'll definitely try the baby gates, I think we still have some around from when he was a puppy and not allowed to roam the house. He's still super happy, and I just want to help him age gracefully
          I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know-it-alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
          Titania: 50% horse, 50% hippo
          Unforgetable: torn between jumping and nap time, bad speller


          • #6
            Lots of runners/throw rugs if you have wood floors and lots of consistency.


            • #7
              Gating the stairs is a good idea. If you buy a new one, keep receipts! I went through several (with much snarling, maddening assemblies) that didn't work before I found a couple that did.

              There are a lot of resources out there for owners of dogs with blind or deaf issues. One interesting tip I came across was getting one of those dog bowls with the circulating water, so a dog with poor eyesight will have an auditory hint where the food and water bowls are.


              • #8
                One of my old dogs got hard of hearing although she could hear loud noises. A high pitched whistle she could hear and she could see me do arm signal for come. She got a bit stiff in her back end towards the end of her life and it took her alittle longer to get up, but once she got moving she would walk all over the yard or pasture when I went out to do chores.


                • #9
                  For the deafness, use vibration instead of just sound to alert him. I used to bang my hand on the sliding glass door to get my deaf dog to come in and stomp my foot on the floor to call him in the house.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home


                  • #10
                    My old girl is 19 and is mostly deaf and blind. She still is quite happy and gets around the kitchen/den area very well but we do keep the stairs gated so she doesn't take a tumble.
                    We AlSo have to help her out the door because sometimes she tries to take one very big step instead of the two that are there. Otherwise she mosies around the yard and finds her way to either the front door or the back door. She can still hear a loud clap but that's about it,so calling her is useless,even though we still find ourselves doing it. We take her out at night on a leash because she would get lost and we certainly don't want that! Now my one eyed chihuahua is starting to go blind as well! Oy. Guess that's bound to happen when you have four dogs between the ages of 11-19
                    Good luck with your guy. 13 isn't really all that old.


                    • #11
                      He's 12 and a little guy? You guys should have quite a few more years together! My vet told me that nearly all dogs are deaf as a post by that point and most have some compromise of their vision, so don't assume that because those things are happening that you're about to lose the little dude. (Like Laurierace, we found that vibration was a great way to communicate, and our Aussie, Mags, whom we lost this spring at age 16, was also really good at reading -- or ignoring, depending on what I was asking for -- hand signals.)

                      If he's still agile, keep a lookout when he's traveling (especially at speed) in areas where there are changes in height -- Maggie totally lost her ability to see a distance and would gallop to a "jump" (usually the single step from our yard to the porch) only to face-plant because she'd misjudged her striding. I had to be sure to get her slowed down to a walk! (Regarding agility: We had Mags on fish oil and Glycoflex III tabs for probably her 5 years on the advice of the vet and then, in the last year or so of her life, Adequan Canine, which worked wonders within days.)


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Sunnyhorse View Post
                        If he's still agile, keep a lookout when he's traveling (especially at speed) in areas where there are changes in height -- Maggie totally lost her ability to see a distance and would gallop to a "jump" (usually the single step from our yard to the porch) only to face-plant because she'd misjudged her striding.
                        My poor guy does this all the time. He'll get really excited about racing up the stairs with us, then BAM! Typical terrier he just bounces right back.

                        Thank you all for the suggestions and encouragement! He's super healthy and in really great shape, and so I just wanted to make sure I could help him out as much as possible, since his flying leaps down 5 steps are obviously not good for his little joints.
                        I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know-it-alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
                        Titania: 50% horse, 50% hippo
                        Unforgetable: torn between jumping and nap time, bad speller


                        • #13
                          Same boat

                          My old man Joey is very gray in the face, has lost a great deal of hearing, and is developing cataracts. Leash aggression has increased. Just this morning he was startled by a man walking across our path several yards ahead and remained hyper vigilant and aroused for a few minutes. He normally wouldn't give a rat's behind.

                          I have begun training really simple arm signals. We live in a 2nd floor condo: the front door opens to the stairs. I turn the light on even if it's daylight because he hesitates at the bottom of the stairs if the light is dim.

                          Having a 'young' (8yo) dog seems to help. Where Timber looks, Joey looks. When Timber barks, Joey barks. I keep to a schedule as best I can yet continue to offer mental stimulation in training, nosework, and food puzzles. He has a joint supplement, fish oil, and more frequent tooth brushing.

                          Like the OP, he's scared me a few times thinking he's died in his sleep. Once or twice I've roused him from a deep slumber. Oops! Now I just stare long and hard at his ribcage .