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By Ambrianna Freeze

Identifying and handling hearing loss in dogs

Over 40 percent of American households have a dog as their family pet. Domesticated dogs are a part of everyday life; they are so integrated into our culture that dog parks are in or near most neighborhoods. Although the good old American golden retriever might sound like a dream come true, the reality is that more than 30 breeds of dogs have a known susceptibility to deafness. When a dog loses its hearing, the family dynamic has to change, but not always for the worse. Check out these tips on hearing loss in dogs.

Symptoms of hearing loss in dogs

There are some common symptoms to look for in an older dog who might be losing its hearing. First, look for unresponsiveness. This might be a jittery dog who suddenly does not mind the sound of fireworks, or a normally bouncy chow-chow needing to be called two or three times before he comes to his master. Secondly, pay attention to what sounds wake the dog up. Often in dogs with hearing loss, a loud pop might leave them snoozing, but vibrations from children running on the floor will have the dog awake in no time.

How a vet diagnoses hearing loss in dogs

The first thing a veterinarian will do when a dog is brought in for hearing loss is to take a full history of the dog’s health. This will include a full exam, as well as questions about previous drugs used. Most often, hearing loss is simply from age, but it is sometimes a symptom of something much bigger like a brain disease. The vet will also take bacterial cultures and perform hearing and sensitivity tests.

Ways to teach hand signals to dogs

If the dog is diagnosed with hearing loss, their owner can use hand signals to replace many verbal commands. To start out, try reading Animal Wellness Magazine’s article on sign language for dogs. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog; slowly offer treats for good behavior like sitting down when a treat is held behind its head.

Tips on caring for a deaf dog

Caring for a deaf dog can be difficult at times, but it is not impossible. A large concern for dog owners is the safety of their dog. How can the dog cross the street safely if it cannot hear the sound of a car? A good first step is to make sure that the dog can be easily tracked. Consider adding a bell to the dog’s collar and adding a tag that says “deaf” in case the dog becomes lost. Another issue is gaining the dog’s attention. At night, utilize a flashlight to signal to the dog where it should go. During the day, using large hand motions or causing the floor to vibrate will help the dog sense that its owner is near.

Hearing loss in the family dog is a sad thing, but with the right skills and patience, the dog can still be an active member of the family. When a dog loses its hearing, the most important thing for him is to have owners that care and love him. With a dedicated mindset and a gentle hand, any dog, regardless of hearing ability, can be cared for and kept safe at home and outside.

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Training a deaf dog? Try sign language

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