by Katherine Khoo June 14, 2024 5 min read

As our canine companions grow older, they may experience various age-related changes, including a decline in their ability to hear. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a common condition in senior dogs characterised by a gradual loss of hearing sensitivity. These dogs become less responsive to the world around them which can be frustrating for you and stressful for your dog. There are steps you can take to help your senior dog cope with this condition. In this article, we'll delve into the symptoms, and strategies for managing and providing supportive care for senior dogs with hearing impairment.

Hearing Loss in Older Dogs

What is Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Age-related hearing loss in dogs is a natural consequence of the aging process, much like in humans. Over time, the structures of the inner ear, including the cochlea and auditory nerve, may undergo degenerative changes, leading to a decline in hearing ability. The changes will be gradual and many pet owners may not notice the symptoms right away. This progressive loss of hearing sensitivity can affect a dog's perception of sounds, ranging from mild to severe impairment. While age-related hearing loss can occur in any breed of dog, certain breeds may be more predisposed due to genetic factors or other underlying conditions. Breeds commonly associated with age-related hearing loss include Dalmatians, English Setters, and Beagles. Additionally, larger breeds tend to experience age-related hearing loss earlier in life compared to smaller breeds.

Symptoms of Age-Related Hearing Loss

Recognizing the symptoms of age-related hearing loss in dogs is essential for early detection and intervention. Some common signs to watch for include:

  • Decreased responsiveness to auditory cues, such as their name or commands. Your pup might become unresponsive to sounds that used to excite him, like the squeak of his favourite toy.
  • Failure to wake up to sounds, such as doorbells or alarms. You might find that your pup is sleeping more deeply and is not disturbed by loud noises that he would have responded to in the past.
  • Increased startle responses, especially when approached and touched from behind.
  • Difficulty locating the source of sounds or appearing disoriented in noisy environments.
  • Changes in behaviour, such as becoming more withdrawn or irritable.

Hearing Loss in Older Dogs

Managing Hearing Loss in Dogs

While age-related hearing loss cannot be reversed, there are several strategies and supportive care measures that can help improve the quality of life for senior dogs with hearing impairment:

Environmental Modifications

Make adjustments to the dog's living environment to minimise auditory challenges and enhance their safety and comfort. This may include removing potential hazards, providing visual cues for navigation, and reducing background noise.

When venturing outside your home, it's crucial to take precautions to keep your dog safe. Avoid letting them off-leash as they may not be able to hear approaching traffic or other potential dangers. Choose a sturdy leash and harness that fits comfortably and securely to provide control and prevent escapes. If you have a dog that startles easily and pulls quite a bit during walks, try the Ruffwear Front Range™ Padded Dog Harness. This harness features two leash attachment options: V-ring centred on the back, and reinforced webbing at the chest to redirect dogs that pull on leash. This harness paris well with the Ruffwear Front Range™ Dog Leash With Padded Handle that features a padded, ergonomic handle and quick-grab traffic handle when you need to keep your pup close. Be mindful that cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalk can catch them by surprise if they can't see them coming, so be vigilant and ready to move your dog out of harm's way if necessary. Limit interactions with other dogs to familiar ones and supervise them closely in environments where you can ensure their safety.

Communication Techniques

Utilise visual cues, such as hand signals or gestures, to communicate with the dog effectively. Take note that your dog can’t see your signals if they aren’t looking at you. So, the first step in training a deaf dog is teaching them to focus on you. Begin by offering your dog a treat or engaging them in a game whenever they choose to glance at you on their own accord. This positive reinforcement will strengthen the desired behaviour, teaching your dog that paying attention to you brings rewards. As with all training, consistency and patience are key when introducing new cues or commands to accommodate their hearing loss.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Schedule routine veterinary examinations to monitor the dog's overall health and address any age-related issues, including hearing loss. Your veterinarian can offer guidance on managing the dog's condition and recommend appropriate interventions if needed.

Hearing Loss in Older Dogs

Diet and Nutrition

Maintain a balanced diet tailored to meet the nutritional needs of senior dogs. Choose dog food like this PetCubes Cooked Dog Food (SENIOR dog) that is specially formulated for senior dogs. Proper nutrition supports overall health and may help delay the progression of age-related hearing loss and other age-related conditions.

Enrichment and Mental Stimulation

Engage the dog in mentally stimulating activities to keep their mind sharp and promote cognitive function. Interactive toys, puzzle games, and short training sessions can provide mental enrichment and prevent boredom. Nosework toys like this Studio Ollie Nosework Dog Toy can be excellent enrichment tools for senior dogs suffering from age-related hearing loss. Nosework activities engage a dog's sense of smell, which is their most powerful sense, and provide mental stimulation and physical exercise. Since deaf dogs rely more on their other senses, such as smell and sight, nosework toys can be particularly beneficial for keeping them mentally engaged and fulfilled.

Adaptive Training

Modify training techniques to accommodate the dog's hearing impairment. You can choose any hand signals you like for each behaviour but be consistent so you always use the same signal for the same behaviour. Make sure each signal is distinct from the others to avoid confusing the dog. Although deaf dogs rely on vibrations and their other senses to navigate their surroundings, sudden approaches or unexpected petting can startle them, especially when they're disturbed from sleep. To avoid this, approach your dog with heavy footsteps, allowing the vibrations to alert them to your presence. Even then, some dogs may still require startle training. While your deaf dog can sense your approach through vibrations in the floor, they lack the auditory awareness to anticipate your presence and may become startled when touched or when you suddenly appear. This can be particularly worrisome for dogs who lose their hearing later in life, as they no longer have the auditory cues they once relied upon. Since any dog may react defensively when startled, it's crucial to desensitise your dog and show them that being startled can result in positive outcomes and rewards.

Emotional Support

Provide ample love, attention, and companionship to reassure the dog and alleviate any anxiety or stress associated with their hearing loss.

Hearing Loss in Older Dogs

Age-related hearing loss is a common condition that affects many senior dogs as they grow older. If your senior dog is experiencing hearing loss, it's important to be patient and understanding. If they seem to be ignoring your requests, it's likely because they can't hear you. Maintain a positive attitude and communicate with them in ways they can comprehend, such as through visual cues and gentle gestures. Learn to recognise the symptoms of age-related hearing loss. Understand and implement the management strategies associated with this condition to better support your senior pets and ensure they enjoy a fulfilling and comfortable life in their golden years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Katherine Khoo
KATHERINE KHOO
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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