With age comes a lot of physical changes. Just like humans, common symptoms of old age for dogs and cats is losing their sight and hearing. Despite this, they are still the same pet inside! Older dogs and cats, therefore, require just a little more attention and care.
Creating a safe environment for your dog or cat is extremely important. Your specially abled pet might be prone to more dangers, but there are easy fixes to ensure their safety. One important tip is to keep your backyard fenced in. If you’re not able to put a fence up, make sure your dog is kept on a leash at all times, both in the backyard and on walks. You can also attach a bell to your pet’s collar so you know their whereabouts at all times. In addition, attach a tag stating your pet’s name, home address and their disabilities to their collar. Just as you would for a baby, make sure your house is safe and free from harm. Guard off pool areas as well as any sharp objects and corners. You can also set up baby gates in front of staircases.
Providing a comfortable home is important for any pet but especially those who have lost or are losing their sight and hearing abilities. Make sure your pet has a space of their own with everything they need, including toys, bed and food/water dishes. It is vital, especially for blind pets, to keep this space the same and not move anything around. This familiarity will help your pet feel more comfortable and at home. Putting down extra rugs in your home will also not only keep your pets from slipping and acquiring more injuries, but will also aid blind pets in knowing their way around the house.
Although your dog might have learned basic commands like sit and stay as a puppy, a specially abled pet will require some retraining. For deaf dogs, auditory commands will no longer be effective, but you can teach your dog new commands using hand signals and body language. Some owners even choose to teach their dogs using American Sign Language. For blind dogs, however, don’t underestimate a dog’s most important sense: smell! Both blind and deaf dogs benefit from reward (read: treat) based training. If you’re worried that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, don’t worry! Older dogs actually have a longer attention span which can help make them easier to train.
While simple things like calling your pet’s name may now seem more difficult as they get older, there are plenty of ways to aid communication with your pet. For example, you can try using a flashlight to signal your hearing impaired dog to come in at night time. For pets with trouble seeing, utilizing touch will be of the utmost importance. In order to get your pet’s attention, approach them calmly, so as not to startle them, and put your hand under their nose so they can smell who you are. Then slowly stroke their head or other body part. Try to touch your pet in the same spot every time so they get accustomed to it. It is especially important to follow these steps if your dog is sleeping as some dogs will become aggressive if startled in the middle of their rest. In addition to good communication between pet and owner, make sure to alert any visitors to the house of your pet’s disabilities and how to properly interact with them.
It is important to remember that although you might be sad for your pet to grow older and lose their eyesight or hearing, it doesn’t have the same effect on them. As long as you continue to love and care for your pet and give them a comfortable and safe environment, their quality of life will be great!