How to Keep Your Blind or Deaf Pet Safe and Happy
Our beloved furry friends only grow more endearing as they reach their golden years. But it can be heartbreaking to watch senior pets experience aging symptoms such as vision or hearing loss. The good news is, with a combination of the below techniques, pet parents have the power to boost any blind or deaf pet’s quality of life!
Safety-proof your home
You’ve likely already completed phase one of pet-proofing your home just before and after you first brought home your bundle of joy. Senior dogs and cats require special consideration as they become less agile, their reflexes begin to slow, and their senses begin to dull. Stairways, sharp steps, busy doorways, and uneven flooring are especially risky for completely or partially blind pets, who are more vulnerable to severe injuries from stumbling, tripping, or wandering. Make sure potentially high-risk household areas are gated off and provide pet ramps where necessary. For daring blind cats who are eager as ever to climb fences and gates, gentle cat deterrents such as mats or Sticky Paws tape can be effective.
Create a familiar domain
Your fur baby’s vision or hearing loss can also mean a loss of confidence. Help him or her feel secure by limiting roaming to a smaller space. This allows your dog or cat to become familiar with the layout of one room and eliminates the often daunting task of navigating the entire home without the aid and comfort of peripheral sounds or sights. Include all the necessities — easily accessible food and water dishes, a bed or kennel, and a few favorite toys to choose from. The key here is to keep all items and furniture in one static place. Visually compromised pets can often memorize this placement and maneuver around the room accordingly.
Stimulate their other senses
Even if your pet is both blind and deaf, his sense of touch, smell, and taste are likely sharp as (or sharper than) ever! Provide him with the familiar scent of a favorite pillow or blanket for an added sense of security; satisfy his appetite, dental health, and need for entertainment by offering a safe and healthy bone or chew toy; or shower him with gentle pets (if he seems susceptible to them) and loving attention. If he still has his sight, arrange furniture near a secure window to encourage lookout time; if he can still hear well, set your TV or stereo’s sleep timer when you leave the house to soothe him with ambient sounds. An experienced pet sitter can also provide blind and deaf pets the extra TLC they need in your absence.
Explore alternative training methods
Vibrating collars can be an effective means of communication between hearing-impaired dogs and their owners. If a pet still has full or partial vision, other training techniques include hand signals followed by positive reinforcement for good behavior. Training can benefit even the most well-behaved pets when they become blind or deaf, as previous verbal or visual communication methods may likely become ineffective.
Practice soothing techniques
Experienced owners of blind or deaf pets recommend practicing calming techniques such as providing a comfortable crate when pets must be left alone, giving your dog or cat their own security blanket, trying out soothing TTouch massage, or using Rescue Remedy Pet or Feliway spray. These methods and more can prevent the insecurity that often comes with vision and hearing loss in animals.
Ease into introductions
Finally, facilitate gradual introductions when your dog or cat meets a new human or fellow animal. Start by practicing gradual approaches at home. Gently offer your hand to your pet to announce your presence. Proceed with petting if or when he or she accepts. Strangers can offer treats to your pet to build trust and avoid any surprises. If introducing your blind or deaf pet to another dog, ensure both pets are leashed. Allow the blind or deaf dog to slowly trail behind the other dog and pick up his or her scent before easing into further interaction. Always use your best judgement based on your pet’s body language and signals.
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