Slink's-earsWritten by Marissa Greenberg, DVM

As our beloved dogs get older one of the most common problems is that they start to lose their hearing, just like people do as they age.  As a veterinarian in San Luis Obispo, I very commonly have people asking me about their old dog’s hearing loss.  Unfortunately it is inevitable and there isn’t anything that can be done for it.  As I’ve watched my own old dog, Slink, get older I have witnessed the difficulties of living with an aging, almost deaf dog.  I can sympathize with all of my patients and their owners.  Here are some of my own experiences with Slink as she’s lost most of her hearing.

Slink has always been a very obedient, active dog.  She used to accompany me many places off leash, from hiking and horseback riding trails to the beaches of San Luis Obispo.  The biggest problem that I had to face with her loss of hearing was that it was no longer safe to take her to these places off leash because she couldn’t hear me if I called her to come.  This meant I couldn’t call her away from dangers or troubles, or when it was time to head home.  I was also worried that she would get hurt around the horses since she didn’t seem to be able to hear them coming behind her.  She relied on her nose even more than she used to and would follow and track things with increased intensity and was more prone to wander away – just following her nose!  This meant adjusting to new activities on leash only.  No more accompanying me on my horseback rides.  She has still been able to go on many hikes and enjoy lots of places, just without the freedom she used to have.  At least this way I know she can stay safe.


Slink asleep on her bed

Slink used to follow me everywhere in the house; if I got up to go to another room (even the bathroom!!!) she always followed me.  As she started to lose her hearing, I realized I didn’t always have my little shadow anymore.  She just didn’t hear me get up to leave the room. This wasn’t an issue until the day I left the room and closed the door behind me, unknowing that I had left Slink sound asleep under my desk!  I spent several minutes looking around the house and the yard for her before I finally opened the door of the office to find her still fast asleep!  Though this was slightly comical and not dangerous, it is important to make sure that dogs don’t get accidentally locked inside somewhere that could be a problem for them!

The hardest part for myself, and probably most owners of dogs losing their hearing, is the first time we realize they didn’t hear us come home and aren’t waiting at the door to greet us anymore.  I often come in the house to find Slink sound asleep on her dog bed.  It is important to try to not scare these senior pets by unintentionally “sneaking” up on them.  Just make a little more noise closer to them if they can still hear a little, or stomp the ground to get their attention before touching them.  Once Slink gets this message I’m home, she still excitedly gets up to greet me!

Adjusting to life with a senior dog can be difficult.  From losing their sight, to losing their hearing, we’re here to help you.  If you are having problems with your aging dog, please don’t hesitate to call us at Animal Care Clinic. Stay tuned for future articles about living with our old dog friends!