By Kim Rain
Published: 11/12/2020, edited: 10/26/2022
Most of us think our pets are pretty special. But there are certainly some dogs and cats out there who need more specialized attention and care. While sharing your home with a deaf and blind cat or dog may seem like a lot of work, these tough critters have just as much love and affection to give as any other pet, and are absolutely worth it!
With some simple strategies, you can provide a safe place for your pet to enjoy a happy life, while you reap all the cuddly rewards. If your pet is experiencing hearing or vision loss due to old age, or if you are considering opening your home to a challenged furever furiend, read on to learn how to care for your deaf and blind dog or cat.
For genetic reasons, some dogs and cats are born blind and deaf. Being disabled from Day 1 can be easier, as they learn about their world with their other three senses right from the start.
For aging animals, cataracts, glaucoma, and degenerative nerve changes are usually seen in a pet’s changing behavior. You may notice your pet’s eyesight diminishing if they bump into things, are easily startled when you approach them, can’t find their food, bed or toys, or they sleep more. A change in hearing could make them jumpy, less obedient or responsive when you talk to them, and difficult to wake up. Losing either sense could increase a dog or cat’s vocalizations too.
Sudden blindness or deafness can be devasting. Illnesses can be congenital, such as with progressive retinal atrophy, while others develop over time, like tumors, diabetes, or ear or eye infections. Injuries to the head, ears, or eyes can also be damaging enough to lose these senses.
Regardless of why your dog or cat is blind and deaf, you should always remember that they still have three other senses at their disposal, smell, touch and taste, which you’ll use in communicating with them. You should also be patient, especially if your dog or cat wasn’t born deaf and blind, as it can be difficult for them to adjust to these changes.
You are your pet’s eyes and ears, so be sure to protect them from all the dangers they cannot hear or see. Here are some pawtastic strategies to ensure your beloved pal’s safety.
Create a Safe Home – While your blind pet will create a map in their mind of your home, that won’t always account for clutter on the floor or moved furniture. Be sure to remove any obstacles in your dog or cat’s path, and keep all furniture in the same places. Use baby gates to block off access to stairs, or areas that are dangerous for them to wander. You can use differently textured mats or rugs, or even scents, in rooms, or near litter boxes, food and water dishes, or pet beds to help orient your pal, just be sure to leave these textures where they are, and put out those smells consistently. For new pets, carefully walk them through your home several times on leash to help them start that mental map. You can also limit their access to one room, and add more rooms as they become more familiar with your home.
Create Their Own Space - Consider making a personalized space just for your pet with everything they need near them, such as their bed, food and water bowls, toys and even litter box, especially if they are elderly. Use a crate for your dog or cat’s safety when alone, and be sure to secure the door when they are going in and out so they won’t be scared of it closing on them.
Handle with Care - Never sneak up on your deaf blind pet, especially when they are sleeping or eating, as they may be startled and react out of fear. Don’t ever use touch as punishment, as it’s the primary way you will communicate with and train your pup or kitty, and you don’t want them fearing it. Introduce your blind deaf pet to new people slowly with an offered hand to sniff, and a treat. Be sure everyone who enters your home knows your pet is blind and deaf. For newly visually impaired pets, a blind dog halo can provide a bumper of protection wherever they go.
Prevent Anxiety - Dogs or cats who are anxious and fearful can benefit from calming techniques, such as familiar scented blankets, gentle massages, aromatherapy, or pheromone therapy. If you don’t use crates, create a way to let your dog or cat know when you are leaving the house to prevent any fear when they can’t find you.
Creatively Train - Train your pet with touch, such as a tap on the nose when it’s time to eat. Be sure to be consistent with your touch training, and treat often! You’d be surprised how much your blind deaf pet can learn, even how to safely navigate stairs! You can also use a vibration collar to help with training commands which uses different vibrations to teach “sit” or “stay”.
Safety Outside the Home - In the yard, block off pools and any harmful obstacles, and keep your pet leashed if it’s not securely fenced. For adventurous kitties, be sure to use deterrents to prevent them from climbing fences or gates. Always leash your dog or cat if leaving the house, as they cannot see or hear any dangers such as cars or other animals. Use a bandana, jacket or sign when in public to tell people your pet is blind and deaf. Getting your pet microchipped is a great precaution, as these dogs and cats have even more of a chance of getting lost and hurt.
Above all, remember that your deaf and blind dog or cat is just like any other able-bodied pet, and has just as much energy and love to spread around. With an angel like you in their corner, they can enjoy a long and happy life with their favorite human bestie by their side.
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