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Maintaining quality of life for deaf and blind dogs

02 May 2016
14 mins read
Volume 7 · Issue 4


Sensory loss is most common, and perhaps most debilitating, in the optical and auditory systems, and may occur congenitally or as a result of illness or trauma. How well a dog adjusts to the loss will depend on the speed of onset, the severity of the loss and the individual temperament of the dog. Owners may also find their dog's disability emotionally distressing or challenging to manage. As diagnosis of sensory loss and treatment of associated conditions generally occurs in the veterinary surgery, the practice team is ideally placed to help both dogs and their owners adjust to this change. Adaptations may include maintaining a consistent environment and utilising the remaining senses to enable stress free navigation, modification of methods of communication to preserve the client–pet relationship, and training commands that enable owners to guide their dog. Alterations to exercise routines and provision of appropriate outlets for natural drives can ensure ongoing quality of life. Directing clients to web resources and support groups can also provide inspiration and maintain morale through shared experience.

Sensory input provides information from the environment to facilitate evaluation and avoidance of danger, location and identification of essential resources, and social interaction, including reproduction and avoidance of conflict. As such sensory compromise not only affects the animal's ability to perform normal behaviour, but also has the potential to make the dog feel more vulnerable, and so anxious, at least during the initial period of adjustment. Owners may also find it distressing to see their pet struggling or unable to enjoy the things they used to. However, with appropriate support most dogs are able to adjust to sensory loss and maintain a good quality of life, in turn enabling owners to continue enjoying the companionship of their pet. As sensory compromise is most often diagnosed or treated at the veterinary surgery the practice team are best placed to advise owners how to achieve this. Although compromise of any sense is possible it is most common, and arguably most debilitating, in the optical and auditory systems.

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