Living with a Elder Pet Series- Deafness

Good Day,

I had decided to do a post on living with really old Elder Pets, and when I got the outline of the post done, I realized quickly that I had enough key speaking points to go from a VERY long post and make it a 2016 Series.

We have all seen the comments, the posts on facebook.. A pet is for a lifetime. I agree, but while I see so many folks talking about how to raise a baby kitten or puppy, how to make it though the teenage years, not nearly as much is talked about when it comes to Elder pet care.

For this series, Puppy is 8 weeks to 1 year, Teen 1-3 years of age, adult 3 to 9 years of age, 9 to 12, older hound, Old Timer 12-14, Elder 15 and up..

So Today we are going to talk about Deafness. Currently I am living with a deaf Elder purrpot(she is 19 years) and a now deaf Elder Hound, one mostly deaf Elder Hound and one old going deaf Old Timer.

When it comes to the deaf Purrpot, there are really only three things to keep in mind..

a) She does not know that she is yelling, as she got deaf, she got louder, I honestly believe that she does not know that is now the yelling kitty.. She thinks she is talking at a normal volume  The truth is, there is nothing you can do about it.. other then try an meet her needs on a routine.. If you know that she is going to yell at you for her fresh water.. maybe for that last year or two.. getting that fresh water started might need to happen before you get to sit down in the bathroom in the morning..

b) She will not hear you coming, if she is sleeping, please watch for her, do not sit or step or even lift things assuming that she will know you are about.. she is going to sleep hard and she will no longer get out of your way.. Now maybe you are one of those pet owners that always moves around your pet, in which case.. you are golden.. but I am not.. I believe in pack or pride ranking and that means that means as the top ranking, they move for me..  but that changes for elders.. (when it comes to the hounds, the younger ones will also give gracefully to the elders) but watch out in the purrpots, that is just not the case.. they will push them to the side if you let them.  I have big feeding stations for the house and farm cats, they are never without food, but as my purrpots become elders, they are taken to their own feeding area twice a day and get wet food or kitten kibble.

c) they lose the ability to with draw their claws, so you need to trim them so walking is comfy, just little finger nail clippers will do the job well and take the tips off, they also start to fail on their grooming, which means more matts if of a longer hair, so careful grooming is required and helpful.

When it comes to the Elder Hound and Deafness

A) Safety First, just as you puppy proofed your home, now you need to elder proof your home and yard, for years my old gent could go into the yard and just be called back, but combine a tottering carefree older mind with deafness and we had better keep a sharp eye on him. In most case if I can not be with him at all times, even when I am out, he goes to the side fenced dog yard for safety reasons now

b) Train them while they can hear to your hand signals, never forget that when training  voice to train them their whole life with the basic hand signals, so that they lose their hearing you have a solid line of communication  still open with them.

C) if you can give them a hearing buddy, they will buddy up and their hearing hound will baby and help them, its very helpful indeed. ideally do not get a puppy at the same time as you are giving extra care and help to you elder, try and plan that you will have a young to adult dog that is mature and fully trained while living with your elder dog

d) At a certain point in age, keeping them at a good weight becomes harder, keeping their tummies healthy and happy takes more work, I have found that in the last few years of old timer to elder care, that I have needed to take my dogs to smaller homemade food and back to the puppy 3 to 4 times a day meals.  The process tends to go like this, they start having more trouble with the regular kibble, so they go on a new kind, soaked, its for elder hounds and its more costly then our regular.. then I end up moving to higher end puppy as the senor foods rarely help them hold their weights, but it becomes clear at a certain point that regardless of the kind, soaking and smaller meals given more often that farm style homemade does them better, soon their are dancing waiting for their farm fresh eggs in the morning, their ground meat and mashed winter squash with barley or oatmeal, and they know that warm bowls of bone broth soups and stews are coming their way, in summer, I like to can up a week or two worth of food as there are days we eat salads and clearly, my elder dog needs a different meal..   Yes, its extra work, and yes, I raise rabbits to help keep meat costs down and yes I plant extra in the garden planning on feeding it to the hounds, I carry a few extra chickens for eggs for them but its worth it! They are worth it

Bathroom Duty’s, its as hard on your trained house dog to start to have issues as it is for you, but its just a fact of life with a elder dog, they can not hold like a adult.. its been years now that we have not needed at least one if not two extra wakes in the night, quick I need to goes, and if you are home during the day, its like having a puppy again, after each drink, eating, playing and nap.. they need to be offered a trip out. Add in the deafness and you can no longer ask.. outside? or bathroom? and if you open the door, of course they would like fresh air.. where the adult hound who can hear, knows the verbal cue between do you need to go pee vs. outside fun time.. So if not home, doggy door to a safe yard is your best friend, second to that coming home at lunch, someone stopping in at lunch to let them out, dog walker, or place their bed in a area that also has a go spot that you can clean up, again, like you would a pup in training.

Stairs and beds are both worth noting, in every case at some point in care, your elder dog will no longer safely be able to do stairs, if small enough, (ha, we carried our 90 pound lab up and down till her last night but bot everyone can) you can carry them, please teach them to carry safely when younger so they know to be still in your arms. and if possible get them a heat an padded bed, if they normally sleep with you, do make a half step for the end or side of the bed, whatever works but they will need help up an down.  in our case they are bed sleepers so the padded and heated bed is upstairs where we are during the day, the heat makes them sleep better and hurt less, also even for those that have never needed them before, do consider a winter coat in the hard cold part if you live in the north like I do.. they chill faster and take longer to recover..

What would be your elder care tip of the day? look forward to hearing about it in the comments?

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6 Responses to Living with a Elder Pet Series- Deafness

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Absolutely awesome article FG; ‘way to go!!

  2. Robin MacInnis says:

    Great article. I have three elder dogs. The oldest is almost 15. She is quite healthy with little arthritis, but her hearing is almost gone. I have a bell for her on our short woods adventures. The second oldest is on palliative care with increasing spinal stenosis. He exists on anti inflammatories which keep him mobile most days, but do nothing for his lack of bowel and urinary control. I have a tolerant view and his cushions for sleep/rest are covered with plastic. I have lots of washable blankets to cover the cushions. He also has periods of confusion, but not even daily. He does not miss a walk and willingly goes with us all for about 2 km per day, rain or shine. He is 14. I feel he has a fair quality of life at this point, and dread the day when I feel this is not the case any longer. The last elder is just 13 and is fine in every way. I have had many elder dogs, but have never had one just die in their sleep or rest. Making the decision about ending their precious life is a burden, but my responsibility as much as bringing them into my life in the first instance. I love these old companions no matter what!

    • Thank you Robin and loved reading the overview of your lovely pack, I am going to talk about pain meds at a later point and same with the very hard but true burden of doing your best to find the right time to let them go.. I have never had a hound pass in their sleep either but I have with the farm cats. Having said that, my cats have the genes for HCM, and so they can and do at times just throw a blood clot and pass very suddenly. Its a breed related issue.

      I find on the farm, that the dogs as they lose their hearing and sight become less willing to leave the yard and come to the barns, I understand that, the pasture and barn work falls to young, agile and willing working dogs, the older ones will take their time and be up on the step dosing in sun waiting for me.. until they get the confused at times stage, then I leave them safely in the side yard or if they ask, back in the house while we work outside..

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      “Making the decision about ending their precious life is a burden, but my responsibility as much as bringing them into my life in the first instance. I love these old companions no matter what!”
      Well said, Robin; if only all people had the same sense of responsibility…

      • Susan says:

        My elder kitty – 18+ years – needed steps to the bed and a smaller set to the couch helped a lot too, for her last year and a half or so. Due to kidney failure it was impossible to keep any weight on her, so I ended up getting a softer bristled brush for her as well. She’d had a favourite brush years and years but could not tolerate it at that point. A heating pad under her blanket was also important because she was always cold…probably similar to your elder dogs. That stage in life brings back memories for me as it seems they were just kittens a short while ago!

      • hi susan, yes the time does fly by so fast, thank you for sharing some of the things you did or changes made to help make her last years good for her

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