When people learn that we have a blind and deaf dog, their most common response is to feel sorry for him. We appreciate the concern, but Ty doesn’t need any sympathy. Yes, he’s lost two of his senses, and that’s taken some adjustments. We’ve had to learn some new tricks. But Ty’s happy, and helping a blind a deaf dog enjoy life isn’t as hard as it sounds.
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Dogs can lose their vision and hearing in a number of ways. In Ty’s case, both of those senses faded as he got older. He was almost 13 when vision faded completely. But we’d known for a while it was coming. He’d been on medication for chronic dry eye for years, and it was only a matter of time before that condition took his sight.
It was harder to tell exactly when Ty lost his hearing, because he’s pretty much ignored us his whole life. He is a cat in a dog’s body. And an aloof cat, at that.
Unless there is food involved, Ty’s not the least bit interested in our human wants and needs. In fact, we only realized that he was deaf when one day he didn’t come running to the crinkle of a potato chip bag!
In any case, Ty is now 14.5 years old – significantly past the average life expectancy for a Shar-pei. And, if his being blind and deaf is the tradeoff for an exceptionally long time together, we’ll gladly take it.
READ MORE ⇒ How to help a dog with arthritis keep going
Our first concern when Ty started going blind was keeping him safe. We got a folding pet gate to block off the stairs and watched closely so he didn’t tumble off a curb or run into things on walks.
Keeping Ty’s environment familiar also became important, and that’s a cinch in the Winnebago! Rearranging the furniture isn’t an option, and his bed and bowls are always kept in the same spots. We don’t leave shoes laying on the floor where they could trip him, and we try to remember to close drawers and cabinets so they don’t become unexpected obstacles for him.
One thing we added was a long, rubber-backed runner down the length of the motorhome. This allows Ty to use his sense of touch to determine where he is in the RV. Near one end of the runner is his bed. Near the other are the food and water bowls. And if he doesn’t feel the runner under his paws, he knows he’s heading down the hallway to the bedroom.
Keeping a blind and deaf dog engaged means turning up the activity for their other senses – especially smell. Even when they can see and hear, dogs interact with the world primarily with their noses. Simple activities like sniffing the grass, working a treat puzzle, or gnawing on a toy make Ty happy.
Mixing things up makes life more interesting for all pets, but it’s especially important with a blind and deaf dog. Extra odiferous and tasty snacks like Beams Fish Skins from the Honest Kitchen always get Ty’s attention.
Dropping a couple treats in his bed while he’s bopping around the RV, or leaving a few in his path where he’s sure to find them keeps Ty wondering what wonderful thing will appear next. Healthy treats like Freeze Dried Salmon from Ageless Paws are the perfect little surprises.
And, even though he can’t hear the squeakers, he still enjoy a chance to maul a new toy.
If we weren’t moving around all the time, I’d consider getting Ty a PetTreater subscription box to make sure he always had a variety of goodies to keep him entertained. BarkBox is another option that gets a good review in this pet subscription box review by Jessica at YouDidWhatWithYourWiener.com
Another thing we do to delight Ty’s senses is to take him for strolls. When his vision faded he started walking really slowly, so covering any distance with him was a challenge … until we got a pet stroller.
READ MORE ⇒ Ty’s Dog Stroller
Now we can take him to the ocean, the forest, up mountains, and along rivers. And he loves it! His head might get heavy, and his eyes might be closed, but his little nose is always working.
It’s easy to startle a blind and deaf dog, so we always let people know about Ty’s special needs and ask them to let him sniff their hand before they pet him. We also let any visitors to our home know about Ty’s limitations so they can make accommodations for him.
Even though Ty is blind and deaf, he’s still a happy dog. In fact, I’m convinced he’s happier now than ever! Surprise treats and toys, time to sniff the bushes to his heart’s content, humans strolling him from place to place … I think he’s got us right where he wants us. And we couldn’t be more grateful!
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