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Deaf Awareness Week – 2-8 May 2016
5 May 2016
Hearing loss is a major health issue affecting approximately 10 million people – that’s one in six of the UK population! That number is expected to grow to 14.5 million by 2031.
Just as humans can suffer from hearing loss, so too can our pets and learning to navigate your way through caring for a deaf pet can be tricky and frustrating but also incredibly rewarding.
Deaf dogs learn in the same way hearing dogs do, ie when behaviour is rewarded, the animal learns to do it more often. Training a deaf dog is really no different to training a hearing dog – it may just take a little longer and a little more patience. And it is entirely possible to train a dog who has gone deaf due to old age to learn sign commands – indeed they will most likely have been losing their hearing for quite a while before you caught on, so are highly likely to already be reading your visual cues. If sign commands aren’t working, then try treat-based positive reinforcement training – you will be amazed at how quickly your dog will catch on!
Cats can also suffer with hearing loss, especially in old age, but do adapt remarkably well as long as their familiar routine is not suddenly changed. Obviously the outside world can become very hazardous to a cat that can’t hear – other animals (cats, dogs, foxes), garden machinery, and of course roads and traffic can all become life-threatening so you will need to take precautions if your cat likes to wander. It is possible to teach your cat hand signals – and clapping works well because of the vibrations. Some people recommend a bell on a collar so that you can find them even if they don’t hear you calling.
Whether you have a deaf dog or a deaf cat, we recommend persistence and consistency in the way you and your family communicate with them – try to all follow the same commands and stick to the same routine as closely as possible – with a whole lot of love thrown in too.
If you have any concerns, please make an appointment to see one of our primary clinic vets who will be happy to give you advice and support.