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Friday, January 11, 2013

Quality of Life for Blind and Deaf Dogs

 
 
I received a lot of great ideas for new blog posts - Thank you so much for those.  I'm always looking for ideas to write about that will be useful to each of you as readers.  One idea that truly intrigued me was to discuss what quality of life a blind and deaf dog can have.  I think it caught my interest because I had never thought about my dogs not having a good quality of life.  I began to think about how we measure quality of life and why.
 
I have had many dogs in my life over the years, and there have been times when I have made the decision to euthanize them when they no longer had a good quality of life.  Of course, this was always based on my opinion, the veterinarian's opinion, and the fact that I knew those dogs very well.  Pain is perhaps the biggest reason I would make this decision.  If the pain could not be controlled and if it was affecting the dog's daily activities.  If she no longer showed any interest in the activities that she used to love - then, in my opinion there is a loss of quality of life.
 
But now, I wonder, how do others measure quality of life.  Why would people think that blind/deaf  dogs don't have a good quality of life?  And were they seeing something that I was not?  I searched the internet, hoping to find some ideas.  I found this quality of life scale on a veterinary site.
 
I'm going to use some of the ideas that are mentioned there to address my own blind/deaf dogs.  Of course, every situation is different, so I can't make any recommendations as to the quality of life for all blind/deaf dogs.
 
The first consideration is pain level and ease of breathing.  This is more of a health related issue that would not be dependent upon the dog's ability to see or hear.  My dogs are healthy and pain-free at the current time.
 
The second and third sections pertain to eating and hydration.  My dogs are able to eat and drink normally on their own.  They are a good weight.  Again, this seems like more of a health related issue.
 
The next section is about hygiene.  My dogs have no difficulty staying clean (although they do like to roll in the mud sometimes!)  They have no open and oozing sores.  Treasure does have many skin cysts, but they are not dangerous and don't cause her any discomfort.  The vet and I keep an eye on them in case they change.
 
 
 
The next consideration is happiness.  I think maybe this is one that most people wonder about with a blind/deaf dog.  The questions suggested on the scale are: does the dog express joy and interest? Is the dog responsive to things around her?  Is the dog depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid?  Can the dog be included in family activities or is she isolated?
 
My dogs are all members of the family.  We spend a lot of time together as a family group.  They certainly express joy and interest in the activities going on around them.  They wag their tails.  They play.  They seek out affection.  They are responsive to things going on around them, reacting to air currents changing, movement and vibration, smells, the actions of other family members.  My dogs are not depressed or anxious.  I have no questions that my dogs are happy and content, and I do work hard to keep them that way.
 
Mobility is next.  My dogs have no problem with getting around.  I do manage the environment to keep them safe, but there is really not too much to do once the environment is set up safely for them. 
 
The last section says that there are more good days than bad.  For my dogs, each day has more good in it than bad.  Keeping my dogs enriched and happy is a huge part of my responsibility as a dog owner.  If I was not able to give my dogs what they needed, it might mean that I was not the most suitable home for them, but it would not necessarily mean that my dogs had a bad quality of life and should not live.
 
I can honestly say that my blind/deaf dogs have a wonderful quality of life.  Some people think that a blind/deaf dog can't possibly have a good quality of life.  They wonder what enjoyment a dog can possibly get out of life if she can't see and hear.  But dogs live in a world full of so  much more than sights and sounds.  Their lives are rich in smells and vibrations.  A dog that is born blind and deaf never learns to rely on her sight and hearing.  She doesn't know that she's any different.  She learns from the time she is born to explore and enjoy her world. 
 
Even my older dogs that have lost their sight and hearing from age, are still enjoying their lives.  Sure, there is an adjustment period where they may have to learn to rely on other senses and to do things a bit differently than they are used to.  That is to be expected.  But they still enjoy their walks and belly rubs and mealtimes.  They love to sniff around in the yard and find something to roll in.  They may even still enjoy that favorite bone. 
 
I hope the quality of life scale may be of good use to you, and thank you for the wonderful suggestion for this post.  It caused me to stop and think about what quality of life means, not just to me, but to others.  I hope that anyone who questions my dogs' quality of life watches the videos of Treasure and Jasmine and sees them having fun in all activities.  I hope we can change minds to realize that those with differences are not bad or to be thrown away.  When given the chance, they can blossom and teach us so much - and, they can have wonderful quality of life. 
 
 
 
 


18 comments:

  1. Excellent writing Deb! I think your own quality of life has been greatly enhanced because of your dogs! Bless you richly!


    Janie Tink

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  2. Wow! This is a fabulous article. I have inherited my parents 17 year old dog who is also blind and deaf. My parents always took excellent care of her and with their sudden deaths not even a year apart she has become mine. Sammie is a wonderful dog. Very happy, wags her tail, and still enjoys her teddy grahams at night. I have often wondered about her quality of life but after reading this article I do feel much better. She likes to sleep a lot but so would I if I were around 120:) We walk twice a day and of course she loves all of the smells. I just have to reassure her often that I am walking with her and she wags her tail and continues. Sammie developed cataracts which led to her blindness. Over the last two years, my parents both developed cancer so they had a difficult time putting Sammie to sleep for the cataract removal. My mom passed away first and my father could not even begin to deal with her death much less something happening to Sammie. So the cataracts are very severe and have affected her sight drastically. I feel at 17 the surgery would be too much to endure. So we live one day at a time and try to keep things as normal as possible. She still uses her stool to get in her chair for the night and still enjoys her nightly belly rubbing. This dog is one in a million and was easily adopted by my cats and myself. Thank you for your inspirational story.

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    1. What a lovely story. It sounds like Sammie still has a wonderful quality of life!

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  3. Thanks you for this! My mini schnauzer, Lily, just recently lost her eyesight and was already mostly deaf. I have been struggling with thoughts of her loss of quality of life and this article has given me a totally different perspective. Lily is 12 years old and hopefully has several more wonderful years ahead. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    1. Here's to Lily continuing for many more happy years! You're welcome!

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  4. My deaf dog is now going blind and I have one hearing seeing dog, I am finding walks quite difficult as my deaf blind dog is very slow at walking although she is newly blind, but my other dog wants to walk fast. I am a little stressed at the moment. Help!! I am wondering if a pet buggy would be beneficial is certain circumstances. When visiting new or busy places, or when wanting a longer walk.

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  5. It is normal for a blind dog to walk slower, as they are feeling with their feet and smelling their way now. When you walk and you can't see, like at night, you walk slower too. You may want to get a stroller/buggy or wagon if you want to walk fast with one dog, to allow you to take the blind dog too. I walk my seeing dogs separately than my blind dogs so we can go at the pace they are comfortable with. I do have a stroller for when we go as a group, but it's important for my blind/deaf dogs to get the walking exercise and sniffing time too.

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  6. I have a 15 yr old Westie who lost his hearing a few years ago, an eye (cancer) 18 months ago and has an ulcer on his "good" eye. I've worried for some time that I was keeping him alive for selfish reasons, but reading your blog has made me realise that he has quite a good quality of life, all told! He had a great appetite, no breathing issues and still enjoys a slow walk, with a lot of sniffing and weeing! He no longer plays with his toys, which is sad, but he will now have a cuddle, which he used to hate. Taking each day as it comes. He's been our faithful little friend for 15 years so I won't see him suffer or in pain, but we'll take each day as it happens. Thank you for your blog.

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    1. You're welcome. You may find some different toy and game ideas for your dear Westie in some other posts on this blog. Food puzzle toys are usually a hit with dogs that are blind!

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  7. Thank you so much as I sit here and cry happy tears from reading your post. My Cavalier Spaniel is blind, deaf and diabetic which involves insulin twice a day. She is only 9 and the most loving dog we have ever had, although she has been deaf since 4 when she lost her sight after getting diabetes she seemed sad. She still smells, rolls in snow, and runs off with her healthy treat, as well as enjoys her walks. Rest of day she sleeps until her insulin and dinner time come, then she may bark and wag tail slightly.
    I guess because she has lost so much of her personality we thought she may be unhappy but I don't think she is now and I know realize she is just leading a different life but still happy. We just had a family meeting and I should have read this post first, I will let the kids know she is gonna be around for awhile!!!

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I hope you can find other ways to keep your sweet dog engaged from some of my other posts. There are many games and toys your dog can enjoy even while blind and deaf!

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  8. Thanks for your postings our old rescue boy is going deaf and blind. Last vet visit said hardly any sight left and today on his walk I was about 100 yards from him shouting his name and a man came round corner walking away from me our dog trotted after man I assume he thought it was me (he has never been great at smelling us or his toys or even food in his dish!) He was a fair bit away with me shouting and then something must have been sensed and he panicked he stopped and moved his head side to side frantically he actually looked distressed. I was wondering if his hearing is also deteriorating do you know of he would hear a trainers whistle or a silent whistle so he could become re orientated? He was a s try before we got him so it is not ideal to walk him on a lead as he is unhappy (near roads etc he is always on a lead) so I am trying to think of ways to communicate with him.

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    1. You can certainly try different whistles to see if your dog is able to hear them. Sometimes as dogs lose their hearing, they may still be able to hear a sound but not be able to tell where it's coming from. You may also experiment with types of leashes that would allow him freedom to move around but will also keep him safe. You can use a lightweight clothesline with a snap on one end to attach to his collar. Make it long so he can drag is along and still move farther from you to explore, but you can still hold the handle end of it for safety. When you change direction or are wanting to keep his attention, just touch him lightly and show him the way you are going so he will stay with you. While he may not like the leash, it's going to become increasingly important to keep him safe as he loses more hearing and sight.

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  9. Hello, I have a blind dog and a blind and deaf dog which I obtained about 8 months ago. She was also abused and I believe a puppy mill dog. She was considered viscious by everyone, even the lady who was "keeping" her for her former owner - the dog (Chihuahua) lived in a filthy, smelly crate for 4 years in theis woman's basement. She was allowed to come out, but the dog was so afraid, she rarely did. She was matted and was a spinner, for 30 - 45 minutes she would just walk in circles. Tally (Talullah) is also an older dog, my own vet recommended euthanasia. I was determined that this baby wasn't going to die not having known love. She was not viscious she was scared - a normal reaction to the life bad humans inflicted on her. It took me 2 months before she let me touch her body, another 3 before I could hold her, and another 2 months before she got used to my other two dogs. She is now a loving, wonderful girl who lets me bathe her, cut her nails, pet her, hold/hug her, and she loves it. We have a communication style even when it comes to picking her up. She won't let me pick her up until she gets into her bed and sits there, then I may pick her up. She licks me and loves me. (Still rejects other people though). When she wants me she whines, but that's fine. If I am holding her and she has to drink, eliminate, or if she wants a snack, she whines. Once her needs are fulfilled, she's fine. Well, I could go on and on. I just love her! Please don't give up on disabled dogs. They're just scared sometimes; they need love and support, but you need to learn their language sometimes. Thank you for this site.

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  10. I too thank you for this wonderful article. My 14yr old Lulu has slowly developed both deafness and cataract induced blindness. The total blindness has just become evident this week. I have been distressed and heartsick over what this means to her quality of life. Because of this article, I can clearly see that with my help, she and I can have many more happy years. I thank you with all my heart!

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  11. My double merle dog is deaf in one ear and blind. He has excellent hearing, but no direction. When I call him, I repeat his name until he orients toward me, and then I tell him "good boy, here you come! way to go buddy!" I keep up that sort of verbal encouragement, without his name, until he reaches me. We practiced in small spaces and he got treats when he found me. It seems to work really well.

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  12. My little dog Dancer is a cross Jack Russell/Shitzsou. She is nearly 17 and we have owned her since the day she was born as her mother was owned by us. She was a feisty little dog when young. Much more like a Jack Russell in personality. She is now deaf and almost completely blind and just seems so unhappy. She eats well and sleeps most of the time. Perhaps I am just imagining that she is unhappy because of the big change in her personality. She is terrified of being outside by herself but still goes for a short slow walk before she just stops and refuses to go any further until we turn for home. I feel sad for her and think sometimes that she is depressed. I would like to think that she has some quality of life but I find it hard to believe this and think that I may be deluding myself.

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  13. Thank you for your article. My 14 yr. old chi, who I adopted at age 10, just had his second eye removed, from painful glaucoma that could not be controlled with drops. I am trying to adjust. He was virtually blind before surgery, but I think he could see light and dark. I hope he will have a happy life. His tail still wags, he still gives kisses, he still likes food, he love his bed. He know my mom and my sister by their touch. The hardest part is seeing him go in circles, being "lost" in the yard and taking quite a bit of time to come in from doing his business. It just takes longer. I am a patient person, thankfully, but finding that I must be even more patient now. Your article and the replies of the others are very encouraging. Thank you, again!

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