Katie’s Hearing Loss

Katie has definitely been showing signs of age. I got her in 2000 when she was about 6 months old, so she is over 13. She has had a tough time walking for over a year, but has learned to adapt to it, and still looks forward to walks around the block (and other places; last night she led us up to the shopping center nearby). She is on her third set of shoes and needs a fourth, even though I re-sole them as many times as I can using Shoe Goo. Two weeks ago Austin was staying at Jenny’s, so Katie was home with me. I was saying something to her like asking if she wanted to go outside and she wasn’t reacting. She’s old, so she could have just been ignoring me (she’s always had an independent streak), but it didn’t seem like it. The next day when I came in, I decided on a real test: I rang the doorbell. That usually sets her off howling and barking immediately, even when she hears one on TV. No reaction. She seemed to be completely deaf. I think a lot of times she relies on Austin hearing something and following his lead, so I’m not sure how long she has been this way. If a noise is loud enough, she will hear it, though it could also be she is feeling it.

I took her to the vet this week to get her checked out and see if there was anything to do. Basically, there isn’t. They said the only way to tell if she is really deaf is to take her to a neurologist for a diagnosis and that it would be unlikely they could actually do anything about it. That’s what I suspected, but I wanted to rule out something simple like wax buildup or an ear infection (the vet said dogs don’t get wax buildup).

I also read about taking care of deaf dogs online. One interesting thing is that if a deaf dog wanders off and isn’t looking at you, it will never know you are calling it. I had been letting Katie walk off leash some, but I think I will stop that, though I had cut back on it a lot when she realized she could wander into the street or deeper into people’s yards than the leash allowed. Mostly she did pretty well, staying right behind me (I think as much to keep an eye on me since she can’t hear as because of how slowly she walks).

There are other things you can do like teach hand signals for commands, but I don’t give Katie a lot of commands anyway. From what I read, hearing is something dogs adapt better to than vision or smell, which are their strongest senses. Her vision still seems to be pretty good. Her quality of life, despite her ailments, is actually decent. She likes going on walks, still gets excited after eating a meal and wants to play, and enjoys barking at the postman in the mornings. She keeps an eye out the front window, putting her front feet on a stool I put there so she would have a better view. And I keep a carpet of comforters from the window to her bed so her feet don’t slip.

4 thoughts on “Katie’s Hearing Loss

  1. Maybe you could teach her to come (for a cookie) when you tap your foot three times on the floor. And then three taps could mean “Katie” when she feels it through the floor.

    I’m surprised her shoes wear out so quickly. I guess they don’t have treads like running shoes?

  2. She pretty much follows me to any room, so she is always there already. That’s part of why she doesn’t need that many commands. The upper part of the shoes are made of nylon mesh and it either wears out or tears where it attaches to the stiffer sole. I ordered shoes with vinyl uppers last time, but the shop owner called me and said I should stick with the mesh, so I changed the order back to mesh. The bottoms have treads like sneakers initially, but they wear out pretty fast. I put a layer of Shoe Goo on to re-sole the shoe, but it wears out too. One problem is she kind of shuffles her feet when she walks.

  3. Did you ever find out if Katie had degenerative myopathy? I had a German Shepherd named Jake who had trouble walking, and he had the supposedly characteristic sign of his two middle nails worn down. But I had him tested and they said he did not have DM. I got him some senior paws shoes that helped him a lot hiking. Unfortunately he had to get major surgery when he was 12 and that really decreased his abilities to walk, but I kept taking him to nearby parks to let him sniff around until he ended up dying at 13. I have another German Shepherd and this one tested positive for DM a year ago and drags his hind leg, but he hasn’t shown any progression beyond that so far. I read that having them wear shoes is actually bad because its good for them to feel their feet on the ground while walking so I stopped using the shoes with the second dog. Have you heard if giving fish oil helps alleviate any of these neurological conditions?

  4. Back when it first happened, the neurologist said he couldn’t be sure what it was, but didn’t mention DM. Maybe it just goes under the general category of neuropathy. The steroids were making her have a lot of accidents, so instead I give her Rimadyl every now and then when it seems like she could use it. She hasn’t gotten any worse, but I think the big thing is she has learned to deal with the problem, and regular walks keep her strength up. I don’t think the shoes are a problem. Sometimes we do without and her toenails will occasionally really scrape the sidewalk, which can’t be that good, though nothing as bad as at first when she would actually scrape the tops of her toes (before the shoes and learning how to deal with it better). I think the shoes help her to walk better. I don’t know that fish oil does anything, and I don’t give that to the dogs anymore. I was giving them glucosamine and chondroitin as well, but don’t do that either now.

    Thanks for asking about Katie. Best of luck with your dog.

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