Ask-A-Vet: How to Tell if Your Pet is Going Deaf or Blind

A woman holds a dog against her shoulder.

Is your normally eagle-eyed dog missing the ball more often during your daily game of fetch? Is your somewhat-aloof kitty ignoring you more than usual lately? As pets get older (and sometimes before then) there’s a chance their sight or hearing can start to deteriorate. As a pet owner, it’s up to you to pay attention to the signs your pet is going deaf or blind, and take appropriate action.

How to Tell if a Pet is Going Deaf

Regardless of the cause of your pet’s deafness, there are certain telltale signs their hearing is impaired. Please contact us if you notice your pet experiencing any of the following:

  • Unresponsive to their name
  • Unresponsive to “trigger sounds”, such as the refrigerator door opening, can opener, doorbell, etc.
  • No longer reacting to sounds that once distressed them (fireworks, vacuum, etc.)
  • Behavior changes, such as no longer greeting you when you enter the home
  • Sleeping longer/more deeply than usual
  • Clingy or needy behavior

How to Tell if a Pet is Going Blind

Blindness in pets can occur rapidly due to an injury, or can develop slowly over time when a pet develops a condition like cataracts or glaucoma. You may notice a blind or partially blind pet exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • Bumping into things
  • Tripping or general clumsiness 
  • Becoming startled easily
  • Unable to find bowls or treats
  • Behavior changes such as depression or aggression
  • Changes to the look of the eyes

It’s important to schedule an appointment for your pet if you suspect they are losing their vision. Certain causes of blindness, such as diabetes, glaucoma, or an eye injury, can be dangerous for your pet and need to be addressed immediately.

Assisting Your Pet

Discovering that your pet is going deaf or blind is extremely distressing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still live a full and happy life! Your veterinarian will work closely with you to come up with a plan to care for your pet’s special needs while still maintaining quality of life for both of you.

For blind pets:

  • Keep your pet’s bed, bowls, and other items in the same place
  • Keep your pet’s daily routine the same so they know what to expect and when
  • Talk to your pet often to help them feel secure. Get used to giving them verbal cues throughout the day.
  • Provide lots of different scents and tactile toys/treats to keep your pet stimulated
  • Blind dogs can and should be walked on a leash, just be sure they aren’t going to trip over or bump into anything

For deaf pets:

  • Train your dog to follow hand signals (this is surprisingly simple and can be a lot of fun)
  • Deaf cats should be kept indoors at all times for safety, and deaf dogs should never be walked off leash, even if you used to before
  • Don’t approach a deaf pet from behind as this will startle them and could lead to aggression
  • Daily exercise and playtime is just as important for a deaf pet

Your team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates is always here for you and your pet. Please contact us for more information on deafness or blindness in pets.