Quality of Life for Blind/Deaf Dogs

By Debbie Bauer

I receive 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 have them euthanized 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 them and sees them having fun in all activities.
About the Author

Debbie Bauer, HTACP, operates Your Inner Dog in the Effingham, Illinois area and has over 25 years of teaching and consulting experience working with dogs and their people. She specializes in working with dogs that display shy, fearful and reactive behaviors and also has extensive experience working with dogs with special abilities, including deaf and blind/deaf dogs. Bauer has trained dogs in a variety of fields, including therapy work, flyball, herding, print ad and media work, obedience, rally, agility, musical freestyle, conformation, lure coursing, tricks and scent work. She has over 13 years of experience with custom-training assistance dogs, including medical alert dogs, to match the specific needs of each person.  Her special interest lies in educating the public about dogs which are homozygous merle (often called double merle), and about how deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs can live happy fulfilled lives as part of a family.  

One comment

  1. I found this entry because I was googling this exact issue.

    I have an aging silky/? terrier. 16-ish (rescue dog). He is deaf and blind nearly 100%. But aside from sleeping a ton, he is still so much… well, that terrier from years ago, insistent, moving around like he owns the place, tail up, typical terrier silly confidence.

    Plus, as I think is very important, I am able to be home a fair amount, and there is also another, younger dog.

    The bottom line is, when I think about the quality of life issue, it seems to me Rufus is not doing that bad. I think he is actually still happy, still that happy terrier.

    I’ve had an aging dog that stopped being happy. It is not hard to tell, in my opinion.
    p

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