National Deaf Dog Awareness Week
The doctors and staff at My Vet relish any opportunity to celebrate our unique patients. National Deaf Dog Awareness Week begins September 24th and we’re thrilled to partake. Frankly – we chose to celebrate our deaf patients, dogs and cats alike, year-round. But we recognize the importance of raising awareness amongst the general population. There’s a lot of misconceptions floating around about deaf dogs and this blog will clear some of those up. I’d also like to introduce you all to one of our dearest, most beloved deaf patients: Hemi!
I’ve asked Hemi’s mom, Nikola, to answer a few questions about the process of welcoming a deaf dog into your family.
Like people, dogs can either be born deaf or lose their hearing due to an accident. There are genetic related diseases that cause hearing loss in dogs. One of the most common is pigment related. That is why most deaf dogs happen to be white and have ‘un-pigmented’ skin. Without these pigments critical cells and nerve endings that facilitate hearing atrophy early in puppyhood. There are certain breeds that are medically susceptible to hearing loss. The AVMA has identified 30 pre-disposed breeds including Australian Shepherds and Boxers.
Deaf dogs are no less trainable than any other dog. They respond equally well to facial cues and hand signals. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for deaf dogs to learn basic American Sign Language. Just because they are deaf does not mean you should not verbally communicate with hearing impaired dogs! There’s no need to deprive yourself of that natural interaction with your pet.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on deaf-dogs or owning one. As promised, I’ll let Nikola tell you about her experience of adopting Hemi. Hemi is a My Vet favorite. Look at her! Her pristine white coat cuts an immaculate silhouette. She’s always ready for cuddles and belly rubs. We’ve had the privilege of taking care of Hemi since 2011. When I first got the idea for this week’s blog I knew I had to reach out to Nikola and get her perspective. Read ahead to get a first-hand account of what it takes to own a deaf dog. If you are interested in learning more about deaf-dogs, or interested in adopting one yourself, go to www.deafdogsrock.com to learn more about ownership and adoptable dogs in the area!
“Nikola - tell us about Hemi’s adoption story!”
“I set up a visit to meet a different dog. The rescue owner said she was going to bring Hemi as well, just in case. She had sent me a picture previously but I had kind of ruled her out in my mind. I was looking for a 35-40 pound dog… Hemi was 60. I didn’t want another white dog (15 years lint rolling black clothes was enough). She was, of course, white. She was deaf and I didn’t know what to do with that. But since I was there, why not, right? Cue Hemi’s entrance.
About 10 minutes later, we were setting up a home visit. After a couple days of having her with me and Googling everything I could about deaf dogs, I emailed the rescue and said I was never letting her go. That was eight years, four hundred lint rollers and zero regrets ago.
“What sort of adjustments do you make for Hemi?”
I was open to making whatever changes she needed, but honestly, she’s so in tune with me and her surroundings that it didn’t feel much different from my previous dogs. We did work on hand signals to help us communicate.
“What would you tell someone looking to adopt a dog with special needs?”
I would say do some homework just so you have a baseline understanding of the challenges. Every situation, dog and disability is unique, so there can be a learning curve. But, if you’re committed, you and your pup will find your rhythm. Also, it’s so completely worth it.
“What’s a big misconception about deaf dogs?”
People may think you can’t connect as well or as much. False! I think it actually makes the bond stronger and deeper. I’ve also been asked if Hemi is more needy/nervous. I’ve found it’s the opposite. The lack of auditory stimuli allows her to relax more. Fourth of July is a total breeze at our house!