Our springer/cocker mix, Mary, recently turned 12. During the past few months, she’s experienced ear problems, including debris from rolling in the grass and infection, from rolling in the snow. Spaniels are prone to ear infections due to the type and length of their ears; the breed is also prone to deafness. Mary has allergies, both environmental and food, and therefore, is also easily susceptible to ear infections, especially after being groomed or rolling in snow (water in the ears).
My husband and I recently noticed Mary's lack of response when we called her name and her sleep is deeper than ever. These are potential signs of deafness.
Loss of hearing in dogs occurs for many reasons; one of those is aging. My husband and I have traveled this road before. In 2011, our then 12-year-old springer spaniel Sage became deaf. That experience was especially difficult because Sage was also blind. Her hearing loss caused her anxiety because she had relied on that sense so heavily due to her blindness. We worked with her, however, and those additional trainings via the sense of touch generated calmness and greater trust.
How do you know your dog is losing its hearing? According to the Drake Center of Veterinary Care, there are several symptoms of deafness. Those include:
Read more about deafness and its symptoms here: http://www.thedrakecenter.com/services/dogs/blog/deaf-dogs-living-hearing-loss.
Although some dogs, especially older ones who have lost their hearing gradually, may adjust to deafness, others may experience anxiety, just as Sage did. Work with your dog in different ways to help your canine friend as we did. Some ideas include:
Animal Magazine provides an article about training with hand signals. Visit their online site here to learn more: https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/sign-language-deaf-dog/..
Adjusting to a disability such as deafness can be a challenge, for both you and your pet. However, that challenge can be met with grace, perseverance, and patience. Just as we humans must adjust to our changing bodies and mental capabilities as we age, we can adapt to the changes in our pets, and be a strength and comfort to them as they, too, adjust to the changes that take place as they age.
Read more about living with a deaf dog here: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/13_10/features/Senior-Dog-Going-Deaf_20100-1.html.
February is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and though this is the last day of February 2018, I want to acknowledge this special pet holiday. Every month, every week, every day, we who love pets should recognize our responsibility toward our beloved animals. So, in honor of my four-footed companions, I want you to meet mine – and we’ll start with the canines who share my home.
Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu
Adopted in September 2017, Jeremiah is between 4 and 5 years old; when my husband and I adopted him from Hearts United for Animals, Jeremiah was a few weeks’ shy of 4 years of age. The first three years of his life was spent as a stud in a midwestern puppy mill. When he was brought to the HUA sanctuary in southeastern Nebraska, he was basically unsocialized and had experienced minimal medical care. He lost 28 teeth due to his poor nutrition and lack of health care, and he was not neutered. HUA staff and volunteers spent a great deal of time helping him become accustomed to people and hugs. Just prior to us leaving with him, one of those volunteers told me, “He’s such a sweetie! I know you’re going to love him!” And, she was right! Six months after arriving in our home, Jeremiah now enjoys sitting on laps, receiving hugs, taking walks, and eating treats. He has become a very special member of our little family.
Shih Tzus are small dogs, weighing between 9 and 15 pounds and standing 9 to 10.5 inches tall. This is considered an ancient dog breed, developed either in Tibet or China as far back as 8,000 years B.C. The name means “little lion” in Mandarin Chinese. These dogs came to the United States during the 1940s, traveling with World War II veterans who brought them home. This breed remains one of the most popular dogs in America, usually ranking in the top 10 in popularity. These dogs are known to be affectionate, friendly, and charming, oftentimes “dancing” on their hind legs for treats and attention. They also don’t need a lot of exercise and therefore, make great apartment-dwelling dogs and companions for elderly people. They can be difficult to housebreak, need attentive grooming, and can suffer health issues with their eyes, ears, and knees. Learn more about this special small dog breed here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/shih-tzu#/slide/1
Mary, the Springer/Cocker mix
Mary has been part of our family for five years; we adopted her from English Springer Spaniel Rescue in January 2013. At age 12, Mary is still active as her hunting heritage dictates. Both springer and cocker spaniels were used in England to hunt upland game birds, and in the United States, the springer is still used for this purpose by many people – although, both springers and cockers are popular simply as companion pets. Known as smart, happy dogs, the cocker spaniel is also an active breed. These dogs range from 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall, and weigh 20 to 30 pounds at optimal weight, according to the American Kennel Club. Springer spaniels are the cockers’ larger cousins, standing 19 to 20 inches tall and weighing 40 to 50 pounds. This is an energetic, active breed, needing lots of exercise and playtime, considered intelligent, friendly, and eager to please. Springers are known as “Velcro dogs,” for they love being with their people.
That personality trait describes our Mary to a “T.” Her place in particular is stretched out next to my husband, whether on the couch, in his recliner, and lying in bed. Mary is extremely friendly; her previous owner certified her as a therapy dog (sadly, her owner passed away, and that’s why she was available for adoption), and I have taken her to libraries and book signings, where she greets people with a toothy smile and a wagging stub of a tail! Like many spaniels, Mary suffers from allergies and ear infections. Our previous springer spaniel, Sage, became blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), another health issue common in this breed.
Learn more about springer spaniels here: http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel#/slide/1
Learn more about cocker spaniels here: http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/cocker-spaniel
Great dogs for families!
These breeds make wonderful family pets, and I am so glad I have the honor to have them in my home.
I love my dogs! Jeremiah and Mary get along very well; in fact, Jeremiah relies on Mary – he is quite bonded to her. Both dogs are good with our cats, although Jeremiah is more startled by their sudden movements and has growled at the kitties at different times (probably still getting used to being around them). I enjoy both dog breeds, the Shih Tzu, and the Springer/cocker (guess I should say “three breeds!”) – and I would adopt one of these types of dogs again.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.