Assistive Devices for Pets

Nov 27, 2019   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

As our pets age, they may start to deal with vision and hearing loss and/or mobility problems. This used to mean a life of staying in bed or being left out of activities. However, there are now numerous and diverse assistive devices to allow pets to live longer, healthier lives while still being able to enjoy activities and family time. 

It can be very scary for both pet and pet parent when a pet starts to lose their vision but there are now several assistive devices to help a sight impaired pet move around safely. The most common device is a bumper guard, sometimes referred to as a halo due to their look, which is attached to a harness. This halo is made of a soft material that sticks out several inches past the pet's head. The halo then will bump into possible risks before the pet has a chance to harm themselves. Due to having to encompass the dog's head and attach to a body harness, bumper guards must be custom made to each pet. 

Pets that have lost their site rely more on their sense of scent and will know when others are near. However, having said that, a pet with vision loss won't always know when someone is attempting to pet them, attach a leash or pick them up and because of this may attempt to bite out of fear or startle reflex. While pet parents and those who know of the dog's vision loss will attempt to approach slowly, there are Velcro patches that can easily be attached to a pet's vest or harness warning others the pet is blind.  

Visually impaired pets can even continue to play thanks to scented toys made specifically for pets with vision loss. The scent allows them to find their toys when thrown to them or hidden for a game. This allows the pet to continue to stay active. 

Hearing loss can also develop in senior dogs. This hearing loss can be partial to full and be caused from age, illness, injury or degenerative disease.  Many pets, even senior pets, can learn basic sign language with some dogs learning up to 50 unique words. However, a pet parent will still need to get the pet's attention to be able to communicate with sign. Hearing aids do exist for pets but unfortunately, most pets won't take to them well and they are very cost prohibitive.  The best way to get a deaf or hard-of-hearing pet's attention is to use stomping! If your pet does have hearing loss, make sure to walk heavy footed, creating vibrations on the floor, so your pet won't be startled by your approach. To be safe, always lightly touch a hearing impaired pet from behind, not on the face of head, where a startled pet by react.  

By far, mobility issues are the number 1 reported problem with senior pets, especially large breeds dogs. There are many different types of support and lifting harnesses made to help a disabled or mobility impaired pet to their feet, toe grips and boots can help a pet gain train and ramps and pet stairs can allow a pet to continue to get to their favorite places.  Our article on mobility devices goes into greater detail about the differences of slings, harnesses, braces, wheelchairs and ramps. 

Our pets want to continue to live their lives to the best of their ability and now with a few devices, love and patience, they can!

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