Dr. Al Townshend
Our canine and feline companions have evolved as predators. Sharp eyesight, a keen sense of smell, and acute hearing were essential for survival. While the domestic dog and cat no longer rely on these senses for survival today, they are still critically dependent on them.
Vision, smell, and hearing are essential for every animal. They keep us safe and out of harm’s way. They help us make the right choices in everyday life. Deficiencies in any one of these three senses can put an animal at risk.
Caring for these senses is relatively simple but critically important.
- A safe environment to avoid injury
- Regular inspection to catch problems early
- Keeping the eyes, nose, and ears clean and free of debris
- Nutritional support to assure long-lasting accuracy.
Eye and vision care begin early in the life of a pet. Both dogs and cats are born blind. At birth, the lids are closed tightly because the eyes are not fully developed and need a barrier of protection from the environment.
- The eyelids begin to open between 8 to 14 days for dogs and cats. Many are not aware that all kittens are born with blue eyes that slowly change to their adult color as the pet ages.
- A safe environment is essential throughout life but especially important early in life when the pet is most vulnerable. Injuries early, while the eyes are developing, can impact the rest of the pet’s life.
- Frequent inspection to assess the need for cleaning and catching problems early is essential.
- Puppies can be born with problems with the eyelids that need surgery.
- Scratches can develop into corneal ulcers quickly and require surgery.
- Excess tearing can become infected and require medication.
- Tear stains on the hair around the eyes; reddish-brown marks around the dog’s eyes, are most easily seen on dogs with white or light-colored hair. They are usually the result of the dog producing too many tears or having a blocked tear duct preventing proper drainage.
Supporting Their Eyes
- When needed, cleaning the eyes, eyelids, and hair around the eyes is all part of proper grooming. Warm water and a soft tissue works well, or better yet, specific pet eye cleaning solutions help to clean and provide additional protection. At Pet Planet, we carry a variety of eye care products to support.
- Nutritional support for healthy eyes begins as soon as the pet is weaned.
- Complete and balanced vitamins and minerals provided at more than just the minimum levels are essential. Vitamins A, E, C, D and all B vitamins are crucial for eye development and long-term health.
- The Omega 3 fatty acid DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for proper eye and brain development. Some puppy and kitten foods provide levels of DHA and there are supplements to assure proper levels.
- Long-term eye health for pets, like humans, can benefit from natural carotenoid supplements like Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which have been shown to help prevent eye diseases such as Cataracts and Macular Degeneration.
Your Pet Planet Store Ambassadors and the Pet Planet shopping website are there to help Guardians find the right eye care products.
As with eye development, puppies and kittens are born deaf. They begin to hear at about three weeks of age. Once the hearing has fully established, their hearing is four times better than humans.
A pet’s ears are comprised of a skin flap, ear canal, eardrum, and inner ear. There is a significant variation in the ear flap in dogs; the flap can be large or small, it can flop over or stand up tall.
- Floppy ears are better protection for the rest of the ear, but floppy ears are more susceptible to injury than straight ears.
- A safe environment includes plenty of space to shake the head and no sharp edges to strike and injure the flap.
- A clean environment to reduce the chances of dirt and debris getting into the ear canal.
- Regular inspection of both sides of the flap and the ear canal can catch issues early and avoid a veterinary visit.
- Scratches and cuts can quickly get infected.
- Hair loss is an indication of problems. Excessive rubbing and scratching can remove hair and indicate a problem such as mange, infection, dirty or infected ear canals.
Keeping Their Ears Clean
- Cleaning and grooming the ears when needed is essential in preventing more serious issues that can occur if the ears are neglected.
- Long-haired dogs and even cats may need the ear flap brushed and combed to prevent mats and have a better visualization of the skin.
- The ear canal can accumulate excess wax and debris and be a problem. If left unattended, it can become infected and eventually damage the ear and affect hearing.
- Ear mites are a common problem for many pets. The are tiny almost microscopic insects that inflame the ear canal, produce excess debris and encourage infection. A seep cleaning by a professional, and medication may be required.
- Some canine breeds have hair that normally grows in the upper part of the ear canal. It can trap dirt and wax and may need to be thinned out at times. The procedure is challenging for the inexperienced and should be done by a professional.
- It is vital to get proper instruction on cleaning the ear canal. Veterinarians, Vet Techs, groomers, and the internet can help provide good instruction.
- Having the right tools and supplies on hand is always a good idea. Check out the best choices at your Pet Planet store.
Luckily, puppies and kittens can smell as soon as they are born, and they use this sense to be able to move closer to their mother to nurse and start to identify their littermates.
A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times that of humans. A human has approximately six million receptors in the nose compared to the 300 million olfactory receptors in a dog’s nose.
- Offending odors in the environment can affect a pet much more than humans. Harsh industrial odors or unforgiving chemical smells can be offensive.
- Regular inspection assuring the nostrils are clean and open. Many believe a pet’s nose is ordinarily moist, which is not the case. Both wet and dry noses are normal, depending on some variables.
- The sense of smell works best when the nose is moist. It helps detect direction.
- After a period of sleep, the nose can be dry, and winter winds can dry the nose.
- A flaky, crusty, raw, swollen, or oozing nose would all indicate a problem that a veterinarian should see.
Protecting and caring for these critical sensory organs is the best way to prevent problems, save on costly veterinary expenses and assure a long and happy life for all pets.