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Matthew Sisk: Bacterial infection clears but hearing problem arises
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Lemmy returns for his recheck following a bout with Leptospirosis.

The bacterial infection threw our canine friend into acute kidney failure. He was as sick as most dogs get without dying. His visit today is to determine if his recovery is complete, or if any lingering damage is present.

The humans in the room report his attitude is close to normal, but somewhat withdrawn from time to time. His appetite is slightly reduced, but he does eat. No vomiting or diarrhea have been noted. He’s drinking his usual amount of water and holding his urine all night. Overall, the report is encouraging, but not ideal.

Follow up urinalysis and blood work show the infection appears to be gone. A slight increase in the kidney values persists, but given his age, is acceptable. If his blood work looks this way for the next few years, I will be happy.

I ask if the owners have any other concerns, and an unexpected question arises.

Can Lemmy see and hear normally? Or is he beginning to lose the crispness of those senses as he ages?

This is difficult to determine with high accuracy in the exam room. I can’t put headphones on him and ask him to raise a paw when he hears a tone. I can’t ask him to read a chart on the wall from across the room. Better, worse or same doesn’t factor into veterinary medicine.

The examinations I can do in our hospital show no abnormalities. His pupils react to light, and he squints if an object approaches his face. Visually, he looks normal. His ears perk up and he looks at me expectantly when I crinkle the treat bag. Any testing of his hearing beyond that requires equipment I don’t have.

The owners asked because in the past few months, Lemmy seems to be harder to wake up and sometimes doesn’t seem to come when called. I tell them some loss of sensory ability is to be expected with age and to monitor closely.

Lemmy’s next visit shows me something I should have noticed before.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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