05 Apr Living with a Blind Dog
Is your dog bumping into the things they would normally avoid? Do they seem lost or unwilling to move even in their own house at times if the lights are low or when it is dark? Does your pet miss where the ball lands when you play fetch? Unfortunately, there is a strong probability your dog is going blind.
Symptoms of Partial Loss of Vision or Complete Loss of Vision in Dogs
- Bumping into objects or structures in the dog’s own environment
- Loss of vision in dim light (loss of “night vision”)
- Difficulty finding common objects – water dishes, doors, food bowls, toys, etc
- Difficulty or inability to catch balls or other objects
- Unusual high-stepping gait
- Walking with great caution
- Walking with nose to the ground
- Reluctant to move or unusual stress in new environments
- Disorientation, confusion
- Lethargy, weakness
- Anxiety, depression
- Change in redness of the eye(s) (+/-)
- Unusual dilation of one or both pupils (+/-)
- Change in the opacity of the eye(s) (+/-)
The first step is taking your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist to find out why she is losing her sight.
Why is your Dog going Blind?
From disease to injury, there are literally hundreds of causes for canine blindness. The most common of course is age.
Canine eyes degenerate the same as human eyes. Cataracts are probably the most common cause of canine blindness along with glaucoma. Both of these diseases are treatable – cataracts are surgically removed in a similar surgery to human cataract removal and if caught early, glaucoma can often be managed with medication. There are, however, many degenerative diseases that cause blindness in dogs and some of these will be treatable.
By booking an appointment as soon as possible with a veterinary ophthalmologist, you are helping to ensure a quick diagnosis and hopefully treatment. Early detection and diagnosis helps guarantee your pet the best chance of retaining some eyesight, if not a full recovery.
Dog Breeds at Higher Risk for Eye Related Disease
Some breeds are more prone to eye disease. These include:
- Bassett Hound
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Chow Chow
- Cocker Spaniel
- Great Dane
- Siberian Husky
- some Spaniel breeds
Breeds prone to lens luxation:
- German Shepherd Dogs
- Miniature Poodles
- Toy Poodles
Living with a Blind Dog
The worst happens and your dog loses her eyesight. Whether it is caused by old age, an injury or another disease, blind dogs can continue to live a full and happy life. Unlike the normal and understandable human reaction, there is no ‘how come this happened to me’ or grief period – dogs just get on with their happy, doggy life.
There are a few things, however, that you can do to improve your pet’s quality of life and lessen any anxiety or chance of injury.
- Keep your house tidy and do not move the furniture. Dogs can spatially map a room and can learn to navigate the area perfectly as long as furniture and stuff remains in one spot.
- Train your dog to follow voice commands to help them navigate new environments or changes to their surroundings. The word ‘careful’, used right before she bumps into something will help her learn to slow down and ‘you’re okay’ when you see her hesitate.
- Build your pet’s confidence. Negative interactions or corrections will only lower your dog’s confidence and slow or halt the transition phase.
- Be patient. Your pet is adjusting as quickly as possible and your impatience or tension is not going to speed them up. In fact, it will more then likely slow down the transition and cause them increased anxiety.
- Be reassuring. Blind dogs have less self-confidence and will require more reassurance. Become more vocal when giving praise and reassuring pets and ear rubs when she does well.
Watch your dog’s activity level. Most dogs are used to a high level of visual stimulation and when that is removed, they get less exercise. You may find you need to add an extra leash walk to their day and spend time with them in the yard to encourage increased activity.
Mental stimulation is another concern for a blind dog or a dog that is going blind. Their nose will still work, though and teach them how to track or ‘find’ objects helps to stimulate their mind while providing exercise. Contact a trainer familiar with work tracking and working with blind dogs and get your dog out there using her best sense – her sense of smell.
Blind dogs are handicapped but in general, they do not know that they are. Many people find blind dogs or dogs that are suffering from any type of handicap an inspiration. Animals have an amazing ability to push on against what can feel like insurmountable odds in a human. Watch and learn the lessons your blind dog is teaching you and learn to face life’s challenges in the same happy, tail wagging way!