Second Sight: Blindness in Dogs and How You Can Help
For many pet owners, the very notion of their dog losing his or her eyesight can be alarming, if not downright heartbreaking. The thought of those once doleful and loving eyes not being able to see your smile or fetch their favorite toy can feel like a death knell to many pet parents; but that’s simply not true.
Dogs are incredibly resilient creatures and, like humans, they are able to adeptly adjust to shifts in their sensory awareness. While it is true that, in some instances, you may have to become your dog’s seeing eye human, your pup can learn to find their way in the world with aplomb – and a little patience and planning on your part.
Whether your dog’s blindness has come on gradually as a result of age or illness, or is the result of a sudden injury or acute condition, living with a blind dog can be just as sweet (if not more so) as it was when they could see the world around them.
Oh Say Can You See: Causes and Symptoms of Blindness in Dogs
Blindness in dogs can happen for a variety of reasons, old age is often thought of as the most common cause of dog blindness, followed closely by the onset of cataracts or glaucoma as a result of diabetes or genetics. But a decline in your dog’s eye health is not the only reason for blindness. An acute injury to the eye, such as a puncture to the lens that results in retinal detachment, or the ingestion of certain toxins can also lead to your dog losing their sight.
That said, the onset of blindness is often gradual and can be recognized by keeping your eyes open for the following:
- Cloudiness or discoloration of the eyes
- Abnormal pupil dilation
- Pawing at the eyes coupled with signs of pain
- Clumsiness or bumping into walls, furniture, etc.
- A reluctance to jump onto or off of furniture or to use stairs
- A reluctance to go outside
- Not making eye contact
- Heightened anxiety or clinginess
- Loss of interest in play, especially when it comes to finding toys or playing fetch
- Randomly staring off into space or at walls
It should also be noted that conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can be quite painful for our canine companions, even more so than for humans. If you are seeing signs of these eye health issues, please make an appointment for your pet so we can assess the progression of their condition and assist with pain management.
Best Foot Forward
Most dogs are able to acclimate to losing their sight without much fuss. Like us, a dog’s other senses are heightened with the loss of their sight, helping them to make their way in the world.
While a heightened sense of smell and hearing can help guide your dog in the right direction where food, people, and other pets are concerned, your doggo will primarily depend on their sense of touch (i.e.: their feet) when it comes to finding their place in the world. This is where you come in.
As anyone who has ever tried putting booties on a blind dog can attest to, your dog’s feet will quickly replace their sight when it comes to navigating through life. As your blind dog begins to feel their way through life, there are certain things you should (and should not) to help your pupper stay safe and find their way around.
- Consistency at home is key. As much as possible, try to keep your house consistently arranged in a way that your dog is familiar with. A chair that is there today, but somewhere else tomorrow can cause confusion and disorientation to blind pets. This is especially true when it comes to the placement of your dog’s food and water bowls, bed, and other places of interest. As your dog learns to navigate the house, keeping everything picked up and in its right place will reduce anxiety, disorientation, and bonks on the noggin.
- Brush up on training. As your dog loses their site, or soon thereafter, take the time to brush up on your dog’s training, especially as far as auditory cues are concerned. The clicker will be your best friend as you review the much needed skills of wait, leave it, stay, ok, etc. Brushing up on leash skills will be essential, too, especially if your dog has gotten used to life off-leash. Likewise, work on the all important Come! It’s important to teach your dog to follow your voice for automatic recall.
- Outside is not off limits, but… Thankfully, letting your dog out – be it to do their business or have a little fun – doesn’t have to be off limits. To avoid injury, however, be sure to keep your yard clear of debris that your dog could run into. Another great tip is to run hoses throughout your yard that lead to their favorite spots and back to the door. These tangible lines can be extremely useful for blind dogs to follow and find their way. Walks are also not off-limits, as long as your training is up to par and you take the time to let your dog stop and smell the smells along the way.
Blindness in dogs can require a little adjustment, but it’s not as catastrophic as it may initially feel. Our staff is, of course, here to assist you in the adjustments needed, as well as helping you manage your dog’s overall eye health. Please keep in touch with any questions or concerns you may have or to schedule a pet wellness exam.