Do you have a blind dog?
A few years ago, one of our pups started to lose his vision. It happened slowly, over time, and it was just small things we noticed. And although we weren’t able to stop the degeneration of his sight, we were able to support him in a number of different ways – and he lived out his final years happy and healthy and as if nothing had really changed in his life 💙
Dogs lose their vision for a number of different reasons. Some dogs are born blind, whereas others slowly lose their vision as they age. Blindness can also be caused by trauma or by different conditions that develop over time, such as cataracts, glaucoma or Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome, or SARDS.
If your dog is losing her sight, it’s important to remember that many dogs adapt really, really well to this. Many quickly rebound, and come to rely on their other senses, living full, happy lives even with the loss of their sight. Don’t be afraid for your dog, and get over your sadness quickly. For many pups, this isn’t that big a deal, and in most cases won’t stop them from continuing to live a healthy, happy life! How easily pets adjust to blindness depends on their age, personality, and other factors, such as whether they were born blind or lost their vision suddenly. But with time and patience, a blind pet may surprise you.
Plus, there are many ways that you can help support your animal!
How to Tell if Your Dog is Visually Impaired?
As mentioned, vision loss can come on quickly, or slowly over time. Your dog may be born blind, or may lose sight as a result of trauma. Sometimes, depending on the situation, it can be difficult to tell, and often noticing at the first signs may give you the chance to improve vision or stop its decline.
If your dog’s vision is on the decline, you may notice:
- Increased clumsiness
- Difficulty finding toys
- Your dog gets startled easily
- Cloudiness and/or red blood vessels in the eyes
- Noticeable eye pain
- Lower energy levels
If you see these signs, a visit with your vet, and a veterinary ophthalmologist, is a good idea. Vision loss due to conditions like cataracts or glaucoma can sometimes be repaired or slowed through medical treatment or surgery.
If you have a definitive diagnosis of vision loss from a vet that can’t be fixed, don’t worry, because your dog wouldn’t want you to. Given some time and assistance, your dog will learn to compensate by using other senses like hearing, smell and touch — all of which are already very keen in our canine friends. Learn to support this vision loss to help support your blind dog both mentally and physically to help them make the transition quickly and without fear.
Supporting Your Blind Dog Both Mentally and Physically
Here are 10 tips to help you help your blind dog safely and comfortably navigate life at home and out in the big wide world.
1. Dog-proof Your Home
Once a dog loses her vision, it’s important to make your home as safe as possible. Take a look around – is there anything on the floor that could get in your dog’s way? Is anything around that could hurt your animal? Get down on your hands and knees and go around the whole house, removing any obstacles or dangers that could potentially get in your dog’s way. Put corner protectors on sharp furniture like coffee tables, and put a baby gate at the top of the stairs so they can’t fall down them.
2. Don’t Move Things Around
If your dog is losing (or has lost) her vision, she’ll rely on memory to tell her where things are in the house. Avoid moving furniture around so that your dog can safely move around the house with ease. Keep food and water bowls in the same place so she always knows where they are. Keep her bed in a safe spot so she can always find her comfort zone. In time, your dog will develop a mental layout of her domain and may learn to safely navigate stairs and other challenges, but it’s good to be cautious because a bad experience can cause injury and erode her confidence.
3. Stick to a Routine
Many dogs naturally thrive on routine, and this is especially important for a dog who’s visually impaired. This helps to ease any anxieties that can come with blindness, and the structure allows them the comfort of routine. Try to feed around the same time, walk around the same time, play around the same time, and go to bed around the same time.
4. Teach New Commands
When your dog loses her sight, introducing new cues and commands can help keep her safe. These take time, but things like ‘step up’ or ‘step down’ or just ‘danger’ can help alert your dog and help them stay safe. This is also important for mental exercise. Continued training can help build confidence, and this can be especially important for a dog who has lost her vision. Use hand cues (a gentle touch) and smell (treats are great for this) in your training.
5. Let Others Know Your Dog is Blind
Whether you’re alerting passersby to her condition, telling groomers or the vet, or just in case your dog gets lost, it’s important to make it know that your dog can’t see. Get a shirt, bandana, or vest for your dog that reads “I’m blind” to wear on walks. Telling people about your dog’s condition and asking them to approach slowly (or not at all) and letting your dog sniff them first will help keep her comfortable. Also, get a tag for your dog’s collar that says “I’m blind” in case she ever gets lost.
Just because your dog can’t see doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to play anymore. Regular play is important for mental stimulation, to beat boredom, and to generally maintain a good bond with your animal. When playing, blind dogs utilize their other senses to compensate for a lack of sight. Incorporate noise in play – that squeak, rattle, and make noise when they move, so that your dog will be able to find them.
7. Introduce New Spaces with Care
Your dog will, obviously, be the most comfortable at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take her to new places. If, for example, you’re heading out of town for the holidays, and want to take her with you, just be cautious with the new place. Once you arrive, slowly walk her around the house, talking to her the whole time, and allowing her the time to get used to and learn the new layout. Perhaps consider blocking access to areas of the house that won’t be used and keep her with you. Bring that baby gate along, just in case, and don’t forget to do the walk around yourself first to catch those objects laying around or any sharp corners.
8. Sound is Your Pet’s Friend
Even pets who haven’t lost their sight enjoy ambient noise. For blind pets, noise can help them determine their location, as well as the location of others, and can often help reduce their anxiety. When you leave the house, leave the radio on with something that soothes them. Leaving the television on can also be helpful. For play, choose toys with squeakers or that make some type of noise. Put bells on doors. Sound is a friend to a blind dog, so keep that in mind.
9. Talk to Your Pet
Speaking of sound, talk to your animal! Many of us talk to our pets throughout the day, and if you have a blind dog, keep this up – or increase it. The sound of your voice can not only let her know where you are, it can also kelp soothe them!
10. Don’t Treat Your Blind Dog Differently
Above all, don’t forget to treat your dog just like you would any other beloved pet, because that’s what she is! Her losing her sight doesn’t change this. With a few simple environmental and routine changes, you can ensure that your blind dog is safe and happy and living her best life!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!