It can be a worrying and confusing time for dog owners when they begin to notice that their companion’s sight isn’t what it used to be. Although vision isn’t as important to dogs as it is to humans, blindness in dogs is still a concerning condition.
Do you know how to recognize the signs of vision loss in dogs or what causes dogs to go blind. I’ll cover the signs and symptoms and talk about how to treat and prevent blindness and how to adapt to life with a blind dog.
Signs Your Dog Is Going Blind
Sometimes it’s obvious when a dog is having vision problems. He may bump into walls and other objects, act fearful or have trouble finding his toys and food bowls. Other common signs are blinking and rubbing eyes with paws.
However, many dogs don’t show obvious signs of vision loss, especially when the onset of blindness is gradual.
Subtle clues that your four-legged pal’s vision is failing include:
- engaging in play less often
- refusal to go outside
- excessive sleeping
You can also check your dog’s eyes for physical signs like blue-tinted or cloudy eyeballs and enlarged pupils.
Schedule a veterinary exam immediately if you’re worried that your dog is going blind. A veterinarian will perform several exams and tests to determine the extent of your dog’s blindness, diagnose the cause, and develop a treatment plan. The exam may include an assessment of the dog’s cranial nerves, neurological exams, imaging and bloodtests.
What Causes Blindness In Dogs?
Some dog breeds, including dalmatians, German shepherds, chow chows, bassett hounds, chihuahuas, are prone to losing their eyesight. Blindness in these breeds is often due to defects introduced through breeding.
Old age is another common cause of blindness in dogs as their eyes simply wear out over time.
Dogs can also go blind after losing one or both eyes to injury or cancer, and some go blind due to other illnesses. The most common illnesses that can take your dog’s vision are:
- Diabetes is an increasingly common cause of blindness in dogs. One in 10 dogs will become diabetic, and 75% of diabetic dogs will eventually go blind.
- Glaucoma is a condition that causes pressure to build up in one or both eyes, which leads to blindness if left untreated.
- Cataracts are a cloudy film that grows over the eye. They grow slowly and lead to complete blindness over time if left untreated.
- Suddenly Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome, or SARDS, is a condition with an unknown cause. In dogs with SARDS, the rod and cone cells within the retina degenerate, which ultimately leads to irreversible blindness.
Is Blindness In Dogs Treatable?
Whether a dog’s loss of vision can be successfully treated or not depends on the cause and the extent of the damage. Vision can often be improved in diabetic dogs by administering insulin and keeping blood glucose levels even.
Cataracts can be removed and restore partial or full vision. However, surgery is required for this process. That comes with its own risks, of course. And, anytime a dog has to undergo a procedure with anesthesia, there are inherent risks with that as well. It’s also important to prepare yourself for the postoperative care as well as to make sure your pet is fully prepared and healthy for the surgical and healing process.
Medications can treat glaucoma but often cease to work, with the result being the affected eye must be removed. Breed-specific blindness can sometimes be treated depending on the underlying issue. There is no effective treatment for blindness caused by aging or SARDS.
Can Blindness In Dogs Be Prevented?
Some types of blindness in dogs can be prevented. For example, keeping your dog at a healthy weight and making sure he gets plenty of exercise can prevent diabetes and reduce the risk of cancer. Protecting your dog’s eyes from sunlight reduces the chance of developing cataracts.
Feeding your dog a healthy, whole food diet and a daily vitamin supplement helps to ensure he gets vital nutrients that can protect his eyes. The following are nutrient-rich foods that can help protect eye health:
- Orange foods like carrots and pumpkin – carotene rich
- Blueberries – full of antioxidants
- Green leafy veggies like broccoli and kale – packed with phytonutrients
- Small fish like sardines – great source of omega fatty acids
Another important method of prevention is to have your dog’s eyes checked regularly by your holistic vet.
Adjusting To Life With A Blind Dog
If your dog has already lost his sight, don’t stress. Your best friend can still have a fulfilling, happy life. Dogs are very adaptable, and their senses of hearing and smell easily make up for the loss of vision. With a little time and training, your dog can return to a normal life.
Humans, on the other hand, are less adaptable. It may take you a few weeks or months to adjust to life with your pet once his sight goes. Here are some tips for making the transition:
- Adjust your dog’s training to rely on auditory and scent cues, such as clickers, treats and verbal commands.
- Make your home safe for your blind dog. Use baby gates to restrict access to dangerous areas like stairs and balconies. Establish clear walkways for your dog that are free of furniture and other obstacles.
- Always keep your dog’s personal items, such as bedding, crate, food and water bowls, in the same location.
- Make an effort to socialize your dog. Help him explore familiar places without the benefit of eyesight and introduce him to new places, people and dogs. Take your time on walks and allow your dog plenty of time to explore with his ears and nose.