How Can I Tell if My Dog is Blind?
When a dog becomes blind, his sense of hearing and smell go into overdrive to compensate for the vision loss. Thus, if only one eye is blind, most dogs appear to behave normally and the owner may not realize there is something wrong until the problem is already well-advanced and there are distinct changes in the dog’s behavior. Keep reading to learn about the causes of blindness in dogs and how you can help your pet adapt to these changes.
A dog’s eyesight is one of the primary senses of the body. Blindness in dogs can already be present when they are born, or the condition could be acquired later in life as a result of a medical issue or traumatic injury. Vision loss could also be an age-related problem in senior dogs. Occasionally, blindness can be one of the symptoms of an underlying serious problem such as heart disease, disorders of the kidney or liver, or other types of systemic illnesses.
Causes of Blindness in Dogs
- Aging - As an age-related issue, vision loss in senior dogs can range from minor issues to complete loss of vision.
- Injury or trauma to the eye
- Hereditary conditions - Certain breeds of dogs have a genetic predisposition for blindness.
- Disorders that affect the structures of the eye that receive and process the stimulus or the image. These include inflammation of the retina, severe corneal disease, cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.
- Disorders that affect the pathways that transmit and process the received image within the brain. These include diseases of the optic nerve and diseases of the visual center of the brain (occipital cortex).
- Medical Conditions - These are systemic diseases that affect the eyes and associated structures.
Common Diseases That Can Cause Blindness in Dogs
Dogs with diabetes mellitus have higher risks of developing cataracts that can lead to full or partial vision loss. Diabetes is more common in overweight or obese dogs, large breed senior dogs, dogs with poor nutrition, and breeding females. The majority of dogs with diabetes mellitus will develop cataracts within 5-6 months from the time of diagnosis of the disease. Diabetes-induced cataracts can develop remarkably quickly and can cause a complete loss of vision in less than 48 hours.
You may suspect that your dog has cataracts when there is a cloudy appearance in your pet’s eye. A cataract prevents light from fully reaching the retina of the eyes and can lead to total blindness. Some cases of cataracts are reversible if early intervention is given. Some canine breeds that are genetically inclined to develop cataracts include Shih Tzu, Cocker Spaniel, Siberian Husky, Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier, among others.
Dogs with glaucoma suffer from pain and discomfort. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for a more favorable prognosis. Affected dogs have an eye discharge that’s yellowish or greenish in color, reddish eyes, dilated pupils, or a slow or delayed reaction to bright light. Without proper intervention, glaucoma can lead to partial or complete blindness in dogs. About 40 percent of dogs affected by glaucoma will become blind in the affected eye within the first year, regardless of medical or surgical treatment.
Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS)
This condition is characterized by the deterioration of the retina, causing blindness in both eyes. SARDS can progress very quickly and a dog could end up blind in just a few days or weeks. Dogs with this problem often find it very difficult to adjust to their visual impairment.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs progresses at a slower rate than SARDS. Affected dogs don’t experience pain and discomfort but PRA has the potential to cause blindness in both eyes. Given the condition’s slow rate of development, the dog will have time to adjust to his vision loss.
What happens when my dog becomes blind?
In many cases of blindness in dogs, pet owners hardly become aware of the issue until there are changes made in the arrangement of the furniture in the house or when the dog finds himself in a new environment.
If loss of vision happens gradually, a dog can easily adjust to the impairment. Cases of acute blindness are very rare. Total blindness can develop for months or years, making it a challenge to diagnose early unless you know what particular symptoms to look for.
In senior dogs, age-related vision problems are caused by cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Sometimes, vision impairment can be a result of other medical problems such as diabetes, chronic dry eyes, and hypertension.
Signs That Your Dog is Blind
If you suspect your pet has vision problems, have them checked by your vet right away. Some causes of blindness are very treatable, especially when diagnosed and given appropriate treatment at an early stage.
You should suspect a potential vision problem if you notice your pet exhibiting any of the following signs:
- Your dog frequently bumps into things.
- If only one eye is affected, the dog won’t be able to see someone or something coming on their blind side which can cause them to be startled.
- Sudden or acute blindness can cause disorientation and distress in affected dogs.
- The dog may appear confused and easily startled. He may show signs of anxiety or hesitation when in new and unfamiliar places.
- There may be an abnormality in the dog’s eyes. Eye irritation and discharge cause the dog to paw at his face.
- Your dog may suddenly become unwilling to jump up on his favorite couch or tackle a flight of stairs.
- There is a loss of interest in exploring his surroundings and in activities that he once loved doing.
- There are small white spots on the affected eye, or they may appear cloudy or opaque. This usually indicates the presence of cataracts or glaucoma. The problem gradually develops over time.
- There is an abnormal dilation of the pupils. Normally, the pupils should respond to light. If the pupils don’t dilate in the presence of light, this is an important indicator of blindness.
- Eye contact is reduced or absent.
Is there treatment for blindness in dogs?
Most cases of vision loss in dogs won’t resolve on their own. Early intervention is very important. The treatment regimen depends to a large extent on the cause of your dog’s vision problems and how quickly the issue was diagnosed. Certain eye conditions in pets can be reversed when diagnosed and treated early.
Sudden blindness in dogs should be considered a medical emergency; you should take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.
9 Tips for Caring for a Blind Dog
Dogs with vision problems can still live happy lives. They just need some extra loving care and attention from their owners so they can adapt to their disability and navigate the world around them.
1. Avoid moving furniture around and don’t leave any obstacles that your dog might run into.
2. Always place your pet’s food and water bowls in the same spot. If there is a need to make some changes, you should patiently orient your pet through these changes until they are familiar with them.
3. If you have kids, make sure that they understand your pet’s needs, so they won’t leave their things out.
4. Teach family members and house guests to approach your dog cautiously, always calling the dog’s name as they approach. Suddenly touching the dog could easily frighten him.
5. Use verbal cues when interacting with your dog.
6. Provide a safe space for your blind dog. It could be a room or large crate that can serve as his safe place. Make the place cozy and comfortable by placing your dog’s favorite pillow, blanket, toy, or treat. You can also place your used shirt in there so your dog can detect your scent and will feel safe.
7. Dog-proof your home by removing objects that are potential hazards to your pet.
8. Some professional trainers specialize in training dogs suffering from visual problems.
9. When dogs lose their sense of sight, their other senses compensate by becoming sharper and more sensitive. For blind dogs, they become more sensitive to sounds and vibrations in their immediate surroundings. To prevent startling your blind pet, say hello or call his name before going near him. Stomping your feet or walking with heavy steps is also a good idea to get your pet’s attention.
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