Dogs can be born blind or can become blind through injury or illness. A recent study at Illinois State University has shown that these animals can still be wonderful companions and can easily compensate for their impairment in a number of ways. However, vision-impaired dogs may require a bit of extra care to ensure their safety both inside and outside the house.
Causes of Blindness in Dogs
Some cases of blindness in dogs are due to heredity. Certain breeds are more prone to glaucoma, which can lead to blindness. These breeds include Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Poodles, Shar-Peis, Malamutes and Huskies, among others. Blindness can also occur due to injury to the eye or chronic infections. Animals with diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure are also at increased risk for vision loss. Like people, dogs can also develop cataracts, which can impair vision significantly.
Symptoms of Vision Loss
Vision problems can come on suddenly or gradually. The animal may show a number of unusual behaviors that indicate he is having difficulty in navigating his usual environment:
- Unusual stumbling or tripping
- Inability to locate food or water bowls
- Barking at nothing
- Inability to gauge jumping distances
- Walking with caution or with nose to the ground
- Changes in the look of the eyes, such as redness or opacity
Reversing Canine Blindness
Your veterinarian will do a thorough examination of your dog’s eyes and administer tests that can detect vision problems. Blood and urine tests can reveal illnesses that may contribute to vision loss. Testing blood pressure can indicate another cause of blindness. The vet may also use light to test the function of the reflexes in the eye. Neurological tests and ophthalmic tests can provide information about the ability to see. Some conditions, such as cataracts, infection or growths, can be treated with medications or surgery to restore sight. However, sometimes the vision loss is permanent. With a few adjustments, a blind dog can still be a good companion for its owner and family.
Arranging Your Household For A Blind Dog
If your dog has vision loss, you should avoid making changes to the furniture layout in your home. Like people, blind dogs get around by memorizing their environments. Any changes will disrupt their ability to get around easily and safely. Ensure that your pet cannot bolt out the door when it is open and can easily find the doggie door, if you provide one. Placing a small mat of a different texture on both sides of the doggie door can help your pet find it easily. If you have a pool, put in a fence so that the dog will not fall in accidentally. Keep food and water bowls, toys and dog bedding in the same place at all times. Switch from hand signals to verbal commands and reinforced training with a clicker, to help reinforce good behavior.
Outdoor Activities For Blind Dogs
Providing sufficient sensory stimulation for blind animals is important to their physical and mental well-being. A bored dog, blind or otherwise, will take on annoying habits like excessive barking, self-licking or destructive behavior. A blind dog needs to exercise its migratory instinct by walking just like any other dog. However, blind dogs should never be left off the leash. A blind animal will be perfectly happy with a long walk around the neighborhood or in the woods if he is at your side and safely on a leash.
Blind dogs and their owners have very close relationships because of the animal’s additional requirements for safety. Owners find that their time caring for their blind companion is the most meaningful pet experience of their lives.