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How to Care for a Blind Dog

Blindness can occur in dogs for various reasons, from medical conditions to injuries. Even so, by working with your dog, you can help them achieve a good quality of life. Here, our Thornton vets offer on caring for blind dogs and how you can help them live fulfilling lives.

Causes of Blindness in Dogs

Like people, dogs can experience vision impairment due to aging, disease, injury, or hereditary conditions. Vision loss can sometimes be part of the natural aging process, ranging from minor issues to full blindness.

It's important to understand that blindness is often not the primary health issue but rather a symptom of a different underlying condition such as heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, or systemic issues.

Some common causes of blindness in dogs include:

Cataracts: When a dog develops cataracts, the lens of the eye becomes thick and opaque, resulting in a whitish/gray area in the center of the eye that stops light from fully reaching the retina. Early detection is key to preventing blindness. If detected early, the dog's vision may be saved through surgical intervention.

Diabetes: Diabetes is becoming increasingly common in dogs. Those at increased risk of becoming diabetic include older, large-breed dogs, breeding females, dogs with poor nutrition, and those suffering from obesity. Cataracts will develop in more than 75% of dogs with diabetes, which can result in full or partial blindness.

Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a painful condition in dogs which is can be treated. Spotting this condition early is essential for good treatment outcomes. If your dog has yellow or green discharge from their eyes, dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes or is slow to react to bright light, contact your vet as soon as possible to help preserve your dog's vision.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), while painless, causes a deterioration of the retina, which leads to blindness in both eyes. It is inherited and develops at a slower rate, which allows your dog time to adjust to losing their sight. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this condition.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome: Like PRA, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) causes a retina deterioration, leading to blindness in both eyes. This condition develops much more quickly than PRA and may result in total blindness within days or weeks. SARDS can be very hard on pets since they have little time to adjust to vision loss.

If you notice some vision impairment in your dog, it is important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the cause and potential treatment options. Early detection and intervention can help improve your dog's quality of life and overall well-being.

Signs of Blindness in Dogs

Regardless of the cause of the vision issues, there are several symptoms you should be aware of if you are concerned that your dog is experiencing difficulties seeing or even suffering from total blindness: 

  • Confused, dazed, easily startled
  • Bumping into objects
  • Eyes become cloudy
  • Changes in behavior that indicate anxiety or hesitation in new places
  • Unwillingness to go up or down stairs or jump onto furniture
  • Swollen, puffy or inflamed eyes
  • Obvious eye irritation or pawing at the face

How to Care for a Blind Dog

When caring for a blind dog, you can do many things to help make your home safer and more inviting. We'll list a few below.

Remove Any Obstacles or Potential Hazards

By clearing cluttered pathways, securing loose rugs or cords, and ensuring furniture is arranged for easy movement, blind dogs can move around with confidence and independence.

Additionally, removing obstacles and hazards can help prevent accidents and injuries for blind dogs. By eliminating potential tripping hazards or sharp objects in their path, owners can reduce the risk of their blind dog getting hurt while moving around the house. This proactive approach to creating a safe living space not only benefits the well-being of blind dogs but also provides peace of mind for their caregivers.

Use Scent Markers to Help Your Dog Navigate

Scent markers provide your dog with familiar scents to navigate their environment. By strategically placing markers around the house, blind dogs can easily locate their food and water bowls, favorite toys, and designated potty areas. This sensory assistance allows blind dogs to feel more confident and independent in their surroundings, ultimately improving their overall quality of life.

Add Texture to Different Surfaces

Adding texture to different surfaces can help a blind dog navigate their environment more easily. For example, placing a textured mat near stairs or slippery floors can provide traction and prevent slips and falls. Additionally, textured toys or puzzle feeders can engage a blind dog's sense of touch and help keep them mentally stimulated.

Provide Them With Ample Training

Training is as important for blind dogs as for those who can see. And there are many things that you can do to help train and communicate with your dog, such as:

Use Verbal Cues to Help Your Dog Move Around

Using verbal cues and commands can help a blind dog navigate their environment more effectively by providing them with auditory guidance. For example, saying "step up" or "step down" when approaching stairs can help the dog understand the terrain ahead and prevent accidents. Additionally, using consistent commands can build trust between the dog and their owner, making it easier to communicate and ensuring the dog's safety and well-being.

Train Your Dog to Respond to Touch Cues

Using touch for direction can help a blind dog by providing physical guidance and reassurance when navigating unfamiliar environments. By gently guiding the dog with your hands or body, you can help them feel more secure and confident in their movements, reducing their anxiety and improving their overall well-being.

Be Patient & Consistent With Training

Being patient and consistent when caring for a blind dog is crucial because it allows the dog to learn and adapt to their surroundings at their own pace. By consistently using verbal cues and tactile signals and maintaining a predictable routine, blind dogs can feel more secure and confident in navigating their environment. This approach helps build trust between the owner and the dog, leading to a stronger bond and a smoother transition into a new way of life. 

Veterinary Care & Support for Blind Dogs

Veterinary care and support are essential in helping your dog thrive. For example, regular check-ups with a veterinarian are essential for maintaining the health and well-being of your pet. These visits allow for early detection of potential health issues and ensure that your pet is up to date on vaccinations and preventative care measures. Additionally, veterinarians can provide guidance on nutrition, behavior, and overall quality of life for your furry friend.

If your blind dog exhibits any new behaviors or signs of discomfort, it is important to seek veterinary care promptly. Changes in behavior could indicate underlying health issues that need to be addressed by a professional.

Your vet can also provide guidance on implementing the additional supports mentioned above. Your vet can work with you to create a comprehensive care plan that meets your blind dog's needs and improves their overall quality of life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

With the proper care and training, a blind dog can live a long and happy life. Contact our Thornton vets today to schedule a wellness exam. We are happy to discuss ways to help your dog.

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Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital is always accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about providing kind and loving veterinary care to Thornton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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