The age at which your dog may become blind can very and often depends on the reason they lose their sight. For example, congenital blindness is from birth. Dog blindness due to direct trauma to the head or eyes is also often seen in younger dogs. However, mostly dog blindness develops in late to middle aged dogs and is of a progressive nature, such as cataracts.
How to Help your Dog Around the House
Generally, your dog will cope with their blindness quite well at home in their familiar environment, there are some things which you can do however, to make it as easy as possible for your blind dog. Try and make your home environment safe by removing hazards and sharp objects. Keep furniture and objects in consistent positions, to help your dog navigate and keep an accurate ‘mental picture’ of their environment.
Dogs heavily rely on their sense of smell and hearing. Using distinctive scents and providing auditory cues can help them navigate and understand their surroundings. This is particularly important if you take them to an unfamiliar place.
Treatment for Dog Blindness
While blindness cannot usually be cured, there are several ways to help blind dogs adapt and maintain an excellent quality of life.
For some blind dogs they can have surgery to correct their blindness. There have been some excellent results from cataract surgery for example, however the success of the surgery depends on the dog being a ‘good’ candidate. This means that they do not have any underlying conditions (e.g. diabetes, kidney failure, high blood pressure). In addition, cataracts is a degenerative disease, this means that surgery must be performed as soon as possible for the best results.
Due to the average age of dog’s affected by blindness surgery is most often not recommended however. Nevertheless, there are several measures which owners of blind dogs can take which can really boost their dog’s confidence and quality of life. Dogs heavily rely on their sense of smell and hearing. Using distinctive scents and providing auditory cues can help them navigate and understand their surroundings. Similarly blind dogs can be trained to respond to verbal commands and signals to help them navigate unfamiliar situations. As with all things when training your dog, consistency is key when training them.
Some blind dogs may benefit from the use of devices and aids, such as a Halo. This not only helps to protect your dogs head when they are moving around, but also act like extended whiskers and can help your dog to gain confidence when out and about walking. There are also dog goggles (Rex Specs) which help to prevent direct trauma to the eyes or if your dog has blindness which is linked to light sensitivity. Both of these products are a great way to allow your dog to stay active while also protecting them and their face from further injury.
Emotional supports is also really important. Provide plenty of love and reassurance to help your dog adjust to a new situation. Some dogs may experience considerable anxiety when taken into unfamiliar environments, so assess whether you need to take them somewhere new or if they are happier left at home. There is no right or wrong answer, but it is just something which you need to assess. In very busy environments, where your dog can be overwhelmed by lots of sounds and smells, a smaller dog can get a lot of reassurance from being carried by their owner.