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Muffin's Halo for Blind Dogs (blue) - ZOOMADOG

What is Blindness in Your Dog?

Blindness in dogs can result from various causes, and it can have a significant impact on your dog’s quality of life. It can be temporary or, more often, permanent. Blindness can be a challenging adjustment for both the dog and the owner, but with patience, love and some adjustments to the dog's environment and routine, many blind dogs can lead happy and fulfilling lives.

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Dog Blindness - What is it and How to Help Your Dog

Blindness in Your Dog - The First Signs

Blindness in dogs can develop slowly or can have a sudden onset, depending on the cause. Often, as owners, it can appear that your dog becomes blind quite suddenly, when in fact their eyesight has been deteriorating for some time. A dog which is blind in one eye will often go undetected, as they will compensate with their other eye, until this eye also loses its sight. Another factor which can mean blindness goes undetected, is your dog’s familiarity with their surroundings. Therefore, it is not until your dog is put into an unknown environment, that it becomes apparent they are having difficulties. Typical behaviour of a dog who is blind or has limited sight is bumping into objects, walking along walls or leaning against their owners to help guide them.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Blindness

The signs of blindness in dogs can vary depending on the cause and severity, but they may include:

  • Your dog bumps into objects or walls
  • Reluctance or show caution when moving around unfamiliar environments
  • Difficulty finding food or water dishes
  • Changes in behaviour, such as increased anxiety or clinginess
  • Dilated pupils, often seen in Glaucoma
  • Cloudy eyes, a classic indication of cataracts
  • Lack of response to visual cues or commands

What Can Cause Blindness in Your Dog?

Dog blindness can be caused for a variety of reasons, these can be inherited, due to trauma or an infection, be age related or as a side effect from another disease, such as kidney failure or diabetes mellitus. Here are some common causes:

  • Congenital blindness; some dogs are born blind due to genetic or developmental factors
  • Inherited conditions; certain breeds are prone to inherited eye conditions that can lead to blindness, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) or cataracts
  • Blindness due to trauma; injuries to the eyes or head can cause blindness. This can be from accidents, fights with other animals or other traumatic events
  • Blindness due to infection; eye infections, particularly if left untreated, can lead to blindness. These infections can be bacterial, viral or fungal
  • Age-related changes; just like in humans, aging can cause changes in a dog's eyes, most commonly seen are cataracts and glaucoma, which may lead to blindness
  • Cataracts can be directly caused by other health conditions such as diabetes, as well as a genetic disposition
  • Blindness due to a detached retina; this can be caused for a number of reasons. It can be a congenital defect, can be due to toxin exposure or direct trauma. Most commonly it is due to other health issues such as kidney failure and high blood pressure
  • Autoimmune disorders; some autoimmune diseases can affect the eyes and lead to vision problems
    Degenerative diseases; conditions such as Sudden Acquired Retinal
  • Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) can cause sudden and irreversible blindness. Very little is known about the cause of SARDS, however it generally develops in later middle-age and affects a disproportionate number of female dogs over male

What Age does a Dog become Blind?

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.

Jasmine, one front corn

Jasmine, one front corn

"My greyhound is very happy wearing her one Hunnyboot, which I bought to cushion a corn on one of her toe pads. She now walks without a limp, even on rougher ground. The boot is easy to get on and off (with Hunnyboot sock), and stays on well during walks."

Jasmine uses hunnyboots

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