How to Tell If Your Dog Is Going Blind
Although we care deeply about our pup’s health, age can bring quite a few changes for your dog that they’ll need to adapt to. One of these may be their eyesight. Like humans, dogs can go blind in one or both eyes. Usually, vision loss in dogs develops slowly over several months or even years, so you’ll likely have quite a bit of time to help them adapt to their new normal.
Vision impairment in dogs is usually caused by cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration, but can also be secondary to other medical disorders like hypertension, chronic dry eye, and diabetes. And it may just be genetic.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Going Blind
Unless your dog has suffered an injury, blindness in dogs is typically gradual. There are sometimes preliminary changes such as depression, anxiety, lack of energy, and aggression. These signs are often mistaken for other possible diseases and can often be attributed to other conditions, so it can be difficult to spot the signs of blindness early on. Therefore, preventative care and regular veterinary checkups are critical for identifying underlying issues in the early stages.
Subtle signs of vision impairment include not venturing into new spaces, aggressive or defensive behavior, anxiety, depression, and a reduced desire to play or engage in activities.
Signs & Symptoms Your Dog Is Going Blind
There are some more obvious signs you should look out for as well. These include but are not limited to:
White spots on the eyes
Bumping into things
Squinting or pawing at their face
Being easily startled when pet or approached
Avoidance of stairs
Redness or swelling around the eyes
Lack of dilation or constriction in the eyes when moving from dark to light environments
Making less eye contact than they used to
Trembling in fear
Since blindness is usually gradual, your dog will commit their normal environment to memory. They may be able to navigate around their home somewhat normally but will run into new things in the house frequently. In addition, they may have more trouble seeing at night. If you are worried your dog is experiencing vision loss, look at their eyes. Notice if their eyes appear cloudy, puffy, red, or swollen, or if their pupils have stopped dilating when exposed to light.
Testing Your Dog’s Eyesight
If you are worried that about your dog, you can complete a few at home tests to see if they are having issues with their vision. These simple tests don’t require much equipment and can be performed quickly and easily. For the first test, have your dog sit down. Put your hand roughly 18 inches away from their face. Then, quickly move your hand toward your dog until it’s around three inches away from touching their face. If your dog doesn’t move their head or react by blinking, they are likely experiencing issues with their vision.
Another way to test their vision is with the cotton ball test. Grab a cotton ball and hold it up to your dog’s visual field. Then, throw it in any direction away from your dog and see if your dog reacts. Do they follow it with their eyes, move their head in the direction of the ball, or go chase the cotton ball down? If they don’t react in any way, it may mean that your dog’s vision is impaired.
In order to know for sure, take your dog to the vet so they can accurately measure their vision, especially if they are frequently home alone.
Common Reasons A Dog May Go Blind
While vision loss can be a part of the normal aging process, it can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious. This is why it is very important to take your dog to the vet if you think they are experiencing vision loss. Your vet may recommend blood work to evaluate your dog’s overall health as well as examine their eye. In certain cases, your vet may recommend that you see a veterinary ophthalmologist for more specialized treatments.
Vision loss can be caused by many different things. Below are some common causes for vision loss.
A cataract is an opacity in the lens of your dog’s eye. They are usually small but can spread overtime and end up taking up the entire lens of your dog’s eye. This will block their pupil so that light can’t entire the eye and stimulate the retina. Cataracts are usually hereditary but can also form as a trauma response or as a complication of diabetes. Medications can slow the development of cataracts and surgery can be used to remove them.
This is the buildup of fluid in the eye, which can increase pressure in the eye and damage the retina. This is usually a gradual process, but it is very serious as it can result in permanent vision loss unless treated quickly. If you catch it in time, glaucoma can be treated with medications. In severe cases, the affected eye may need to be removed.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy is a genetic disease where your dog’s retina slowly degenerates overtime. Your dog can experience either early onset PRA or late-onset PRA. Early onset can show up in puppies as young as two months old, whereas late onset shows up in adult dogs. There is no cure for this genetic disease and certain breeds such as labs, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and American cocker spaniels among others are more prone to it.
Other common causes of vision loss include hypertension, chronic dry eye, untreated infections, pannus, tumors, and sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS). As you can see, there are many different causes of vision loss that can occur. This is why it is important to take your dog to a vet as soon as you notice signs of blindness in order to figure out the root cause and treat it quickly.
Taking Care Of A Dog That Is Going Blind
Fortunately, dogs rely heavily on other senses such as scent and hearing to get by. This means that they can adapt to blindness much better than humans can. If your dog is going blind, work with your vet to create a care plan for your dog. Make your home environment as safe for them as possible and try to avoid adding in new objects or moving your existing furniture around. Keep things predictable by always placing their food and water in the same spot. Dog-proof your home by eliminating dangerous objects, fencing in your yard so they can’t stray too far, and altering stairs or other things that could cause them to fall. Remember to be patient with them as you may have to develop a new style of communication to work together with him or her. You may have to start announcing yourself when you enter the room with your pup to prevent startling them. Walk with heavy steps or say hello to them when you enter a room and always announce yourself before petting or snuggling with them. Overall, if cared for properly, your dog will be able to adapt to their new style of living and will be more than capable of living a happy life!