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Care of the Blind Dog

This is Dr. Katie here! A family member of mine is the loving owner of a blind Yorkshire Terrier, Lucy. My family asked me to write a blog with tips on how to care for a blind dog. Many of these tips would be applicable to other blind animals as well!

What are some reasons a dog might go blind? Dogs can become blind for a number of reasons. Some are born blind because of a congenital defect. Other dogs become blind as they age or because of a medical condition like cataracts, glaucoma, infection, eye injury, dry eye, diabetes, and tick borne illnesses, and a number of other conditions.

How do you know if your dog is blind? You would think that it would be easy to tell if your pet is blind, but some animals adapt so well that it can actually be very difficult especially if blindness has been a gradual change. Dogs tend to use their senses of smell and hearing more than eyesight. Humans on the other hand tend to rely heavily on vision.

Here are some signs that indicate your dog may be blind (or almost blind):

  • Bumping into furniture
  • Always sticking to the same path outside. When Dr. Katie’s childhood beagle started going blind, her family noticed he always walked along the wall or fence line.
  • Changes in appearance to the eyes. The clear part of the eye (called the cornea) may not look so clear any more. The eye can look cloudy, darkened, or reddened. Owners may notice an increased tear production. The pupil may be dilated (wide eyed). Animals might not follow movement with their eyes anymore.
  • Pets may be confused in new settings
  • Pets may have trouble navigating poorly lit areas. Dr. Katie keeps a night light in the hall for her old greyhound, Gary.
  • Blind animals may not stray too far from the food bowl.
  • Increased grumpiness. Pets may also be startled or scared more easily.

How can I help my blind dog adjust and stay safe?

  • Avoid moving furniture in your house. Dogs can fairly easily memorize where furniture is located so as long as it’s not constantly moved.
  • Keep the food and water bowl in the same place. Some pets may respond well to a water fountain pet waterer. These fountains make a trickling sound that blind pets can follow to get water.
  • Use a harness. Some people have found it’s easier to take their blind dog on walks with a harness rather than a traditional collar.
  • Restrict access to dangerous areas. If you have stairs or a deck, make sure your pet can’t accidentally fall down the steps or off the deck! If you have a pool (or pond) be sure your blind dog can accidentally wander into the water!
  • Attach commands or phrases to everyday activities. Hopefully your pet already knows sit, stay, and come (and it’s a great time to teach them if they don’t). You can also start adding directional words like “left” or “right” to help guide your pet.
  • Remember! Your blind dog will need your help more often.
  • You can add bells to the collars of animals to make sure your blind pet knows where the other animals are located.

Will my dog be miserable if he goes blind?

Every dog is different and will respond differently to blindness. Most dogs can adjust and go on to live happy lives despite a lack of vision. Just because your dog is blind, it doesn’t mean that he won’t enjoy life anymore. You may have to adjust how your play with him, but blind dogs can still enjoy playing and interacting with you. For example, you may not be able to throw a ball as far if your blind dog loves fetch, but you can still play fetch. Some pet stores even sell scented balls and these would be great for a blind dog.

I think my dog may be going blind or blind already. What should I do? Not all forms of blindness are permanent. Schedule an appointment today if you think your pet may be going blind (573-875-3647). We can examine your pet, and make recommendations that will help preserve vision or keep your pet comfortable.

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