Vision loss or blindness can be caused by congenital defects or it can develop during your dog’s life. Some cases of vision loss are genetic and breed or age-specific, for example, white dogs, such as white Boxers and Great Danes have a greater prevalence of blindness. Dogs may lose vision as they get old or they can become blind due to trauma (e.g. after being hit by a car), untreated ocular infections, or corneal ulcers. In addition, progressive diseases such as cataracts, retinal degeneration, and glaucoma may cause chronic vision loss.
Signs Of Vision Loss
Detecting vision loss can be difficult because most dogs are capable of compensating a lack of vision using other senses. In old dogs, parents may attribute their clumsiness and disorientation to age and not to failing eyesight. Early detection of any ocular disease is essential to prevent vision loss.
Some signs of ocular disease are:
- Eye inflammation
- Ocular discharge
- Color changes (e.g. cloudy or discolored eyes)
- Eyeballs enlargement
- Constant rubbing of the eyes
Signs of progressive vision loss in geriatric dogs include:
- General disorientation
- Misjudging heights and bumping into walls, furniture or other objects
- Confusion in new surroundings
- Reluctance to move
- Difficulty finding food and water bowls
Causes Of Vision Loss
Any disease that blocks light from reaching the retina or that causes significant damage to the cornea, retina or other eye structures can cause blindness.
Some diseases that may cause vision loss in dogs are:
- Lens luxation
- Retinal detachment
- Retinal degeneration
- Corneal ulcers
- Collie eye anomaly
- Dry eye syndrome
- Retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Brain lesions
- Untreated eye infections
Whether or not vision loss can be treated depends on the underlying disease causing the condition. Some eye diseases such as glaucoma cause irreversible vision loss. Other diseases, such as cataracts, lead to a reversible vision loss that can be corrected with surgery. Recognizing early signs of vision loss and the appropriate treatment of any ocular disease are essential to prevent blindness.
What Can You Do To Ease The Life Of A Blind Dog?
When a dog loses vision, especially when this occurs progressively, he/she can compensate with other senses and live a normal life. Remember that vision is not the most developed sense in dogs; they can rely on other senses like smell and hearing to accomplish their daily activities.
There are several lifestyle changes that you can do to help your blind dog. They need to learn how to navigate their surroundings using other senses, especially the sense of smell.
Some things that you can do are:
- Avoid moving furniture in your house
- Announce your presence when approaching your dog whistling or clapping your hands softly
- Keep food and water bowls in the same area
- Use scented markers to help your dog locate obstacles around the house
Using scented location markers such as Tracerz™ is a very effective way to help blind pets build up a mental map of their environment. Tracerz™ scented markers are made with a calming blend of essential oils that are pleasantly distinctive and your dog will not confuse them with other household odors. Since dogs have a much more developed sense of smell than us, they can detect the scented markers at very long distances while we can only detect them when we are close to them. You can place scented markers around the home to help your dog find important locations, avoid obstacles, and not get lost when waking up from a deep sleep.
Most dogs will need little or no training to learn how to recognize the obstacles that have been marked with Tracerz™. Once you have installed the scented markers around the house, you should slowly lead your dog through his/her typical paths in order to let him/her sniff the new scent mark and develop a 3-dimensional map of the house.
Tracerz™ scented markers are a tool to help your dog adapt to his/her new lifestyle and are not meant to treat or cure vision loss. You should always consult your veterinarian to determine what is the best treatment option for your pet.
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About the author:
Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.