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What Causes Blindness in Dogs

The Different Reasons Dogs May Lose Their Sight

By Madeleine Burry. January 03, 2014 | See Comments

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A Maltese Obvious Signs Of Sight Loss

Blindness is something that can happen to dogs as they age, but some dogs are born without sight. If your dog will have to manage with impaired eyesight, here are some tips for helping them get around.

It's possible for dogs to be born blind, and several diseases can, unfortunately, lead to vision problems or blindness in dogs. Discover some of the main causes of blindness in dogs, as well as how to ensure that your dog lives a comfortable lifestyle despite vision problems.

Causes of Blindness in Dogs

Some of the most common conditions and diseases that will lead to blindness or vision problems for a dog are:

  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma causes high pressure in a dog’s eyes, compressing the optic nerve and leading to difficulty with eyesight.
  • Cataracts: This disease impacts the lens of the eye and is quite common as a dog ages. It can cause vision problems and blindness without surgical treatment.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Dogs who have this inherited disease experience degeneration of the retina, leading eventually to blindness.
  • Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration: The causes of this fast-moving disease are unknown, and vision loss can occur in mere weeks.
  • Diabetes: Many diabetic dogs will develop cataracts as a result of diabetes, eventually leading to blindness.
  • Severe Entropion: This eye disease, which can either be congenital or acquired, causes a dog’s eyelid to turn inward, causing great discomfort, and blindness if left untreated.
  • Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca): If your dog’s dry eyes are not treated in time, corneal deposits can impact your dog’s eyesight.

How to Help Your Blind Dog

What’s the best way to deal with blindness in dogs? While surgery is sometimes an option for treatment, in many cases the loss of vision will be a permanent change for your dog, and your role will be to ensure that your dog can still be happy and fulfilled. While blindness is a big loss, your dog can rely more on other senses to compensate. Some changes will be necessary, but after an adjustment period, hopefully none of them will be onerous for either you or your dog. Here are some suggestions for how to accommodate blindness in your dog:

  • Go Verbal: If you formerly used visual cues — hand gestures, snapping your fingers, etc. — switch to using verbal commands. Let your dog know you’re near with your voice as well. Greet them when you enter the room since they will no longer see you. The same principle applies for strangers: don’t allow them to pet your dog without a verbal greeting, and slowly ease them into your dog’s space. A startled dog can become an angry dog.

  • Keep Your Home Clean and Organized: Make sure that your home is clutter-free, since your dog won’t see obstacles. Avoid redecorating and try to keep furniture in the same place, since these changes will make it difficult for your dog to navigate around. If you notice your dog persistently bumping into something, see if it can be moved. In general, make an effort to avoid sharp corners that your dog could bump into. A consistent routine in the home, with food and water always in the same place, is preferable for your dog.

  • Leashes - If your dog can’t see, it’s more important than ever to keep them on a leash. If they run off, it will be challenging for them to find you, and it’s very easy for them to inadvertently run into the road. If your backyard is not fenced off, consider adding a fence, or else supervising all outdoor time.

  • Stair Safety - Without sight, stairs can be a real danger to your dog. It’s best to use a stair gate if possible, like you would for a baby, to prevent your dog from taking a nasty tumble.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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