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It’s understandable to feel upset and scared when you’re concerned your dog might be going blind. Moreover, it certainly doesn’t help that your four-legged friend isn’t able to talk and tell you exactly what’s going on.
Fortunately, there’s a wealth of resources available to help you and your vision-challenged pooch adjust to your new reality.
We’ve taken a close look into the various causes behind canine blindness, along with a breakdown of the latest treatments and prevention strategies employed to combat the condition.
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What Causes Some Dogs to Go Blind?
There are a number of reasons your furry best friend may have eye problems. Here are the most common ones.
Dog cataracts begin when the lens (which protects the inner eye structure) starts to cloud over. Cataracts can be genetic and tend to be specific to certain breeds of canines, such as Siberian Huskies, Boxers, and Boston Terriers, among others.
Dogs diagnosed with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts.
Diabetes can lead to eye issues and blindness in both people and pets. The Pet Health Network states that up to three-quarters of diabetic dogs are likely to develop cataracts within 24 months of their diagnosis.
Canine glaucoma can be described when the intraocular fluid of the eyes stops draining properly, creating pressure on the entire eye system. The Glaucoma, as with cataracts, is more common among some dog breeds than others.
These breeds mainly include Bullmastiffs, Chow Chows, Dalmatians, Great Danes, Greyhounds, Norwegian Elkhounds, Poodles, and Samoyeds among others.
Aging is yet another aspect of life shared by humans and dogs alike. As a natural part of the aging process, the tissue in the lenses of the eyes starts to thicken and as a result, impair vision.
SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) is a retinal disease that’s mostly seen in Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Pugs, Brittany Spaniels, Maltese, Bichon Frises, and other mixed-breed dogs.
Scientists haven’t been able to discover the reason behind this disease yet. The dogs affected by SARDS go through severe damages of the retina and inner corners of the eyes.
Certain purebred dog breeds are more prone than most to developing eye issues that lead to blindness. According to the Journal of Canine Genetic Epidemiology, one of the most disconcerting eye diseases affecting canines is called Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA.
PRA is a degenerative disease that compromises the photoreceptor cells, which deteriorate over time and eventually results in blindness.
Additional Read: A Guide to Dog Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
How to Detect Blindness in Your Dog
Your pup may not be able to use words to tell you about his deteriorating vision, but he can certainly still communicate how he’s making out through his behavior.
The following are a few general behavioral signs veterinary ophthalmologists look for as a precursor to recommending a canine vision test:
- Movement difficulties. Stumbling, tripping, jumping – especially in low light
- Tentative behaviors during exercise or play
- Ignoring favorite toys
- Colliding with objects (especially new furnishings or backyard items)
- Can’t find his food and water
- No longer responds to visual cues — like the presentation of treats
- Mood changes (depression, anxiety, fearfulness, aggression)
Sometimes changes to the affected eye(s) are visible. Redness, discharge, cloudiness, and a blue hue are all signs of cataracts potentially developing or of other eye issues possibly requiring professional attention.
Constantly rubbing their eyes and enlarged pupils are also signs that indicate potential canine blindness.
Seeking Treatment for Dog Blindness
Veterinary science is constantly evolving. Today’s veterinary ophthalmologists are equipped with highly advanced technology to test and diagnose dogs with suspected vision issues.
Vision testing for dogs includes an entire suite of techniques as well as a thorough eye examination. If you’re not quite sure about how best to proceed, your first step should be to make an appointment with your dog’s regular veterinarian.
He or she can then refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist if needed.
Once it’s determined that your dog’s condition can be treated, surgery is likely the next step. In this case, it’s important to prepare yourself and your pet for what’s ahead. Surgery often includes anesthesia, which can be a touchy subject for many pet owners.
Don’t hesitate to ask your vet questions in order to ensure proper anesthesia monitoring and post-surgical recovery. Bringing your dog home after the procedure will require time and care to prevent any complications.
Important Read: Dog Vaccination Guide: The Right Vaccination & Schedule
Can Canine Blindness Be Prevented?
The answer to this question is far too complicated to be answered with a simple yes or no. In some cases, canine blindness can definitely be prevented.
Some of the most common causes of modern canine blindness include trauma to the eye and diabetes.
While some types of diabetes can be genetic, the most common cause of canine diabetes in the United States and elsewhere today is lifestyle-related, characterized by poor diet and a distinct lack of exercise.
However, other causes of dog blindness aren’t so easily prevented. Heritable blindness is often caused when a purebred dog’s gene pool becomes sufficiently limited that unwelcome health conditions are passed down from parent to puppy.
Additional Read: Understanding Allergies In Dogs: Types, Causes & Treatments
Helping Your Dog Adapt to Blindness
Here are a few simple tips and tools that can absolutely help your blind dog adjust and continue to live a happy, healthy life:
- At first, ask everyone in your family to wear bells at home so your dog isn’t being startled all the time. Once his other senses naturally develop and improve to help make up for his limited vision, the bells won’t be as necessary anymore.
- Do not rearrange existing household or yard furniture or change the location of your dog’s food and water bowls.
- Use scents (essential oils are good) to help your dog sniff out potential obstacles.
- Clicker training (sound-based training) is a great way to teach your dog new communication techniques!
Related Read: 7 Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs and How It Should be Fed
Too many pet dogs are relinquished or euthanized at the onset of blindness, which is unnecessary if properly prepared and willing to care for your pet.
If for no other reason, and there are many of them, sight isn’t nearly as important for dogs as it is for humans, their hearing and sense of smell are far more valuable to them.
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