One thing many dog owners find themselves concerned with as their canine friend gets a little older is that many dogs end up losing their sight to some degree. While this is a prominent concern for senior dogs, many people may not realize that blindness can occur at any stage in a dogâ€™s life. It may even be the result of a condition such as diabetes or sometimes even an accident.
Dogs commonly have poor eyesight to begin with, and rely primarily on sound and smell. This can make it very difficult to diagnose when a dog is only mildly blind. In most cases, blindness will set in at intervals. This can make it difficult to diagnose because dogs adapt very well to disabilities. When they begin to lose sight, they rely on smell, sound, and even memory. It may not even become noticeable until they almost canâ€™t see at all.
There are some cases that set in very quickly though. Suddenly Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS) is a form of blindness that may take as little as a few weeks or months to develop. In these cases, youâ€™ll notice the signs of blindness very quickly because your dog wonâ€™t have time to compensate his loss of sight with their other senses.
Signs to watch for
Early warning signs would include low-light vision loss. Theyâ€™ll be clumsy, such as stumbling or bumping into objects at random (not when theyâ€™re hyper or playing). This often happens at dusk or night, when sight conditions are already poor.
They may appear to â€œhuntâ€ for their food bowl or water bowl. If theyâ€™re in the mood to play and they ignore a thrown ball or toy, even if theyâ€™re staring right at you when you throw it, it could be a sign that your dog is developing blindness.
Your always faithful companion may one day fail to recognize you or be easily startled by you or other familiars. In this case, they may bark at you or at a familiar family member when first entering the room, but then resume their normal behavior as though nothing even happened.
As sight-loss becomes more extreme, dogs tend to become lethargic or lack the energy and enthusiasm to play. In younger dogs, this may only be temporary while they become accustomed to compensating with their other senses.
More noticeable symptoms of blindness often accompany such conditions as glaucoma and cataracts. In these cases, their pupils may become cloudy or even bulge awkwardly.
In certain situations, a dogâ€™s pupils will sometimes fully dilate and remain open all the time, which will make their eyes appear completely black. When your eyes react to light, your pupils will adjust and become smaller or larger to focus. When the pupils stop reacting, it is likely that theyâ€™re completely blind or see little more than shapes and shadows.
Sometimes, you may not even notice anything at all. Puppies can be born blind or develop blindness right after birth. Because theyâ€™ve never experienced sight, they often play and interact just like the other puppies, making their condition very difficult to detect. Puppies who are born blind often adjust very well to their lives, and when accompanied with loving owners, they grow up to be just as happy as the next dog.
Taking care of your dog and their eyes
A healthy diet can work to ensure healthy sight throughout their lives. Over time, senses will wear down to some degree, but if you keep your dog on a quality diet and proper nutritional supplements, theyâ€™ll be able to enjoy everything around them.
Beware of situations that could harm your dogâ€™s sight. Dogs are curious and will often do certain things without even being aware that they are damaging their eyes. Staring at bright light conditions, such as welding, can damage their retinas very easily. Be aware of what safety precautions you would take and apply them to your dog as well.
As dogs lose their sight, memorization becomes one of their biggest navigation tools. Moving to new locations or even rearranging furniture can affect your dogâ€™s ability to get around the house. If your dog is freshly adjusting to blindness, avoid any radical changes in scenery or new locations.
When losing their sight, dogs may be intimidated very easily. Be aware to avoid â€œsneakingâ€ up on them or creating any movements that might surprise them. Theyâ€™re going to rely on scent and sound to find you, so make your presence audible for their comfort (theyâ€™ll smell you on their own).
Blindness affects dogs differently, depending on what causes it and at what point in their life it is. Though sight is one of our most prominently realized senses, dogs prefer scent and sound, which helps them adjust to their condition more easily when coupled with a little help from their loving owner too, of course.
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