All changes in the appearance of your dog’s eyes should alert you and are factors in helping how to tell if your dog is going blind.
These factors include but not limited to an opaque veil on the cornea, blood in the eye, a small pupil, internal whitish reflections, redness, an increase in volume, discharge, frequent blinking of the eyelids and more closed eyes.
Other factors to look for in how to tell if your dog is going blind are changes in your dog’s behavior, such as the following:
- He bumps into furniture, doors, or even you
- He can become fearful, especially when night falls and no longer wants to move or go out at such times
- He can become aggressive when approached especially if he does not detect the smell of the person (wind in the opposite direction)
- He becomes fearful at the slightest noise (because the reduction in sight no longer allows him to identify the cause)
- He no longer follows objects that you throw at him with his eyes, unless it makes noise when falling on the floor
- He no longer turns his head towards you when you wave without speaking to him.
If your dog still compensates well with his other senses (hearing and olfaction) or if the blindness is one-sided (only affects one eye), then it is much more difficult to detect the loss of vision, unless the appearance of the affected eye has changed.
How to tell if your dog is going blind? Causes of blindness
Damage to one or more parts of the eye can make your dog blind. These attacks can be progressive or sudden (such as eye injuries after a bite or a wounding accident). They generally affect the mature animal but can also affect young dogs or exist from birth (congenital disorders). The most common are:
Damage to the lens
The crystalline lens is a transparent lens that allows (like in humans) the “focus” of the image by sending light rays on the retina, so that your dog can clearly see what he is looking at. It is held in the center of the eye by filaments.
Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in older dogs. This is the process by which the aging of the lens turns them opaque. It is noticed by a whitish aspect of the eye. It is most often progressive and can be slowed down by eye drops and food supplements or even surgery with a success rate close to 95%. All dogs can be affected, with age or for example when they are diabetic (frequent complication).
The dislocation of the lens, that is to say its displacement linked to a rupture of the filaments that hold it together or to an anomaly in their development, is also a cause of blindness. Certain dog breeds are predisposed (Jack Russel Terriers, Brittany Spaniels, Pinschers, Spitz). Dislocation of the lens is a condition requiring an emergency surgery to save the eye.
The retina is the membrane that lines the back of the eye, it is this which receives light rays through the lens.
As in humans, atrophy (decrease in tissue) or detachment of the retina causes blindness in dogs. It also requires an emergency intervention from a veterinary. The latter is treated when the detachment is partial and can be detected when your dog’s behavior is affected, for example when he bumps into furniture overnight. In the case of a unilateral detachment, detection of the condition is much more difficult.
The cornea is the transparent outer covering of the eye through which light to reach the lens.
The uvea is the membrane of the eye located between the sclera (outer covering not visible in the orbital cavity) and the retina. It is made up of the iris, the ciliary body (elements connected to the ligaments that keep the lens in place) and the choroid (more internal tissue).
Its opacification due to inflammation (keratoconjunctivitis), trauma (accident, injuring foreign body, etc.), ulcer or other damage such as an anomaly in tissue development can also cause blindness. Depending on the case, these diseases can be cured by treating their root cause. It is crucial to quickly consult your veterinarian because corneal damage can be very painful for your dog!
Damage to the optic nerve, such as glaucoma (a degenerative disease of this nerve associated with an increase in intraocular pressure by the aqueous humor, which is also painful) also ends, if not treated quickly, with loss of vision.
Damage to fluids in the eye, such as uveitis (inflammation of the uvea) can also cause blindness and pain. They are well known and commonly taken care of by veterinarians, if they are detected of course, in particular by a change in the appearance of the eye (e.g. redness).
How to tell if your dog is going blind? With early diagnosis, treatment is possible in some cases
Depending on the cause (the structure of the affected eye), the nature, extent and age of the lesions, your veterinarian can save your dog’s vision, when the disease or trauma to the eye is not too severe or advanced (cataracts, keratitis, glaucoma, etc.). For example, for a cataract, treatment and / or surgery allow to completely recover vision, even in older dogs.
Most damage to the eye requires a quick intervention, sometimes emergency surgery (such as retinal detachment, dislocation of the lens, a corneal wound with the penetration of a foreign body, etc.).
Can a blind dog live decently?
The dog has a big advantage over humans when he is blind from birth because he does not know any different. He therefore escapes the depressive and divisive side of the condition, because naturally for him, normality is limited to 4 sensory perceptions (smell, hearing, touch, taste).
For those who suddenly or gradually lose their sight, it is something else. Fortunately, they cannot realize the misguided or clumsy judgment of some humans and they more or less suffer from the deficiency. But we must still remember that the most powerful sense of the dog is smell. This sense allows him to detect many characteristics of his environment much better than sight, unlike us, who are more poorly equipped at the olfactory level.
The blind dog adapts to his condition, thanks to his other sensory faculties and his intellectual capacities, often much better than the human and especially if he gets help from his environment!
How to take care of your blind dog and make his daily life easier
Talk to him more often
If he is blind from birth, it is not necessary to speak louder, but for an aging dog who is more “hard hearing” (presbycusis) or who lost his sight before being old, the auditory signals become more important. So possibly check his hearing skills with your veterinarian if you have an older dog.
In case of doubt, the practitioner can also have your animal’s deafness accurately assessed by a PEA test (analysis of auditory evoked potentials) carried out in a veterinary school or by a veterinarian neurologist. Indeed, some dogs do not respond when they do not want to and it is sometimes difficult to check hearing abilities.
Adapt your home
At home, your dog remembers the arrangement of the rooms and the olfactory cues in them. It is therefore essential not to change the arrangements of the furniture and in particular his sleeping area. As much as possible with an old dog who has become blind, we will also avoid moving. You can also remove obstacles from his usual routes, towards his bed or his bowl.
Protect the protruding angles of furniture or other objects with protective foams or other products designed specifically for child safety.
Work on olfactory communication
In addition to blindness, the old dog is often less motivated by his surroundings. It is therefore essential to keep providing him with small pleasures of life such as sweets (while respecting the constraints related to his diet). This allows him to find his bowl, his cushion or mat more easily.
You can also use the same scent of laundry or fabric softener to clean his bedding, or even scent him with a dog scent so that he finds his way more easily.
Keep him on a leash outdoors
This is important, because on the street, in a forest, a field or a garden with brush and low branches, he could be injured without you having time to react or get scared and run away in a moment of panic.
Sometimes, it may be wise to protect your dog’s head with a rigid or inflatable dog collar. Be careful, for many dogs, it is already quite uncomfortable, even without sight problems!
A dog cone can worsen the worries of the old blind dog and dramatically impact his self-control and well-being or even add to his stress level.
If you are afraid that your dog may injure his eyes while walking around, protective dog glasses should be considered if your canine friend tolerates them (the treat can help him).
If you understand the signs helping how to tell if your dog is going blind, you may be able to make a big difference in your dog’s life. However, if it is too late, please understand that a blind dog can perfectly live well and happy.
Ask your veterinarian for advice and consult him at the slightest damage to your dog’s eyes as this may save his sight!