For many of us dogs are as much a part of our families as any human member – a loving pet parent can usually tell when their pup just isn’t acting normal.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your local veterinarian whenever you notice any changes in your dog’s mood, appearance, or energy levels. Especially as they age, as many dogs are prone to blindness.
Canines are incredibly adaptable, however, and with a little help from their owners, usually get used to their new normal of impaired vision with relative ease.
Symptoms of Dog Blindness
The following are a few signs and symptoms you may notice if your dog is losing his or her vision:
• Walking into people or inanimate objects
• Confusion and anxiety
• Hesitation before engaging in normal activities such as eating or playing
• Depression and/or sleeping more often than normal
• Redness or cloudiness in the eyes
• Excessive thirst
• Enlarged pupils
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t panic! It doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she has completely lost their vision or even in the process of going blind.
It could be a temporary side effect of a new medication or the symptom of another illness. It could also be partial or intermittent blindness.
Some forms of blindness can be effectively treated, while others can be managed with a few simple behavioral modifications.
Below, we’ll go over some of the most common causes of blindness in dogs and what you can do to make life better for your visually challenged pet.
6 Common Causes of Dog Blindness
Cataracts are a cloudy or murkiness that forms in a dog’s eyes. They are completely painless but cloud the lens of the eye and eventually lead to obstructed vision.
If a cataract is large enough, it can cause total blindness. But, if caught very early on, treatment will slow the progression of the disease.
To this end pet parents can help enormously by simply paying attention and taking their dog to the vet at the very first sign of cloudiness or opaque colors developing in their dog’s eyes.
Dogs with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, as are certain breeds like Siberian Huskies, Boxers, and Boston Terriers.
Glaucoma is very painful for dogs. It’s a condition where pressure on the eye increases, effectively stopping fluids from draining and causing permanent damage to the optic nerve and retina as a result.
Glaucoma is often genetic and more likely to be found in certain breeds like cocker spaniels or poodles.
However, “secondary” glaucoma is caused from an existing eye infection. If your dog is blinking frequently and their pupils not responding to light, bring your dog to a vet immediately.
The treatment for glaucoma varies based on its severity, but topical ointments or eye drops can alleviate pressure, at least temporarily. For most dogs, surgery is required or they will likely lose their vision.
As mentioned earlier, diabetes is the primary cause of cataracts in dogs, and sadly, 75% of dogs go blind within a year of a diabetes diagnosis. It can happen so quickly; the cataracts can form within a few days.
Unfortunately, Type 1 diabetes is the variation of the disease most common in dogs. Type 1 diabetes happens when the dog’s pancreas isn’t properly producing insulin – and it’s not preventable.
However, overweight canines are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, which can be treated by feeding your dog nutrient-rich food in proper quantities.
Should your pooch be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a daily insulin shot will keep them healthy, whereas an oral medication (and weight loss!) will work for dogs with Type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that with proper treatment your dog’s risk of going blind from diabetes reduces dramatically.
Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) is a rare disorder that suddenly causes blindness in dogs.
Sadly, researchers haven’t found a cause for this disease yet. Typically, roughly two weeks prior to the onset of this illness, your dog will likely start urinating far more frequently than usual and be very thirsty, however, their eyes won’t look any different than a dog with normal vision.
There are some experimental treatments available for dogs with SARDS, but most owners prefer to use a Halo Guide for their dog. So he or she can continue with their usual activities without running into things.
Breed Specific Blindness
There are several breeds of canine that are prone to blindness. If your dog’s breed is on this list, make sure you regularly monitor their vision.
1. Siberian huskies
3. Cocker Spaniels
5. Boston terriers
Just as human eyesight diminishes over time, so does that of our canine friends. If you see signs of vision loss in your senior dog, first take him or her to a veterinarian to check the cause.
If the vet attributes your dog’s loss of vision to age, you can make a few small changes to help him or her be more comfortable.
First, don’t move furniture around or change where you feed your dog. They know their routine.
Also, consider adding carpets to slippery floors and supervise your pet when he or she is outside.
About the Author
Chris Barry is a medical writer and editor based in Montreal, Canada. Over the past twenty years he's covered a wide range of veterinary topics and animal-related news, from canine plastic surgery to hemp-based fish feed. He currently works as a freelance editor for Dispomed, a Canadian veterinary equipment manufacturer.