Dogs can lose their sight for a number of reasons, either slowly or suddenly. This blog will look at ways to make their lives easier, and how to cope with the changes they face.
It will take time for them to adjust
Like humans, dogs have 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. Whilst sight is arguably one of our most important senses, dogs tend to rely on their hearing and sense of smell more so than their sight. Losing one sense will mean the other senses work harder to compensate, so you may find your dogs sense of hearing becomes even more in tune should they lose their sight.
Use key words
My own dog, Princess began losing her sight a year ago. After numerous vet visits, it became apparent that there was no medical treatment available to restore her sight. As I knew blindless was inevitable, I began training her whilst she still had sight. On walks, I would say “jump” every time we were near a curb so she knew a step up or step down was coming. When I took her into the garden, I told her to “go toilet”, again so she would realise where she was and what she needed to do. Remember to talk to your dog before petting her or picking her up as she won’t be able to see you coming and could startle her.
Give them cues
Putting bells on other pets in the house will alert your blind dog to other furry members of the household. All of our cats have bells on their collars so Princess can hear them coming, and the other dogs have tags which jingle. To help her find the water bowls, we have put them on mats so she can feel with her feet where they are. You can also put mats or runner rugs in doorways to help your dog realise what location of the house they are in. We put a small ramp on her bed to not only make it easier for her to get in and out of the bed, but to also help her locate it.
If your dog loses their sight suddenly or isn’t coping well with their new way of life, you could invest in a halo. To put it simply, a halo is a harness with a foam circle which work much like a blind person’s white cane, allowing her to move around without hitting her head.
If their eyes are removed surgically, it can be shocking to see them
If your dog needs her eyes removed due to illness, this is called an eneculation. Princess had a bi-lateral eneculation which means both of her eyes were removed at the same time. The veterinary team will need to clip the hair away from around the eye or eyes, and when you collect your dog, where her eye or eyes were will look very different. It is upsetting to see them like this, as it appears that their eyelids are stitched shut and it can look swollen – it does look dramatic. The important thing to remember is that the wounds will heal and the hair will grow back. Of course, the most important thing is your dog’s well-being and of course, they won’t know they look any different. They still need you to love them, more than ever at this time.
Be careful with heights
Who doesn’t love cuddling with their dog on the bed or the sofa? It goes without saying that you will still be giving your blind dog lots of love, but remember they won’t be able to see how high up they are. Princess is a little senile these days and forgets she is on the sofa with us and will try to walk off. So take care with those evening cuddles! Always lift your blind dog off the sofa or bed and never allow them to jump as they will be unable to judge the distance. It is also a good idea to put a stairgate on the top and bottom of any stairs you have in the house to stop them falling.
Try not to rearrange the house
If possible, try not to change the layout of the house around too much as your dog will get confused and could bump into things. Try to keep walkways clear and pick shoes up off the floor as a blind dog can easily trip over them.
They need you more than ever
Blind dogs can still have a brilliant quality of life, but you have an important role to protect them. Your blind dog can still go out on walks, but it’s probably best to keep them on a lead or long line so they don’t lose you. Other dogs and dog walkers may not realise right away that your dog is blind, so getting a bandana or lead to alert others is a good idea.
They will cope!
I know it’s hard to see your beloved dog lose their sight. To be honest, I struggled a lot with seeing Princess change and it was upsetting. Her eyesight slowly faded and then she needed emergency surgery to remove her eyes. I was so worried about how she would cope and what the other dogs would think of her. The day she came home from surgery, she did bump into things, but her Elizabethan collar prevented her surgical sight getting knocked. Over time, she has managed to make a mental map of our home and can navigate the whole downstairs and garden all by herself. It really is remarkable what she can do and we honestly forget sometimes that she is blind. Your dog will be ok – they will get there and will cope.