Coping with Blindness in Pets
Advice from Vet Charity PDSA
A pet losing their sight can be traumatic, both for them and their owners, yet with some adaptation, blind pets can often continue to lead normal, happy lives.
PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can lead to sight-loss in pets, but these illnesses usually affect older pets. In younger dogs, sight-loss might be the result of an injury. Luckily, our pets have an extremely well-developed sense of smell and hearing which they use to help compensate for blindness.”
Owners concerned about their pet’s vision should speak to their vet. In some cases pets can develop eye conditions if they’re suffering from other diseases, such as cataracts, which can occur in patients suffering from diabetes. Other diseases, such as glaucoma, can be extremely painful and require immediate treatment.
The progression of certain conditions could also be slowed with treatment, so early diagnosis and treatment is very important.
Olivia added: “Your vet will check your pet’s eyes and general health to see whether there is an underlying condition affecting their sight. If a medical condition is diagnosed, they will discuss treatment options and provide guidance and support.”
How pets react to sight-loss depends on several factors. If they learn new skills quickly, then they will often adjust more easily to any impact on their vision. Older pets may already have a reduced sense of hearing or smell, so they may find it harder to adapt, though because their loss of sight is usually more gradual they often learn to compensate well.
Olivia added: “Confident pets may adapt better than more anxious ones, but the amount of support an owner provides is also a big factor in helping pets adjust to sight loss.”
There are several steps owners can take to care for a pet suffering from impaired vision:
- It’s important to help your dog learn their environment and surroundings, so keep furniture in the same place. It’s worth assessing your home and garden to make sure there are no sharp edges or items your dog could injure themselves on. Access to hazards such as fireplaces, balconies and open staircases should be blocked off and never leave anything on the floor that they could trip over.
- Keep their bed, food and water bowls in the same place to avoid confusion. This will help your dog feel more confident in the house.
- When taking them out, tread well-known routes until they get used to things, and don’t let them off-lead unless they’re in a secure area.
- Take any walks slowly, letting your dog have plenty on time to sniff. You can also talk to them regularly as they will find your presence reassuring.
Olivia said: “Once they‘ve adapted to the loss of vision, many pets lead normal active lives. Teaching your dog ‘up’ and ‘down’ commands can help them navigate steps and curbs, giving them confidence out on walks. Many blind dogs can still enjoy time off lead in a safe space as well as walks in new places.”
“Loss of sight in a beloved pet can be upsetting, but with a care and patience owners can help their pet to adapt, ensuring they continue to have a good quality of life.”
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk
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