Flickr User Orin Zebest
Vision loss can be brought due to a variety of reasons. While blindness can be caused by old age or just inherited, there are other diseases and illnesses that are contributing factors. Diabetes, strokes, untreated eye infections, as well as glaucoma – the buildup of high fluid pressure in the eyes – and cataracts – an abnormality in the eye that causes the lens to become cloudy – are all potential causes of or contributors to blindness.
Certain dogs and cats are more prone to blindness than others. Cataracts, for instance, are inherited. Dog breeds predisposed to the condition are Miniature poodles, the American cocker spaniel, Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers, and Siberian Huskies. Persians, Birmans, and Himalayans are cat breeds that are more susceptible to cataracts as well.
Signs and Symptoms
If you’re worried that your pet may be experiencing vision loss, there are certain things to look for and questions to ask. Are they stepping abnormally high or with extra caution? Do they bump into furniture or have they started always walking with their nose stuck to the ground? Or what about when you throw a toy; has your usually Olympic-athlete pooch started missing the objects? These are all signs that your dog’s eyesight might be deteriorating.
One test you can do: move the furniture in your living room (or any room you choose) and turn the lights off – if your dog hesitates as he walks around, or if knocks into furniture, then something is wrong and you should head to the vet.
If you think your pet might be suffering from cataracts, there are certain symptoms you can see. For instance, if your pet’s eyes are milky or if your pet suffers from diabetes they could display an increase in thirst and frequency of urination as well as extreme weight loss. For glaucoma-related problems, there are specific symptoms to watch out for, including excessive blinking, eyeballs receding to the back of the head, redness in the whites of eyes, loss of appetite, introversion – and in extreme cases enlarged eyeballs.
If you observe any of these symptoms in your pet and think that they might be losing their eyesight, contact your veterinarian right away and schedule an appointment. There, the vet will perform a preliminary exam and might send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist (an eye specialist).
Depending on the reason behind your dog’s loss of eyesight, there are different steps that need to be taken. For glaucoma related problems, the veterinarian will have to test the pressure within your pet’s eyes or they will perform an electroretinography, which determines whether the eye will remain blind despite treatment.
If you find that your pet is losing their eyesight, don’t panic; it’s not the end of the world.
Most cats and dogs adjust to the loss of their eyesight over time. Usually blind cats are advised to be kept inside at all times and blind dogs should be looked after when they’re outside, because without their sight they are that much more vulnerable to other animals.
Regardless of your pet’s blindness, you want to make sure your animal is living in a safe, stable home.
To help them cope, try to avoid changing their environment. Don’t move your furniture too often, and make sure to cover sharp corners just in case. You can also help by carrying or guiding them up stairs, blockading dangerous areas, and always leaving their water and food in the same place.
Encourage them to use their other senses. Buy scented and noisy toys for them to play with, spray perfume on furniture they might bump into. Let your pet know when you enter the room or if you’re going to touch them by being very vocal.
Above all, be supportive, don’t stress out your pet and always let them know you’re there for them. Since your pet will no longer be able to see the affection through your face, use touching and petting as signs of affection.