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Caring for Your Blind Pet

Unfortunately, blindness in our pets occurs more often than we would like. Causes of blindness include retinal disease with no known treatment, glaucoma for which some treatments are available (often with affects that are short-lived), cataracts, retinal detachments, serious eye injuries and a variety of other diseases.   

Vision in cats and dogs is quite different from ours.  They have better night vision and peripheral vision than we do, but their ability to focus and see fine detail is less developed.  Also, they do not have well developed color vision. Our pets are less dependent on vision than we are.  They utilize their senses of hearing and smell very efficiently.  Because of this, loss of vision in cats and dogs is less traumatic compared to loss of vision in people.  They will not feel sorry for themselves and usually adapt very well to the loss of vision.  Pets that become blind seem to undergo a 1-2 month period of adaptation and during the same time many changes occur.  They will bump into things and it can be a difficult time for your pet and your.  All of these signs will pass with time. Over 95% of blind pets readily memorize the layout of their home and yard and can function normally or near normally with poor vision or no vision. It does take time for them to learn to get around using their other senses. They will make very happy pets with some help form you to make their life a little easier.  

Here Are a Few Guidelines to Provide Better Care for a Blind Pet

  • Memory is used to navigate the house.  Avoid changing the environment, such as moving furniture or food and water bowls.  If your pet is placed in a new environment, allow some time to adjust to the new surrounding.  Be careful of stairways, open doors or other objects that could injure your pet. Put chairs back under the table after meals.  Things that are left out will cause your pet to bump into them and become disoriented.  
  • Teach them to walk on a harness or lead so they can be exercised safely. Choke collars are discouraged.  Keep talking to your pet while walking, your voice will guide them.  Encourage exercise, whether in a fenced yard or on a leash to prevent excessive weight gain.  Never let your pet out without supervision unless in a fenced yard. BE CAREFUL OF IN GROUND POOLS
  • Encourage them to use their other senses to compensate for vision loss. Buy noisy toys or toys that have a distinct, recognizable odor.  Be creative with different scents to mark areas.  Use different scents of favored extracts or even something as simple as haging a car air freshener or potpourri sachet on a door.  This will help them to recognize where they are in the home.  Some people get a companion animal that the blind pet can follow around using its hearing and smell.  
  • Some Behavior changes (aggression, depression and fear) can sometimes be observed with sudden blindness.  Avoid stressing or scaring blind pets. Instruct family members, including children to vocalize the pet's name and approach slowly. This fear usually passes with time, as the pet learns to adjust to the blindness.  
  • Most causes of blindness are not painful, so the quality of life of a blind pet is very good.  If pain is involved, it will cause the pet to be depressed. Other signs to watch for are associated with changes in the appearance of the eye such as reddening of the white of the eye, increase in the size of the eye, large amounts of discharge or scratching and rubbing at the eye.  
  • Feed and water your pet in the exact same place every day.  This area will become a reference point if your pet becomes disoriented.  
  • Emphasize the senses they still have , sense of smell, hearing taste and touch.  Be very vocal with you pet.  Use textured materials to mark areas. Throw rugs or indoor/outdoor carpeting are great to help guide your pet.  
  • Blind cats and dogs can have a good quality of life and make very happy pets as long as you follow these few guidlines.  If you have any question or concerns please call our office at 716-608-7700
Online Support for Clients With Blind Pets

  • "Living With Blind Dogs", a resource book and training guide for the owners of blind and low vision dogs and "Blind Dog Stories: Tales of Triumph Humor and Heroism" by Caroline Levin www.petcarebooks.com