Blindness in dogs can occur suddenly but is more commonly a gradual condition related to health conditions and / or old age. Often it can be more stressful to us as the pet parent than to the pet itself as many dogs adapt very well. Dogs tend to care more about their overall environment, focusing on general comfort, food and companionship, rather than the one specific sense of sight.
That said, some dogs do become confused and nervous as their vision deteriorates: fear of stimulus from unknown sources may cause a change in behaviour, while other dogs may slump into depression as they reduce their activity and lose touch with some aspects of their world.
Here are some useful tips to help your dog adapt to the loss of sight.
As your pet loses their eyesight they will rely more and more on their other senses as well as on their memory. Consider the following to prevent any unexpected surprises that could stress your dog.
Similar to how you might have puppy-proofed your home, it is important to prepare your home focusing on blind dog safety.
Dogs also see colours differently from us! As they only have two types of colour receptors in their eyes, they can only see the colours blue and yellow. Colours such as green, yellow, and orange are yellowish, whereas purple is blue to them. In addition, red is difficult to see- it appears in a dark brownish-grey colour. With this information at hand, you can choose the colour of different supportive items to efficiently help your visually impaired dog.
Dogs famously have an amazing sense of smell, with up to 300 million smell receptors in their noses (in contrast, humans only have 6 million!). Understanding how they perceive the world enables us to make their lives better!
As your pet learns to navigate with their other senses, it can be very helpful for them to have other non-visual guides.
Become their Guide! As a dog becomes more visually impaired, communication will need to become much more vocal and utilising touch.
You are the most trusted companion and just the sound of your voice can help him work out where he/she is, and provide a calming influence. Indeed, training of verbal commands can be an important aspect as a dog's dependency on vision is reduced. Teaching commands such as “watch” and “step” can help maintain your pet’s awareness of dangers in the environment.
Physical touch will reassure your dog when outside on walks. Consider the use of a full harnesses, such as the Help 'em up harness, to provide guidance and constant feedback about where you are in close proximity, directional changes, and pauses before hazards such as steps or curbs. These work very well in conjunction with voice commands, providing your pet with multiple sources of information about their environment.
Other family pets are also often a reassurance, so where possible, encourage your other dogs to be your visually impaired doggy's own guide-dog!
The Walkin' Halo helps pets with vision loss to safely navigate the space around them. It acts as a bumper attached to the body via a comfy chest wrap, alerting your pet of nearby obstacles, instead of tripping or bumping into the wall. This easy concept is especially important and useful if your pet has previously injured their eye by bumping or falling, as often occurs.
The Walkin’ Halo empowers dogs with poor eyesight. The Halo helps pets with vision loss to confidently maneuver in the world around them. It warns your pet of nearby obstacles, avoiding bumps and trips, becoming familiar with their surroundings.
When the Halo makes contact with a hard surface, it both prevents from injuries and teaches your dog to change direction and walk around the object, acting as a safety barrier. The Halo safely guides your pet around their home environment, allowing them to participate in normal activities.