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.
1. Reduce any unexpected surprises
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.
- Do not make sudden changes to the layout of your home so that furniture, obstacles, and of course the favourite sleeping places remain where they are expected.
- Keep place food and water bowls in the same place.
- If you have other pets you could consider adding small bells to their collars so there is an additional audible indication of their presence.
- Speak to your pet more, so that it can hear exactly where you are as well as pick up other audio cues about their environment.
- Tell other people that your dog is blind or visually impaired, so they do not rush up and surprise. Consider getting a bandana or vest that reads "I'm blind" for your dog to wear during walks.
2. Reduce any hazards
Similar to how you might have puppy-proofed your home, it is important to prepare your home focusing on blind dog safety.
- Keep things tidy and remove any clutter that may become an unexpected obstacle.
- Get down low and look out for any sharp edges or objects that could injure your dog.
- Prune plants, especially those that might have spiky branches at your dog's head height.
- Add baby gates at the top of stairs or at the entrance to rooms with hazards.
- Reduce slippery surfaces by placing non-slip mats or rugs around the house - especially important for senior pets