Blindness or visual impairment can occur in any animal. You may suddenly find yourself with a pet that has been blind from birth, suffers trauma or one that gradually loses their sight.
Whatever the cause, by taking your pet to the veterinary surgeon, they can talk you through the condition and if any options to restore your pet’s sight are available.
For sudden sight loss, in particular, you may find building your dog a halo helps. This is something that can attach to a harness, meaning the halo bumps into any objects before they do, protecting them from injuries.
Give them a place. Somewhere they can retreat to feel safe, that’s comfortable, warm and familiar. Using DAP or Feliway Diffusers in this area, along with an item of clothing that smells of you can help them to relax.
Keep your home layout the same, they will become used to navigating their way around furniture and doors. Avoid changing it until they are more confident. If you do decide to make changes, do it gradually.
See your home from your pet’s perspective, even if that means crawling around on the floor. This will help you to identify any potential hazards. Look for sharp edges (to which you can add padding), electrical cables and hotspots such as fires. Keep the floor clear from objects such as toys and clothes.
Place rugs down so your pet can identify different floor coverings and recognise where they are. Using a radio or television in a certain part of the house is also a good indicator and will help them to feel less lonely when the house is empty. Use different scents in different places. Citrus can be used to indicate care, such as before the kitchen or at the top of the stairs. With scents like pine in more neutral areas. Make sure they are sprayed at your pet’s height level.
Keep them in the same place to avoid stress. Water fountains are useful as they create a sound which your pet can navigate to. Placing textured mats under bowls can help them to feel their way.
Keep it soothing and talk to them often so they can hear where you are. Make sure you speak to them BEFORE you touch them.
Attach a bell to yourself and other pets. This may prevent your pet from nipping due to being alarmed by your presence.
To encourage them to play use toys which have a bell, something with noise or heavily scented, so they can find it. Allowing your dog to track a scented toy can keep them stimulated.
Keep it the same, as with anything our pet’s need routine to keep them relaxed.
Needs to be checked for hazards too. Create sensory areas, for example, a wind chime by the back door so they can navigate their way back inside. Bark chips or small pebbles around dangers such as trees and plant pots can warn your pet. They will in time, as they have indoors, be able to map their way around the garden. It would be wise to keep cats indoors.
If your dog uses a collar and lead change them to a harness instead. This will place less stress on your dog, particularly on the eyes. You’ll also have more control.
Keep your blind dog on the lead and whilst walking keep an eye out for potential hazards at their level, such as branches. It’s worthwhile walking the same route too, they will feel comfortable in the familiarity.
Let others know your dog is blind. There are coats or bandannas that warn others not to unexpectedly touch or shock your dog, and to put their dog on a lead.
Train your dog again – new words which will help them. ‘Watch’, ‘Step’, ‘Slow’ to warn them on things such as steps, near roads. It’s also useful to vary your tone. Low for more urgent hazards. Tap on steps so they can hear the height/drop.
Blindness in your pet is not the end. They can cope and adapt incredibly well leading perfectly happy lives. If your pet is becoming blind talk to your vet who will guide you through the process.