If you’ve never shared your home with a blind dog or one with vision problems, it might seem as if blindness in a dog is something that would be obvious to you as their owner. However, the onset of blindness in dogs can be very slow and subtle, which means that your dog will have time to adapt over time, and you might not always realise until your dog’s vision is severely compromised that anything is wrong.
There are a wide range of different health conditions and problems that can cause blindness in dogs; some are hereditary, some result from an accident or illness, and some are idiopathic, and we don’t really know why they occur. Some causes of blindness in dogs can be corrected or reversed, whilst some will result in permanent blindness or loss of vision; but regardless of the cause and the progression of the problem, it is important for you as a dog owner to know how to spot when something is up with your dog’s eyesight.
In this article we will share some of the warning indicators to look out for if your dog loses their eyesight, and share some of the symptoms that can tell you that your dog’s vision is on the wane. Getting a formal diagnosis and finding out what is causing the problem is important, because some forms of blindness can be treated, reversed or slowed down; others may indicate a health problem that requires addressing to resolve the issue or limit the damage.
Additionally, even if your dog’s failing vision is irreversible, knowing what causes it and how it is likely to progress will help to inform the way that you care for your dog, and make allowances for their failing vision.
Read on to learn how to tell if your dog is going blind or losing their vision.
Not all types of canine blindness cause visible changes to the appearance of your dog’s eyes themselves, but a number of them do. Get to know what your dog’s eyes look like normally so that you will be able to spot any future changes.
Cloudiness, spots, flecks or strands visible within the eyes, changes in the colour or shape of the eye’s pupil, growths on or in the eye and anything else out of the ordinary are all things to look out for.
A dog with normal, healthy eyes and vision will have coordinated eye movements – both eyes will move together and focus and turn in the same direction. If your dog’s eyes don’t move together, point the same way, or otherwise aren’t functioning as a pair, this may indicate that something is amiss.
Additionally, if one of your dog’s eyes appears to wander or move freely within the socket, or if there appears to be a tremor on involuntary movement to one or both eyes, this is also a potential symptom.
The pupils of the eyes are designed to let in light, and they expand or contract depending on lighting conditions. If your dog has been sitting in dim lighting for a while and a brighter light comes on, you will see their pupils contract noticeably – and expand when they adjust to darker conditions.
If one or both of your dog’s eyes don’t react to light in the normal way, or they don’t react together, this might mean your dog’s vision Is failing.
Canine blindness and vision loss comes in many different forms, and might make it harder for your dog to see within certain lighting conditions although they seem fine in others.
Dim light such a that which we see at dusk and dawn is often the time you’re most likely to find that your dog has problems seeing, although this can vary from dog to dog.
Some vision problems in dogs affect their front-facing vision but have a lesser or even absent effect on their peripheral vision, which means that your dog might have problems seeing things that are right in front of them, but not to the sides.
If your dog is beginning to rely on their peripheral vision, you might see the squinting to focus on things, or turning their head to get a better view of what is going on.
You might also find that your dog has difficulty spotting things directly in front of them but remains able to identify things that are just out of their line of direct sight.
If your dog has a tendency to bump into things regularly, this might be because they can’t see very well. This is more likely to happen outside of the home and in new places than it is within your dog’s familiar territory, as your dog won’t have any frame of reference for what is around them without their previously established visual memories.
Some dogs are of course just clumsier than others, and lack of coordination and bumping into things can indicate another problem entirely, but it is definitely something to check out.
If your dog is prone to tripping over things that should be easy to miss, again this might be because of a loss of vision, or because of a different issue entirely.
Dogs are better able to identify and focus on movement than they are on static things – a moving ball is easier for your dog to pick out from the background than a still one.
If your dog seems to totally miss nearby movements, such as a ball being thrown in front of them, this might well mean that they are progressively losing their vision.
All dogs should see the vet regularly, even if they are in perfect health. Your dog’s annual health check will involve a basic eye examination that should be sufficient to identify common problems and let your vet know if further investigation is required – and your vet will have the tools and knowledge to pick up subtle symptoms you might not notice yourself.
Certain dog breeds have elevated risk factors for various eye and vision problems, like progressive retinal atrophy. Knowing if your dog’s breed is one of them can help you to stay alert and learn the relevant symptoms, and some eye conditions can even be diagnosed ahead of time by DNA testing or veterinary eye screening.