Is my dog visually impaired?
Dogs are incredible animals, and typically play a significant role within the household as a much loved companion and loyal family member.
As with people, your dog's eyes can share vital information about their overall wellbeing. Health issues such as liver disease, diabetes, anemia, poisoning, head trauma, pain, auto-immune diseases, and cancer can all present noticeable signs and symptoms in the condition of your dog's eyes.
Signs & Symptoms of Vision Problems in Dogs
Regardless of the cause of the vision issues, there are a number of symptoms you should be aware of if you are concerned that your dog is experiencing difficulties seeing, or even suffering from total blindness:
- Confused, dazed, easily startled
- Bumping into objects
- Eyes become cloudy
- Changes in behavior that indicate anxiety or hesitation in new places
- Unwillingness to go up or down stairs, or jump onto furniture
- Swollen, puffy or inflamed eyes
- Obvious eye irritation or pawing at face
Common Causes of Blindness in Dogs
Much like people, your dog's vision can become impaired due to aging, disease, injury, or hereditary conditions. Part of the natural aging process can sometimes include vision loss, ranging from minor issues to full blindness.
That said, it's important to understand that blindness itself is often not the primary health issue but rather a symptom of a different underlying condition such as heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, or systemic issues.
Some common causes of blindness in dogs include:
- Cataracts - When a dog develops cataracts the lens of the eye becomes thick and opaque, resulting in a whitish/gray area in the center of the eye which stops light from fully reaching the retina. When it comes to cataracts, early detection is key to preventing blindness. If detected early the dog's vision may be saved through surgical intervention.
- Diabetes - Diabetes is becoming increasingly common in dogs. Those at increased risk of becoming diabetic include older, large breed dogs, breeding females, dogs with poor nutrition, and those suffering from obesity. Cataracts will develop in more than 75% of dogs with diabetes which can result in full or partial blindness.
- Glaucoma - Glaucoma is a painful condition in dogs which is can be treated. Spotting this condition early is essential for good treatment outcomes. If your dog has yellow or green discharge from their eyes, dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, or is slow to react to bright light, contact your vet as soon as possible to help preserve your dog's vision.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), while painless, causes a deterioration of the retina, which leads to blindness in both eyes. It is inherited and develops at a slower rate, which allows your dog time to adjust to losing their sight. Unfortunately there is no treatment for this condition.
- Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome - Like PRA, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) causes a deterioration of the retina, which leads to blindness in both eyes. This condition develops much more quickly than PRA and may result in total blindness within days or weeks. SARDS can be very hard on pets since there is little time for them to adjust to the loss of vision.
Treatment of Vision Problems in Dogs
When it comes to your pet's eyesight it is far better to err on the side of caution than to wait too long for treatment. If you notice that your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, or if your dog is showing other concerning signs of vision loss, consult your vet as soon as possible. Vision problems typically do not go away on their own, and early intervention is key with most instances of visual impairment.
Some of the conditions that can lead to blindness may trigger other issues, or the vision issues could be a symptom of larger medical concerns. Making an appointment with your vet for a full examination is the best way to prevent further complications, and possibly save your dog's sight and overall health.