Adapting to caring for a blind dog can seem overwhelming and may require some significant changes to your daily routine. Every dog is different, but many owners are pleasantly surprised at how well their pet copes. There are many things that you can do to make their lives easier and more fun.
Common causes of blindness in dogs:
- Traumatic injuries
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS)
- Retinal Detachment
- Tumours (which may necessitate removal of the eye[s])
- Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve)
- Chorioretinitis (inflammation of the layers of the back of the eye)
Just like humans, dogs will memorise their regular environments and routes, helping them get around. However, this isn’t instant. You can help your dog with this process by starting with smaller sections of your chosen environment and gradually increase this once your dog is familiar with their surroundings. We would recommend helping your dog with this process if they’re in a new environment or have suddenly become blind.
How you can help your blind dog adapt to the home environment:
- Remove hazardous objects and furniture which your dog may bump into.
- Leave food/water bowls in the same place and consider a water fountain so that they can hear the location.
- When leaving your dog alone, leave the TV or radio on. This will enable your dog to guide themselves around the house by using sounds.
- You can help your dog orientate around the house with sensory items. This will help them recognise different areas of the house. You can use mats when entering different rooms and diffusers to recognise different areas of the house. Any smelly items will need to be replaced regularly.
- If your dog has been diagnosed with PRA, the use of light can help them recognise and negotiate their surroundings.
- When out in public ensure you are vigilant of your surroundings. Ensure you avoid any potential hazards and approaching dogs.
Having lost sight, your blind dog needs to develop new skills and confidence, you can assist this by training. Consider contacting an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist or consult the references below.
Important components of training blind dogs include:
- When training any dog it’s important you reward their positive behaviour so they understand that their actions are correct.
- Use clear commands your dog can understand. This can help keep them out of danger.
- Make your dog familiar with the touches and tests they may experience when in an eye examination. If you do these regularly, they will become second nature and won’t cause any stress to your dog.
- Make others aware that your dog is blind – harnesses, leads, bandanas are all available online.
- Introduce sensory toys and play time. This is a great mental stimulation for your dog building their strength and focus. You can purchase sniffing mats or use a drag toy to encourage your dog’s sense of hearing.
- Did you know your dog with longer whiskers can detects objects more quickly? By leaving their whiskers long, they will be able to sense potential collisions.
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