If your pet is experiencing loss of vision – either sudden or gradual – it can be a confusing and disorienting time both for you and for your pet. What can you do to care for your four-legged friend during this time?
First, understand that a blind or low-vision dog can enjoy a full and happy life. Humans often find blindness devastating due to two factors: loss of independence and the fact that vision is a primary sense in people. For dogs, however, independence is not really an issue; they are already quite satisfied being dependent on their favorite humans. And vision is secondary to other senses for dogs – hearing and smell are the two more powerful senses.
So if your dog is otherwise healthy and you decide with the aid of your veterinarian to help guide Fido through this difficult transition, here are some suggestions for a happier canine.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Just like humans, dogs suffering from blindness may become depressed or withdrawn. You can help by speaking to your dog in a positive manner on a regular basis. Keep his or her regular routine as much as possible, including play time and going for walks. Provide some toys that use squeakers or bells and encourage play.
Create a Home Base
Make a place that the dog can use as a sort of "base camp" within the home. This area may include food and water bowls, a comfortable bed and a kennel (if applicable). Base your dog's exploration of the home from this area and encourage him or her to return to it regularly. When things are too much, this is a safe place the dog can return to in order to reorient him or herself.
Keep It Simple
Of course, you want to make sure you keep the dog as protected as you can while he or she maps the surroundings. Pick up clutter and simplify the items placed on the floor of your home. Do not move furniture around more than absolutely necessary. You can also use baby gates to block your pet from wandering into unknown areas of the house.
Look around your home from the eye level of your dog and consider what danger spots there might be. Posts, tables and sharp corners may be problem spots, so consider placing a plant or pillow in front of them to warn the dog away safely.
Dog-proofing your home to accommodate a blind or partially-blind dog can be a lot of work to begin with. But as you and your beloved pet adjust to the new conditions, you will find that it was worth all the effort. A happy dog and a happy owner can continue to enjoy a good life together even in less than ideal circumstances.
Talk with your vet or other pet care provider, such as Gettysburg Road Animal Hospital, for more information and advice to help your dog adjust to its new life.