CARING FOR YOUR BLIND PET
Unfortunately, not all eye diseases are treatable thus blindness may affect your pet. Causes of blindness include irreversible retinal disease, advanced glaucoma, inoperable cataracts, serious eye injuries and a variety of other diseases.
Vision in cats and dogs is quite different from ours. They have better night vision and peripheral vision than we do, but their fine detail and color vision are less developed. Our pets are less dependent on vision than we are. They utilize their senses of hearing and smell very efficiently. Because of this, loss of vision in cats and dogs is less traumatic compared to loss of vision in people and they usually adapt very well. Pets that become blind seem to undergo a 1 to 2 month period of adaptation during which time many changes occur. They will bump into things and it can be a difficult time for you and your pet. These things will improve with time. Over 95% of blind pets readily memorize the layout of their home and yard and can function normally or near normally with poor or no vision. It does take time for them to learn to get around using their other senses, but they usually make very happy pets with some help from you to make their life a little easier.
Here are a few guidelines to provide better care for your blind pet:
Memory is used to negotiate the house. Avoid changing the environment, such as moving furniture or food and water bowls. If your pet is placed in a new environment, give it time to adjust to the new surroundings. Be careful of stairways, open doors or other objects that could injure your pet. If you have children, it's important to teach them to pick up after themselves. Things that are left out will cause your pet to bump and lead to disorientation. If your pet gets disoriented, take it to its' bed or food bowl. This will be a landmark that will reorient your pet.
Teach your pet to walk on a harness or lead so it can be exercised safely. Choke collars are discouraged. Encourage exercise, whether in a front yard or on a leash, to prevent excessive weight gain. Never let your pet out without supervision, unless it's in a fenced yard. Be careful of in-ground pools and hot tubs. Your pet could fall in and not be able to find the sides to get out.
Encourage your pet to use its' other senses to compensate for vision loss. Buy noisy toys or toys that have a distinct recognizable odor. Some people also get a companion animal that the blind pet can follow around using its' hearing and smell. It can help to put a bell on the other pet's collar.
Some behavioral changes (aggression, depression, and fear) can sometimes be observed with sudden blindness. Instruct family members (especially children) to vocalize the pet's name and approach it slowly. This fear usually passes with time as the pet learns to adjust to the blindness.
Most causes of blindness are not painful, so the quality of life for a blind pet is usually good. If pain is involved it will cause the pet to be depressed. Other signs to watch for are changes in the appearance of the eye such as reddening of the white of the eye, increase in the size of the eye, a large amount of discharge and scratching or rubbing of the eye. If these signs develop, your pet should be examined since a blind eye can still become painful in some cases.
Blind cats and dogs can have a good quality of life and make very happy pets as long as you follow a few guidelines. Being a source of companionship and love is likely the main reason most of us has pets, and this function goes on despite being blind.
There is a lot of very useful information on the Internet and a few of them are listed below. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call our office.
Protective eye wear for dogs: http://www.doggles.com
The "white cane" for blind dogs: http://www.angelvest.homestead.com
Blind dogs websites: http://www.blinddogs.com and http://www.blinddogs.net