How to cope with pet blindness

Latest advice from the PDSA

A pet losing their sight is life-changing, both for them and their owners, yet with some adaptation they can often continue to lead normal, happy lives.

PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman said: “Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can cause pets to lose their sight. These illnesses usually affect older pets, rather than young dogs, where sight-loss might be the result of an injury. Some diseases cause sudden loss of all sight, whereas others can cause a gradual deterioration. Pets such as dogs have an extremely well-developed sense of smell which they use to help compensate for loss of sight.”

Owners concerned about their pet’s vision should speak to their vet as some diseases such as glaucoma can also cause pain, and need to be treated as soon as possible. The progression of some diseases could also be slowed with treatment, so early diagnosis is important.

Rebecca added: “Your vet will check your pet’s eyes and general health to see whether there is an underlying condition causing the vision loss. If a medical condition is diagnosed, they will discuss treatment options and provide guidance and support.”

How pets react to loss of sight varies and depends on several factors. Older pets may already have a reduced sense of hearing or smell and so may find it harder to adapt. How quickly a pet can learn new skills will also impact on how quickly they can adjust to reduced or no vision.

Rebecca added: “If slight-loss is gradual, pets can find it easier to adjust and compensate than if there is a sudden loss. Confident pets may also adapt better than more anxious ones but the amount of help an owner provides is also a big factor in helping pets adjust to sight loss.”

There are several steps owners can take to support a pet suffering from impaired vision.

To help them learn their environment and surroundings, owners should keep furniture in the same place and not leave things lying around that they could trip over. Keeping their pet’s bed, food and water bowls in the same place will also help. Access to hazards such as fireplaces, balconies and open staircases should be blocked off to blind pets.

Rebecca said: “Once they‘ve adapted to the loss of vision, many pets have normal active lives. Teaching your dog ‘up’ and ‘down’ commands to help them navigate steps and curbs is a great way of giving them confidence out on walks. Many blind dogs can still enjoy time off lead in a safe space as well as walks in new places.”

“Loss of sight in a beloved pet can be upsetting, but with a little care and patience owners can help their pet to adapt, ensuring they continue to have a good quality of life.”

For more information go to pdsa.org.uk

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