Coping with blindness in pets

A pet losing their sight might seem life-changing, both of them and their owners yet with some adaptation blind pets can often continue to lead normal, happy lives.

The PDSA are raising awareness to blindness in pets and offering advice to pet owners in their latest Pet Care Column.

PDSA Vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, said: “Some diseases cause sudden loss of all sight, whereas with others it’s a gradual deterioration. Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can lead to pets losing their sight, but these illnesses usually affect older pets. For young dogs, sight-loss might be the result of an injury. Luckily, our pets have an extremely well-developed sense of smell, which they use to help compensate for blindness.”

PDSA say that owners who are concerned about their pet’s vision should speak to their vet, as some diseases such as glaucoma are also painful, so need to be treated as soon as possible.

Some eye conditions are a sign of other diseases, like cataracts and diabetes. The progression of certain conditions could also be slowed with treatment, so early diagnosis is important.

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

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

To help pet owners care for their pets who are suffering from impaired vision, the PDSA offer some steps they can take.

  • To help them learn their environment and surroundings, keep furniture in the same place and never leave anything at pet level around that they could trip over or walk into.
  • Keeping their 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.
  • When taking them out, tread well-known routes until they get used to things, and don’t let them off-lead, unless they’re in a secure area.

“Once they’ve adapted to the loss of vision, many pets lead normal active lives,” adds Olivia. “Teaching your dog ‘up’ and ‘down’ commands to help them navigate steps and curbs, giving them confidence out on walks. Many blind dogs can still enjoy time off-lead in a safe place, 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.”