Living with a Blind Pet

 

After Bilateral Enucleation
Dogs and cats possess excellent senses of hearing and smell compared to humans. If vision is lost due to a disease, it is most important to provide comfort for your pet. There are many different conditions that can cause blindness and some can cause discomfort or pain even in a non-functional eye. If your pet is comfortable but blind, he/she will still have a great quality of life. Your pet will learn where everything is and will adjust to your home and yard if given time. Here are some guidelines that will help you and your pet to adjust easier and much quicker.

 

  • Make sure your pet’s eyes are not painful. Signs of discomfort or pain include reddening of the white of the eye, squinting, pawing or rubbing at the eyes and increased tearing or mucoid discharge.
  • Try to avoid changing your pet's environment. If furniture is moved or you move into a new home, it may take several weeks for your pet to memorize and familiarize itself with the new surroundings.
  • Some behavior changes (aggression, depression, fear, etc.) can be observed with sudden blindness. Try to avoid stressing or scaring the pet. Inform the family members (especially children) of the new condition and educate them to alert the pet with soothing words or sounds before petting or grabbing them.
  • If you have a very large yard it may be helpful to fence in a smaller area for your pet, this makes it easier for your pet to adjust to a smaller, more constant environment.
  • If you have a hot tub or pool, a cover or barrier is necessary. Your pet can fall into the water, not find its way out and drown.
  • Many dogs feel more secure when led on a harness or a gentle leader instead of a collar.
  • Start using more voice commands to help your pet to know when it should be careful. Even older dogs or cats can learn new words and commands.
  • If you live in a home or an apartment with a balcony, be sure that your pet cannot walk between the vertical supports and fall to the ground. Chicken wire or plexiglass can be applied to prevent your pet from getting through.
  • Feed your pet and keep the water dish in exactly the same place each and every day. Also, try to have your pet sleep in the same area on a routine basis. These areas will then become reference sites if your pet becomes disoriented.
  • If your pet gets disoriented, take him/her to their bed or food bowl. This will serve as a land mark and will re-orient your pet.
  • Until your pet learns about stairs, you will need to place a barrier to prevent him/her from falling down the stairs. Walking stairs blindly may be difficult to "re-learn". Be patient, your pet is trying to do their best.
  • Encourage your pet to use their other senses to compensate for vision loss.
    • Buy toys that make noise (that have a ring or a rattle) or ones that have a recognizable odor.
    • You can apply perfume on legs of furniture or the edges of stairs to help them know where these objects are located.
    • Another companion animal that your blind pet can follow around will help your pet using its senses of hearing and smell.
  • Encourage exercise, whether in a fenced yard or on a leash, to prevent excessive weight gain.

Living With Blind DogsLiving With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low Vision DogsSecond Edition
By Caroline D. Levin RN

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