I have shared my life with two vision impaired pups, so when people ask me how to care for a blind dog the first thing I say is “like you would any other dog.” The next thing I say is….I wrote everything down in this post!!
UPDATED OCTOBER 20/18 – the love of my life, Red, gained her wings May 18, 2018
When you realise your dog is losing his sight or may have already lost it suddenly, there are a whole host of emotions you must have been, and are still feeling. My number one recommendation is for you to head straight to an eye specialist. While your vet may be wonderful, he will not have the expertise or equipment a specialist will have. I would also explain the urgency to get seen as soon as possible. In some instances there may be things that can be done to help, so don’t assume there’s nothing to be done unless you know that for sure.
You may not believe it right now, but your dog can still have a wonderful, happy and good quality life even if he or she is blind. Sure you’ll have to make a few minor adjustments, and yes you will have to be more aware of your surroundings, but she can still take walks, join you for family outings, travel, take boat trips and anything else you used to do.
The first dog my husband and I adopted who had vision issues was Josephine. She was old, no idea how old, deaf and mostly blind. I felt like she could see shadows or light, enough to help her find her way to the door and around the house.
One day we were in the car (which she absolutely hated so I only took her when I had no choice), and on the way home she started howling like I had never heard before. When we got home I realised very quickly she was completely blind. In that split second when she started to cry she had lost what little vision she had. It was beyond heart breaking.
My second dog Red, the absolute love of my life and muse for this website and FB group, was blind when we adopted her. She was around 8 years old at the time, but no one really knew. We took her to an eye specialist because her eyes were bulging out of her head and we wanted to understand what was going on. We were also kind of hoping we could do something to help her get back some of her sight. It turns out she had glaucoma and the pressure was building to the point her eyes were, literally, about to explode out of her head. I also learned it is a very painful condition.
She was such a good-natured dog she never complained about the pain, and who knows who long she was in that state. She had been dumped in an animal control facility about a year before, and she was already blind when she got there. Poor baby!
We only had two options to help her – remove her eyes or give her an injection in each one to shrink the tissue and relieve the pressure. To be honest I didn’t like the idea of her not having eyes even though they weren’t working, so we opted to have the injections. I wish I knew what was used but all I know is that she got one injection in each eye and that was it. Over the years her eyes shrank until they got tiny, and she was on eye drops for life.
Something to marvel at
When we first brought Red home it used to amaze me watching her navigate her way around the house, not bumping into anything. She would find the water bowl in the kitchen then make her way to her bed down the hall in my bedroom. If she realised she was going the wrong way she would stop, reorient herself then carry on to her intended destination.
She was the same when I would take her to other peoples’ homes. I would show her where her water bowl was and she would manage to find it. Incredible!
After her dementia diagnosis she was still able to find her way around, but sadly the confusion would cause her to bang into things. That’s when I had to start tweaking our homestead!
Red had a great life
I’ve taken her:
- On short haul flights where she’s with me in her Sherpa bag in the cabin
- Many long haul flights where she had to be in cargo
- Two day car trips UK-Spain and back
- More day trips in cars, buses and trains then I can count
- Homes of friends and family
I’ve learned a lot
Naturally I’ve learned a lot about how to keep a blind dog comfortable and safe, so here are my best tips.
I never move furniture around, but to be honest I’m not the type that enjoys that anyway! My mother loves trying new looks, and is constantly moving the couch here, and a chair somewhere else. I could live in the same house for 30 years and never move a thing, which is good because if you’re living with a blind dog, you don’t want her to bang into something that wasn’t there yesterday. Red knew the layout so why confuse her? If I need a change, I buy a new pillow for the couch, or a new accessory.
I was always mindful of my other dog’s toys on the floor. Even though they’re stuffed and soft, Red had really skinny little legs so even stumbling over a small soft toy could have caused an injury.
I never moved her water bowls.
I never moved her beds around. If one needed replacing I would of course do that, and if I decided to add another bed somewhere I would do that as well but never move them.
When it was time to wash her bed(s) I didn’t leave the spot(s) empty. I at least put a blanket down so she knew she was in the right place.
She understood the word “careful” which I taught her over time, and it was such a useful cue for her to know. Whenever she banged into something or came close I said “careful” and she gradually made the association. She learned it so well that as soon as I said it she would immediately stop and change direction. It really was adorable to watch!
If Red was asleep on the couch and there was something I had to do that would take me out of the room, I waited until she woke up or put her on her bed. When I couldn’t wait and I knew it would only take seconds, I put a chair next to the couch so she couldn’t fall. You have to really be mindful if you do this because it’s too easy to get side tracked, and the next thing you know you hear a thud. It’s not worth the risk to leave your dog unattended.
If I had to wake her up for some reason I called her name first or very gently touched her to get her attention. I did my best to never startle her.
When she wandered around and I knew she needed a quick pee, I never just picked her up without first saying something like “you have to go out?” This way she knew what was going to happen next.
When I had to leave the house, no matter for how long, I always said “I’ll be right back” or “I’ll be back soon” – this way she’s not wondering where everyone went. It’s exactly what you shouldn’t do if a dog has separation anxiety, but Red didn’t so it was fine.
Red’s water bowl was in the kitchen very near a drawer handle, but it was literally the only spot to put it. When I decided to elevate her bowl that’s when it became a problem, so I wrapped the handle in a piece of fabric and problem solved!
Be careful of leaving doors open if there are stairs she can fall down, and that applies to both in the house and out.
When I took Red for walks of course she was always on a leash, but when she just needed a quick pee I didn’t use one. I always stayed near her and talked to her so she wouldn’t wonder where I went. I don’t live near a busy road, there was never a danger she could take off, she would just pee and be done. Your situation will be different from mine so if there is the slightest chance he can bolt, even if he never has before, don’t risk it and always use a leash.
I put foam pieces on the edges of doors and around table legs at her head level, so if she bumped into them the foam would cushion her. They are similar to a pool noodle and I bought them at a home improvement store like Home Depot.
When it’s time for a walk I always let her know by either asking her or telling her so she knew what was going on.
I never closed doors she knew were always open. She was used to walking straight down the hallway from the living room to the bedroom, so why would I allow her to hurt herself by closing a door and blocking off her access?
If you have stairs in your home, baby gates will be your new best friend. A gate should be used both at the top and bottom of the staircase, but I know getting into the habit of closing them can take a bit of time, but you’ll get there.
You may want to consider buying a dog stroller. I can’t say enough good things about it, how much easier it made my life, and better it made Red’s! In my case I got it more because of mobility than blindness, but it could make your dog feel more secure in crowds or on uneven terrain. I’ve written a lot about pet strollers which you can find on this site under “mobility issues”, but here is a link to one post “21 Reasons Why You Need to Buy a Pet Stroller.”
Dr Mercola Eye Support
Some members of my FB group were talking about this product, so I thought it was worth a mention. I don’t know anything about it so please do your research and ask your vet before you give it to your dog. They were very pleased with the results, but their situations will be different from yours.
How to care for a blind dog – conclusion
If you’ve adopted a blind dog, your dog is experiencing vision problems or has already gone blind, it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out how to cope. It’s a question of looking at your home, surroundings and even lifestyle in a whole new way. It’s about getting down to your dog’s level and figuring out what can be a problem, and what isn’t. My “real life” tips are a great place to start!!
What adjustments have you had to make? Do you have a tip that has made the biggest difference in terms of quality of life? Sharing helps others so please post in the comment section below.
**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. It is a wonderful community where you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**