Canine Blindness: Leading Causes & Signs

Dogs obviously cannot tell us when something is wrong with them. Usually it takes a caring owner to notice that there is a problem. With canine blindness, it could be that when you play fetch and catch with your dog, s/he does not easily catch the toy anymore. Or they are seemingly relying on scent to get around more. Whatever way you’ve noticed a problem, it is vital to get help with canine blindness as certain types, if caught early on, can be treated. One of the main types that leads to canine blindness is glaucoma and although it is not preventable (as many people often believe) it is treatable if caught early enough. There are other causes of canine blindness, such as: cataracts, damage to the eye, inflammation or pressure to the retina or optic nerve, severe corneal disease or trauma, sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS), and uveitis.

Unfortunately, certain dog breeds are naturally susceptible to suffering from blindness which include the:

  • Bassett Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Chihuahua
  • Chow Chow
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Great Dane
  • Malamute
  • Poodles (mini, toy, standard)
  • Shar-Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Siberian Husky
  • Spaniels (various breeds)
  • Terriers (various breeds)

Signs And Symptoms Of Blindness

You may find that some dogs will experience a sudden blindness, although it is far more common for blindness to develop over time. Here are some typical signs that your dog’s vision has been affected:

  • Your dog begins to be clumsy and starts bumping into things.
  • It is disoriented, confused or shows fear – especially in new and unfamiliar places.
  • It has a hesitancy to jump due to impaired depth perception.
  • Shows difficulty finding common things such as food and water bowls, toys, bed, etc.
  • Walks cautiously, with nose to the ground.
  • Is not interested in playing and going outside.
  • Appears lethargic and depressed.
  • Sleeps more than usual.

If your dog starts to exhibit any of these signs it is a good idea for the next few days to document exactly what it does and when, so that you can tell your vet when you take the pet in to see him/her. Physical signs to look out for are redness or blood in the eyes, dilated pupils, cloudiness in the eyes, and damage to the eye or surrounding areas. If you are worried about your dog’s vision then take them to the vet immediately who will do a complete physical examination. This is similar to your pet’s annual check-up with a few notable differences. First, your vet will want to do some blood tests and a urinalysis to determine your pet’s overall health as well as rule out things like canine diabetes and hypertension (both of which can cause blindness).

They will probably then conduct a series of vision tests that would include examining the dilation rate of your pet’s eyes when exposed to light and darkness. Another vision test method is called the “cotton ball test” which is pretty simple in that your vet will drop a cotton ball right at the edge of your dog’s field of vision to see if they react. Finally there is the “menace response” or blink test which basically observes whether your dog blinks in reaction to an object moving towards him quickly. In this test, the eyes are checked separately to determine whether one eye is weaker than the other. If your vet deems that your dog is suffering from a vision condition then they will take the next appropriate action with you. Some treatment include medicated eye drops, therapy, steroids, or surgery.

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