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The Safety and Care of Blind Pets

There are many reasons pet cats and dogs can become blind. Blindness can develop over time or suddenly. Health conditions like diabetes can cause gradual blindness by clouding the lens of the eye over time leading to visual loss. Retinal eye diseases can also cause blindness. Cats and dogs can also get glaucoma, and even genetic forms of blindness can occur in our favorite pets. Eye trauma and injury also can cause a loss of vision.

The signs of a vision loss may not be noticeable right away in pets. Signs that indicate a loss in vision include your pet bumping into things more frequently or being startled and surprised by normal activities or people in the home. A cat may misjudge height when jumping, although cats do sometimes roll off the sofa and pretend that they meant to do that, if it becomes more common, your cat may be having a problem with their eyes. One sign to look for if you notice any of the previous changes is to see if their pupils do not change size in bright light. Pupils that do not react to change in light indicate a vision problem and require a visit to the vet.

Your vet can perform tests to check your cat or dogs sight and can determine the cause of any loss of visual acuity. In some cases and conditions, vision loss can be treated early and reversed. Early glaucoma treatment can restore vision. In some cases, however, the loss of your pet’s vision may not be able to be reversed. Cats and dogs have incredible other senses that allow them to adjust to being blind more easily than their owners can adjust to having a visually impaired pet. If your pet is becoming blind or is blind, there are many things you as a pet owner can do to ensure their safety and keep them happy.

 

Have Patience for Adjustment

Pets that have gradually lost their vision have learned to adapt during the process. When they have become unsighted incompletion, a blind pet already knows how to navigate in their home environment. However, a dog or cat that has had a sudden loss of sight or has had it occur quickly will need a few weeks at a minimum to adjust to their new circumstances and acclimate to their environment using their other senses.

 

Allow Your Blind Pet To  ‘Map Out’ Your Home

Blind pets need to create a mental “map” of their environment. Showing a blind cat their litter box as a reference point, or a cardinal direction for the cat to go to is a way to let a blind cat learn their way around.  Once your unsighted cat knows where the cat box is, let them explore and navigate in your home from that point. The litter box will serve as a reference point so the cat can determine other locations from the distance from the litter box. Confining a recently blinded cat to a single small room, they can learn to maneuver in and then letting them explore other rooms in the house will help your cat acclimate to their home with their disability.

For dogs that are blind, using a leash and walking them through the house giving verbal comfort and treats will help them learn what room is what and where he is in the house. It is essential to have a blind dog learn to navigate the house by walking through it and uses their other senses of smell, touch, taste, and hearing to familiarize themselves with the environment. Picking up and carrying a blind dog, especially a smaller breed, from room to room does your dog a disservice as it confuses them and does not teach them to be independent.

 

Regular Vet Visits Are Still Essential

Regular veterinary appointments are still necessary. A vet can help your unsighted pet remain in excellent health. Vet appointments are also an opportunity for you as an owner to discuss new ideas for providing the right environment and stimuli for your blind pet with an expert who wants your pet to be healthy and happy as much as you do. Regular vet visits help you to be the best pet parent.

 

Add New Sensory Clues

A blind pet uses its other senses to navigate their environment. Using different cues can help your pet recognize where they are in the house and what behavior is appropriate or safe. Some people use pet safe essential oils like lavender and vanilla to designate certain rooms, so a dog knows they are in a bedroom when he smells lavender or the den if it smells like lavender. If your pet is comfortable walking up and down stairs, a stair runner that clicks with their paws or feels different can help your pet know where the stairs are. Gravel can be placed near slopes or fences in your back yard, so your dog knows when he has stepped off of the grass and in an area that is a no dog zone.  Auditory senses can also provide cues for your pet to be able to navigate and know where they are in the home. Wind chimes, bells or another gentle, pleasant sound be used to mark the door a dog can use to go outside. Dogs can be taught new commands such as “left,” “right” and of course, making sure your dog knows the “stop” or “heel” command can keep your canine companion safe in the home or when on walks.

 

Do Not Move Furniture

Once your pet has created their mental map of the environment and can navigate easily in your home, it is essential not to move anything in the environment; all furniture should be kept where it is. Moving furniture or even a cat’s favorite scratching post can confuse a blind pet or risk their safety if there are new sharp edges they cannot see. Rearranging the furniture can disorient and cause stress to a blind pet who suddenly is in an environment they have no memory of and find unfamiliar even if it smells like the room they do know. 

 

Keep Safety Hazards Blocked Off

You should go through your home and identify potential safety risks to a blind pet. Normal and common environmental things can be risky places for an unsighted pet. Staircases, open toilet bowls, sharp furniture corners, and in-ground pools or indoor sunken hot tubs can be hazardous to pet safety. Restricting blind pets access to places that are dangerous to them protects them just like we childproof our homes for young children. Simply closing doors to certain rooms or using baby gates to restrict access can protect your pet from injury or harm. Most pools are required to have safety fences around them, but if you have an in-ground pool without one, having a fence prevents your pet from accidentally falling into the pool and being unable to get out if in the yard and otherwise safe to play unattended.

 

Blind Canine Safety

If you have a blind dog, using a high visibility hardness or bandana around their neck that says “Blind Dog” to alert other people walking their dogs.  To make sure your dog knows you are there and at the other end of their leash and how far away you are, wearing a jingly anklet or a bell on your walking shoes can help your dog identify your spatial relation to them. Avoid uneven sidewalks, drop-offs and natural things like brambles and rosebushes when walking with a blind dog. Along with your walking route, stay on the lookout for potential dangers, such as thorny bushes or uneven sidewalks, and keep your dog away from them.

 

Playtime Modifications

Blind pets are no different than sighted pets in their need for playtime and mental stimulation and interaction. Playtime requires a good owner to use a pets other senses to encourage and interact with their pet during playtime. For blind cats, toys that make noise and crinkle, jingle or play music can be very fun for unsighted cats to play with and chase using the sound they make. Catnip-scented toys are ideal for cats as well as they love catnip and only 10% of all cats are immune to it. Catnip toys let a cat sniff and have tactile interaction with a toy and a treat at the same time that encourages more playfulness and activity. Cat treat toys that encourage a cat to swat and sniff it out and ideally can make noise will make a getting a treat into a game for a cat. Unsighted dogs also enjoy noisy toys so a noisy ball can allow you two to still play fetch and let him follow the ball with his ears instead of his eyes. Dog treat interaction toys also stimulate dogs other senses and give him a toy to play with that rewards play with a favorite treat.

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