Cats and dogs can become blind either gradually or suddenly for many reasons. Diabetes leads to cataracts, which cause clouding of the lens and blindness eventually. Disease of the retina in the back of the eye causes either gradual or sudden blindness. Other causes include glaucoma, eye trauma and genetics.
Signs of Pet Blindness
Blindness may not be noticeable immediately. You can start to access possible sight problems by looking for signs such as your pet bumping into things or becoming startled more easily. Oftentimes, cats with vision loss misjudge heights when jumping on or off furniture.
If you look at your furry friends’ eyes, you might notice the pupils don’t change in bright lights.
Get Your Vet Involved With Sight Issues
If you think your pet may be experiencing sight issues, take them to the vet. They will perform tests to assess their vision and figure out the cause of the blindness. Sometimes, vision loss can be reversed if it’s diagnosed and treated early.
Early treatment and diagnosis for glaucoma, for example, lowers the ocular pressure enough to restore vision. In many cases, however, vision loss is irreversible.
Vision loss that is irreversible is not as bad as you might think. Cats and dogs are very good at adapting to their blindness. It can be the owner sometimes who has trouble adjusting. If your pet is going blind or already blind, there are many ways to keep them safe and happy.
Helping Your Pet Adjust to Blindness
You need to allow time for adjustment. Pets who gradually become blind will learn to gradually adapt to their vision loss. At the time they are fully blind, they will know how to navigate their environment well if you don’t change it.
Dogs or cats who become blind overnight need more time to adjust. If your friend becomes blind suddenly, give them a few weeks or more to adjust to their loss of vision.
Also, let your pet map out your house. Blind pets need to create new internal maps for their environments. For a blind cat, place them in the litter box as a point of reference and then let them navigate your house from there. Doing this helps your cat always know where the litter box is, in relation to other locations within your house.
Initially, confining a newly blind cat to small rooms can be helpful. Sometimes this gives them comfort. However, make the change slowly so as not to give them anxiety.
Blind dogs should walk through the home on a leash while being given treats along the way. With small breed dogs, you may be tempted to pick them up and carry them to different rooms. However, this confuses the dog. It’s best to have blind dogs navigate their environments by walking on their own.
Try to keep your furniture in the same place. When the blind pet creates that new internal map, keep all furniture in the same place. Moving of furniture can disorient and confuse blind pets and might even pose safety hazards if sharp edges are present in furniture.
Removing and Recognizing Safety Hazards
Always block access to potential dangers. Normal household locations or items can become dangerous for blind animals. To keep them safe, go through your home, inside and out, to identify potential safety hazards. Some common hazards include open toilet bowls, stairs, furniture corners and in-ground pools.
After identifying these hazards, block the pet’s access to them. Put a baby gate at the bottom and top of the stairs. Keep the doors of bathrooms closed to prevent them from drinking from the toilet bowls. Blind cats can easily fall into the toilet.
If you have an outdoor pool, consider putting a fence around it.
Using Cues to Help Your Blind Pet
Just like with blind people, you can use cues with blind animals. Blind pets use their other senses to navigate their environments. If you use different types of cues, you can help your pet recognize what to do and where they may be. Scented oils like vanilla and lavender can designate certain rooms, for example.
If your pet is okay using stairs, a runner rug on the stairs can help your pet know where they are. In the backyard, put down gravel so your dog knows when they have stepped off the grass and into a zone that has potential dangers.
Stimulate your pets’ other senses while you play with them. Blind animals still need playtime and exercise. If you modify playtime to accommodate blind animals, it can be fun and simple.
Even if your animal’s blindness is irreversible, regular trips to the vet are still important to watch any changes in your pet’s eye health and maintain the overall health of your pet.