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Caring for a pet with vision loss and sudden blindness is scary for both you and your best friend. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself on the underlying causes of your pet’s changing vision, help them adapt to a life with limited eyesight, and learn how to help your dog live without sight.
Signs of Pet Blindness
Depending on what caused your dog’s vision loss, they may have lost their vision overnight or had their vision diminish slowly over time. Understanding the signs of pet blindness can help you to notice the clinical signs much earlier. The most common signs your dog’s eyesight is changing include:
Hesitancy to go down the stairs, especially when the lights are off
Unable to find a toy or ball when it’s thrown, or being completely unaware when you throw a toy
Startled in bright light
Excessive thirst or more frequent urination
Any pet experiencing one or more of these symptoms should be examined by their veterinarian immediately. The earlier your pet’s vision loss is detected, the more treatable it can be and the better you can help them adapt.
5 Causes of Vision Loss in Dogs & Cats
Many different eye conditions can cause a change in your pet’s vision. Therefore, how your pet’s vision loss is treated depends on their eye condition. The most common causes of sudden vision loss in pets include:
1. SARDS or Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration
SARDS is a degenerative eye condition that comes on quickly and can result in complete blindness. Most pets with SARDS will be completely blind within 24 hours to a month of diagnosis.
Eye irritation or infrequent blinking
Little to no response to light
Increased thirst and appetite (with noticeable weight gain)
Dog Breeds at Risk for SARDS
Most often occurring in female dogs, most dogs diagnosed with SARDS are between the ages of 6 to 14 years old. Breeds most commonly affected by SARDS are:
Before & After a Blind Dog with SARDS Tries a Halo
This painful eye condition generally occurs in one eye first. Glaucoma is a painful build-up of eye pressure that kills and damages retinal cells and optic nerve. Eventually, the pressure will lead to canine vision loss.
Glaucoma Symptoms in Dogs
Swollen eyes, eyes may appear to bulge outwards
Signs of eye pain, including rubbing or digging at eyes
An inherited condition, PRA causes retina deterioration and blindness in dogs. PRA is not a painful eye condition. However, it does impact both eyes. Most dogs with progressive retinal atrophy will lose their eyesight slowly, usually over months or years.
Signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Difficulty navigating in dim lighting
Dilated pupils and slow response to light
Reluctance to go outside at night and loss of night vision
Bumping into walls, doors, and furniture
Dog Breeds Impacted by PRA
Miniature and toy Poodles
Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel
Gradual vision loss will allow a dog to adjust to their changing eyesight and its impact on its life. Unfortunately, this progressive condition is irreversible, and there is no cure for PRA. However, medication can slow down the loss of vision.
4. Canine Cataracts
When you think of a blind dog, you likely think of cloudy eyes. Cataracts are characterized by eye cloudiness behind the dog’s eye lens. As the lens clouds over, it blocks light from reaching a dog’s retina and preventing them from seeing. A dog may have cataracts in one or both eyes, and a cataract can seem to appear overnight.
Clinical Signs of Cataracts in Dogs
Changes in eye color or shape of pupil
A haze over one of both eyes
Dog Breeds with Cataracts
It’s important to note that dogs with diabetes are at high risk for cataracts regardless of breed. Most diabetic dogs will have cataracts within a year of becoming a diabetic. Not only are dogs with diabetes likely to have cataracts, but they will also develop very quickly. It is possible to have canine cataracts removed through surgery. Work with your veterinarian to determine if your dog is a candidate for cataract surgery.
5. Retinal Detachment
Sudden retinal detachment is the leading cause of blindness in cats but can also occur in dogs. Retinal detachment most often occurs from trauma but can also happen when a pet has high blood pressure. Partial reattachment may be possible if the pet’s blood pressure is quickly controlled by medication and brought back to normal levels.