The most common reason for blindness in pets is old age, but genetic factors and conditions like glaucoma could leave your pet blind or vision-impaired at any age. While this may be heartbreaking for pet owners and frustrating for pets, blind cats and dogs can still have a great quality of life.
These tips can make things a bit easier for both you and your pet!
First thing’s first: if there’s anyway to restore some of your pet’s vision, you’ll want to look into those options as soon as possible.
Many older dogs and cats lose their eyesight due to cataracts, which can often be removed in a relatively common procedure.
Another common cause of pet blindness is glaucoma, a condition that causes fluid buildup in the eye, resulting in pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can quickly cause permanent blindness, so it’s important to act immediately if you notice signs of glaucoma. Unfortunately, your pet can’t tell you when she’s in pain or losing vision, so you’ll need to notice external symptoms. If you see any swelling of the eye, bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
Of course, not all causes of blindness can be reversed. So if you find yourself with a permanently blind or vision-impaired pet, start implementing the following tips.
Use Bells for Other Pets
Cats and dogs are extremely resilient, and they learn to depend on their other senses fairly quickly. Even so, they can startle more easily and appreciate auditory signals.
Adding a small bell to the collars of other pets will help alert your blind pet and prevent unnecessary startle responses, which can sometimes result in aggression. If your dog or cat still has excellent hearing, they may not need this crutch at all.
But for older pets whose ears aren’t quite as sensitive, tools like this can greatly reduce their overall stress level. This trick is also useful if you have a particularly stealthy pet that doesn’t make a lot of noise otherwise.
Teach Kids and Strangers How to Interact with Your Pet
Pets usually maintain their same temperament after losing their vision, but, as noted above, they’re more likely to have aggressive outbursts as a result of being startled. Before you touch your blind pet unexpectedly, make them aware of your presence with a little noise. Usually, just saying their name allows them to gauge your location.
Make sure that your guests know to do the same, and give your pet a chance to sniff any newcomers to recognize their scent and voice.
It’s especially important to teach small children how to engage with your pet. Kids are usually so excited to play that they don’t realize how their behaviors could be read as threatening by your dog or cat. Make sure that they know not to surprise your pet, get in their face, or pull on fur, tails, and ears.
Depending on the age and behavior of the child and the temperment of your pet, it’s sometimes best to keep them completely apart. The last thing you want is for your pet to resort to biting.
Use Tactile Signals like Textured Matts
Blind pets are more prone to stumble around stairs and step-downs. Placing a floor mat of some kind in front of potentially hazardous areas like these can be a huge help.
Your pet will recognize the different texture on her paws and realize that she’s close to the step before she loses her footing.
Keep Your Environment as Similar as Possible
With a little time, most pets learn where the furniture and walls are without much help. But major rearrangements can leave them bumping into things for weeks. Try to keep things in the same place as much as possible.
When you do need to change things up or when you’re in a new environment, help your pet out by talking them on a couple of leashed walks through the new layout.
Most cats probably won’t be receptive to a leash, but their whiskers will help them sense nearby objects and adapt quickly anyway.
Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
A few simple commands can make life a lot easier for your pet. While this tip may not work for cats, most dogs learn their new “tricks” with consistent practice.
Commands like “wait” are great for warning them when they are about to bump into something. And “Up” and “down” will help them with things like getting in and out of cars.
If they aren’t picking up on these commands, don’t sweat it too much. If they’re adapting to their new life easily, they might not even need them.
Most animals adjust to losing their eyesight remarkably well, but those that lose vision suddenly may need a little more help learning how to navigate their world.
The simple measures above go a long way towards making your pet comfortable, secure, and well-adapted to life without vision!
If you are worried about your pet’s eyesight don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.