Dogs, like people, have a wide array of personalities, quirks, needs and challenges. One challenge some dogs face is blindness. Too many people out there assume that blind dogs are somehow less than their sighted counterparts.
To dispel that cloud of misunderstanding, I sat down with our managing editor, Kristine Lacoste, who lives with Pinky, a 7-year-old Great Dane mix who recently lost sight in her left eye. (When Pinky was adopted from a rescue years earlier, her right eye had already been removed.)
1. Blind dogs are always scared.
Some dogs may be more cautious as they lose their sight; others may not. It depends on the personality of the dog. Blind dogs are not always fearful; they simply make adjustments to better cope with their new sensory input.
Kristine explains one change in Pinky’s behavior: “She used to nap outside on the concrete next to the pool. It was an everyday habit of hers. Now she only goes outside on a lead to use the bathroom and wants to get back inside where she knows the locations of her surroundings.”
2. Blind dogs always crash into things.
Another myth is that you can never move furniture again. Absolutely you can — it just takes a little adjustment period for your dog to learn where the new walking path lies. Take her around to smell the new setup. You’ll be surprised by how quickly she adjusts.
Simply making sure that walking pathways are clutter-free makes life much easier for your dog.
3. Blind dogs are expensive.
That depends on the reason for their blindness. Some dogs are blind from birth and require no more veterinary care than a sighted dog. Some dogs develop certain conditions, such as cataracts, that can be treated. Others go blind and stay blind because of a degenerative disease.
A few conditions that can cause blindness in dogs are:
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
- Suddenly acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS)
- Untreated eye infections
Aging dogs are more prone to many of these conditions, so it’s important to monitor your dog as she ages to see if she is having trouble with her vision. And of course, any eye infection should be treated immediately — blindness attributed to eye infections is preventable.
4. Blind dogs can’t play.
Blind dogs love to play just as much as sighted dogs. They love going for walks, playing with a ball or just rolling around with you on the floor.
They love new toys and old ones. Kristine explains, “Pinky likes her old, disheveled toys the best and plays with them every day. If her brother, Bruiser, grabs a toy, she’ll steal it right out of his mouth so she can play with it.”
5. Blind dogs are bad guard dogs.
In fact, dogs smell or hear something before they see it. The fact that your dog is blind will change nothing when it comes to alerting you that there is something amiss.
How does Pinky compare? Kristine says, “She will be on alert, bark or walk up to the door when she hears a knock or doorbell. Also, any time Bruiser hops off their sofa — yes, they have their own sofa — or barks, she’s right behind or on side of him ready to defend. They are both very strong and instinctive guard dogs, and she doesn’t let blindness stop her from asserting her authority.”
6. Blind dogs fall all the time.
Stairs can be a challenge for some blind dogs, but this is relatively easy to overcome. Some people use baby gates to block off access to stairs or to close off a doorway. Others use scents to let their dog know where the stairs begin and end.
Still others, like Kristine, have trained their dogs to respond to voice commands: “We only have small steps outside, and we have trained her to know when to lift her paw and step over something by saying, ‘Step step.'”
By using scent markers such as Tracerz, you can also teach your dog to navigate via scent. Some people use perfume or different scented diffusers in different rooms to let their blind dog know when she has entered a new area of the house or to warn of staircases.
Dogs who are blind are no less than their sighted counterparts. They are still dogs. They love to go for walks, play and get belly rubs. Give a blind dog a chance, and she’ll show you how much she truly sees with her heart.