Caring for your blind dog or cat

As pet parents, it is alarming when our pets can no longer catch their treats in mid-air, or start to crash into furniture that hasn’t moved. It may start as cloudiness in the eyes – we wonder if it’s cataracts or something worse. We may not even see changes in our pets’ eyes but we know their vision is not what it used to be. Dogs and cats’ eyes experience some of the same conditions as humans, and some completely different. What do we look for, who do we ask? Here is some advice for considering options for your pets with vision loss.


Do

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  • bring your pet to a vet to determine what’s going on
  • seek a veterinary ophthamologist
  • allow your pet to figure things out
  • feed a diet based on meat without by-products
  • encourage exercise and play with your pet
Don't

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  • ignore it
  • move furniture a lot
  • dismiss alternative treatments

Cathy Alinovi‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do bring your pet to a vet to determine what’s going on

Some vision loss cases can be signs of other problems. High blood pressure, especially in cats, can cause retinal detachment which causes blindness. Immediate blood pressure treatment improves the possibility of reversing vision loss. Many pet parents see cloudiness in their dog or cat’s eye and think it’s cataracts. Often, the cloudiness is simply hardening of the lens – called lenticular sclerosis – like when humans turn 40 and need reading glasses. Cataracts are not always visible to our naked eye. While hardening of the lens cannot be fixed, cataracts can.

Do seek a veterinary ophthamologist

If there is any doubt, specialists exist for a reason. An ophthamologist has tools and training specific to the eyes that most general practitioners don’t have. See an ophthamologist!

Do allow your pet to figure things out

Your pet’s brain has a wonderful ability to adapt to living in the dark. While it’s counter-intuitive, because we want to help our precious friend and show him/her the way, it’s better to let them find their path. It forces other parts of their brain to “see”, and allows your furry friend to adapt to their less-than-stellar vision.

Do feed a diet based on meat without by-products

One blindness condition, SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome), can be a result of years of food allergies. A “species appropriate diet” may slow the changes of SARDS after the fact, and can definitely aid in before the fact SARDS prevention. Stay away from pet foods with corn or other fillers that may lead to SARDS or other health risks.

Do encourage exercise and play with your pet

Any treatment that stimulates the body/brain to operate optimally can help many blindness conditions simply by making things work better. Exercise and play is best for humans and our pets alike, so remember to continue treatment with a healthy regimen of walks or games to improve their vision conditions.


Cathy Alinovi‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not ignore it

Sudden vision loss can be a sign of something alarming. Don’t wait: have it checked out. Some eye conditions can be painful (like dry eye), some can lead to loss of the physical globe (ruptured eyeballs). Speed is crucial to successfully treat many eye conditions.

Do not move furniture a lot

Our pets need a good chance to get used to their blindness. They will adjust to the loss of sight fine, barring underlying health conditions, as long as their home does not become an obstacle course, changing from day to day.

Do not dismiss alternative treatments

My own dog had SARDS. Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy slowed the progression of her illness. She still walked around the neighborhood for a year and a half after her diagnosis. A client’s dog with dry eye non-responsive to conventional treatment produces more tears now due to acupuncture treatment and diet restrictions. Exercise helped the treatment process. There are many options out there, so don't be inflexible to them.


Summary

Loss of vision can be alarming and life changing. However, early diagnosis and intervention can reverse some conditions, while alternative modalities can improve quality of life in others. Consistency for our pets will help them adapt and they can continue to live a life of quality, even after onset of blindness.

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