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Living with a blind dog
Our pets become a part of our family. We love them, we care for them, and we grieve for them once they are gone. One of the hardest parts about being a dog parent is knowing we will have to watch them age and deal with their loss one day.
I brought my Cali home when she was just 8 weeks old. A spirited little pup that followed me everywhere. She loved to travel with me and there was rarely a time I would leave the house that she wasn’t by my side.
As she aged, I began to notice a change in her behavior. She was around 8 years old when I would find her standing completely still in the middle of the room. I would call her name and her head would whip around to the sound of my voice and her tail would wag but she no longer came running. Instead, she would slowly and carefully come towards me. Often, I would have to call her several times. She would also walk into things I left out. A laundry basket I set on the floor, a shopping bag, or delivery box I put down. Anything left out in a place it did not belong she would bump into. This was my first clue something was not right.
When I brought her to the Vet she was diagnosed with sudden acquired retinal degeneration (SARD). This is a condition that causes rapid and irreversible blindness. Cali went on to live 5 more years after her diagnosis. We learned how to manage life with her condition and when we were at home you could hardly tell she was 100% blind. Below are tips and information I learned while living with a blind dog.
WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR DOG MAY BE LOSING THEIR VISION
If you notice any of these signs talk to your Vet, they may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a consultation. Some forms of vision loss are due to cataracts or glaucoma and can be treated or even repaired.
LIVING WITH A BLIND DOG
Don’t rearrange your furniture
Keeping your home the same and maintaining clear walkways for your dog is important. Your dog will learn where objects normally are and instinctively walk around them. If you rearrange rooms or add furniture this can confuse your dog. If you do add or rearrange things walk your dog around the room on a leash and “show them” what has changed.
Use scents when playing with your dog
Being blind does not mean your dog no longer wants to have fun with you. If your dog loved to play fetch before then add pet safe essential oils or rub food on a toy. They will learn to follow the smell. Put a tennis ball in an old sock or make a rope toy out of a used (unwashed) t shirt. Always make sure you are in a safe area when playing with a blind dog. Fenced in yards or fenced dog parks are good options.
Always keep food and water bowls in the same place
Your dog will learn where things are in your home. It is best to always place their food and water bowls in the same location so they can easily find them.
Create a Safe Zone
Make sure to create a comfortable and safe place for your dog to retreat to. A big comfy dog beg, a crate with the door removed, soft blankets they can curl up on. Your dog will want a safe place they can go to when they need a break from interacting with you or other pets. Blind dogs especially need a place they feel safe that is just for them.
Talk to your dog
Use your voice to let your dog know where you are. When you enter a room or before you touch them make sure to speak to them so that you do not startle them. The sound of your voice helps them understand where you are. Besides, who doesn’t love to talk to their dog?
Create a routine
Blind dogs need routine and structure in their lives. Walk your dog on the same route each day. Feed them at the same time. If you love going to the park try taking them to the same park instead of new places each time. They will be more comfortable in places they know.
Let People know your dog is blind
When you are out with your dog you can let people know, they are blind by using a vest or bandana that says “I am blind”. You should also add “I’m Blind” to your dog’s tags in case they get lost. Letting people know of your dog’s condition will hopefully prevent strangers from reaching out and trying to pet them without permission or speaking first. Unannounced contact from strangers will startle your blind dog.
Puppy proof your home
Check your home for safety hazards. If you need to get down to your dog’s level and crawl through the house. Do you have stairs? Buy a baby gate to block access so your dog does not accidently fall down. Do you have a glass table with sharp edges? You can find safety corners in most baby departments that you can cover those sharp points with.
Use rugs on tile or hardwood floors
Does your home have smooth floors throughout like hardwood or laminate flooring? Use throw rugs or runners to help your dog distinguish areas of the home. Place a food mat under their bowls. Put a door mat near the door your dog goes outside from. Placing rugs on the floor will help your dog orient themselves to where they are if they become confused.
Choose the right toys
Toys that make noise or are designed to hold treats are great for blind dogs. The smell of the treats will help your dog locate the toy and they will have fun trying to work the tasty items out. Toys that squeak or rattle will also be more enjoyable for your dog.
Most importantly talk to your vet about any tips or safety advice they can offer you. Just like people, blind dogs can live a very happy and rich life. Learning how to interact and keep your dog safe is the just the beginning of a new adventure you will journey together.