Blindness or some sort of vision impairment is a fairly common occurrence in dogs, especially as they get older. Just like people, dogs can develop cataracts, glaucoma and other vision problems as they age. If you suspect your pup might need the dog equivalent of glasses, you can verify your suspicions at home before visiting the vet. Once it's apparent that your pup's vision is failing, get her to the vet to rule out corneal or retinal diseases and to determine whether her vision loss is reversible.
How Dogs See
Dogs are sensitive to bright light; they see best in low light. They can also see objects in motion better than they can see stationary objects. A dog with normal vision can spot a moving object up to 900 meters away, as opposed to only 600 meters for a stationary object. In general, dogs have shallower depth perception than humans do. Although it's a myth that dogs see in black-and-white, their color receptors are limited to blues and yellows. Also, keep in mind that your pup sees the world at a different angle than you do, so when trying to understand how well she can see, it's a good idea to crouch down to her level.
Signs of Vision Loss
If you suspect your dog's vision might be failing, watch for a few signs. These include bumping into things, taking high and careful steps, and stepping on or tripping over objects or surfaces that they typically avoided. Other signs include barking at inanimate objects or family members whom they fail to recognize. If your pup is normally good at catching things, it might be cause for concern if she suddenly starts missing toys that are thrown at her.
You can administer one of a few different home vision tests to your dog. One is to stand in front of her and move your right hand, as if ready to give a command, and then switch to your left hand. Switch back and forth a few times to see whether your pup is able to follow the movement. Another good test is to rearrange the furniture and then turn off the lights. Bring your dog into the room and watch to see whether she moves about confidently, or if she hesitates and bumps into things. Next, turn on the lights to see how she behaves. A dog with some sight will move around more confidently in the light, while a severely impaired dog will still move with caution. As an alternative to letting your pooch stumble around in the dark, simply take her someplace new and see how well she navigates.
If you suspect your pup is experiencing eyesight problems, consult your vet to determine the extent of vision loss and whether it can be corrected. If it's not reversible, your priority should be your vision-impaired dog's safety and comfort. Use pet gates and barriers to keep her away from stairs, fireplaces, swimming pools and places where she could injure herself. Make her world as easy to navigate as possible by establishing routines, providing familiar surroundings, and leaving her bed and her food and water dishes in the exact spot where she already knows to find them. Consult a trainer to teach her to respond to sounds and verbal commands. With proper training and a solid routine, even a completely blind dog can live out a comfortable and happy life.
Jean Marie Bauhaus has been writing about a wide range of topics since 2000. Her articles have appeared on a number of popular websites, and she is also the author of two urban fantasy novels. She has a Bachelor of Science in social science from Rogers State University.