Loss of vision and resulting blindness in one or both eyes in your dog can be caused by a number of factors, from normal aging to injury and heredity to disorders and diseases of the eyes. The loss of vision could range from the normal vision loss of aging to something much more serious but perhaps manageable.
Most dogs with vision loss and blindness experience a gradual loss of vision over time. But for some, the loss of vision can be rapid and sudden. Watch your dog closely to see if he displays any of these signs of vision loss. And if they do, seek immediate veterinary care.
Clumsiness And Confusion
Dogs have a tendancy of memorizing their surroundings as their vision goes, so you may not be able to tell right off the bat if your dog can't see his surroundings. However, if he shows signs of confusion or seems clumsy in new areas, it's possible he's experiencing vision loss. To test this, you can take your dog to a new area or home to see how well he moves around in it. If your dog seems to step high or with great caution or have his nose very close to the ground or bump into things, it is a good sign that your dog may have problems with his vision.
Difficulty With Night Vision
Night vision is usually the first to go. However, loss of night vision often goes unnoticed because it's difficult to gauge vision problems in the dark, and because dogs have a tendancy to memorize their surroundings. To test your pup's night vision, try moving some furniture around in the house, turning off the lights, and calling the dog towards you. If he bumps into things on his way towards you, you might want to have his vision checked. If you turn on the lights and your dog still has problems navigating around the new placement of objects, that is also a clear indicator that your dog has vision loss.
Fuzziness Or Cloudiness Of The Eyes
If your dog's eyes look cloudy, fuzzy, white, or even teary it may be a sign of vision problems or eye disorders. Cloudy eyes are common in many older dogs, but they can also be a sign that your pup has a corneal ulcer or abrasion. Also, cloudy eyes are usually a sign that the cornea is inflamed, resulting in vision problems. Your pup's eyes may also be teary, and you may notice some squinting or pawing at the eye.
Large or dilated pupils could be a symptom of glaucoma, or other vision problems such as progressive retinal atrophy which can lead to permanent blindness. Enlarged pupils may also be a sign of toxicity, medication side effects or stress. If your pup develops enlarged pupils, it's a good idea to take him to the vet.
Lack Of Reaction Or Dog Easily Startled
If your dog doesn't react to his favorite treat or toy from a distance, seems to smell things before he sees things, or gets easily startled, it's possible he's experiencing vision problems. To test this, try dropping a toy in front of him without hitting his nose. If he doesn't react to the toy until it hits the ground, or doesn't follow it as it's moving, there's a good chance he's experiencing vision problems.
If your dog shows any of these signs, be sure to take him to the vet as soon as possible to get him checked out.
While vision loss or even blinded is always difficult, don't panic. Since dogs have and rely on their keen sense of smell and sound, your dog will still be able to navigate around especially in the home or other places they know even with significant vision loss. Just get him to the vet to see if you can help your dog avoid or minimize any further vision loss.
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Originally published October 2012 and last updated June 2015.