When Dogs Go Blind

The good life isn’t over for dogs who go blind.  If they don’t have eye pain—which most don’t—and the disease that caused the blindness is treatable, they can lead happy lives.  For example, my blind dog Trudy has underlying Cushing’s disease, which can be controlled with drugs, although she’ll never get her sight back.  She lost her vision over a period of weeks from SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome). Like most owners, I suffered from her rapid loss of eyesight more than she did.

Dogs don’t rely on their vision as much as we do. Even healthy dogs’ eyes don’t focus well on close objects. They’re color-blind compared with humans.  They don’t see details as well.  The one thing they do better is detect moving objects in dim light.  Nature gave them this ability to help them hunt at night.

The people who think it’s humane to put a blind dog to sleep don’t know much about dogs.  If you watch sightless dogs who have gotten used to their loss, you see happy, functional pets. They still have their wonderful noses and ears, which become their main sense organs. However, the adjustment may take a little while. Some dogs get depressed when they first lose their vision, acting listless and droopy.  They carry their heads low and seldom wag their tails. If this is true of your pet, resist sharing your sadness. Indulge in it  only when your dog’s not around.  When you’re together, stay upbeat. Find things to do that you both enjoy.

Other dogs get irritable.  They growl easily and may snap.  While you should discourage this behavior, stay calm when you correct the dog.  There’s no point in getting everyone more upset. Approach the dog gently and stroke his or her neck and back. You’ll both feel better when you enjoy close, loving contact.

Above all, don’t overdo the help you give. Avoid taking over your dog’s life. People with blind dogs agree that coddling is the worst thing an owner can do.  Instead of carrying a dog upstairs, for example, help the dog learn to do it alone.  He or she will take pride in the new skill.

When my dog Trudy recently lost her vision, I was devastated.  I worried that she’d no longer enjoy life.  Little did I know. Trudy still barks at the UPS man and tries to chase his truck down the street, her hackles raised.  She gets around the house without trouble as long as furniture hasn’t been moved or large objects aren’t left in her path.  She still delights in jumping up on kitchen counters when I’m not around and and running off with any tasty items she finds.  How she does it, I don’t know. Recently she started playing with her toys again, grabbing her hemp rope in her mouth and thrashing it around—going for the kill.

A friend has a blind dog named Radar—a Chinese crested.  Radar is a good name for him.  He’s so talented that, even without eyesight, he can jump up and catch a fly in his mouth.  Like Trudy, Radar is a happy camper.

*   *   *

7 replies
  1. Mike Holobawski says:

    Thank you so much for this. My dog just became blind the other day. It is heartbreaking to watch him. We had the thoughts of putting him down but after reading this we are now going to see how he adapts to his blindness. Thank you again, this is very inspiring.

    Reply
    • beaconadmin says:

      Mike,

      I haven’t checked responses to my bogs, including the one on blind dogs, for many months. Yours was the one response that made me sorry for my delay. I certainly hope you and your dog have adapted to his loss of vision. Trudy, my blind dog, does amazingly well. People find it hard to believe that she’s blind. In fact, I’ve lettered her harness “I am blind,” so people will treat her with care. Really, I was the one who suffered terribly from her sudden blindness. She hardly missed a beat!

      Best Wishes,

      Barbara Cox

      Reply
  2. Ami Meyers says:

    My Peke might go blind due to an ulcer on his eye. I’m at lost for what to do. He lost his other eye last year and it was so expensive for surgery to remove it. If I can’t afford it, they will keep him, fix him up then adopt him out. But I’m scared for him because who will adopt a blind dog? Find out Thursday if his eye can be saved or not. Praying for the best

    Reply
    • beaconadmin says:

      Ami,

      If your dog is at a good vet and you decide to let the dog be adopted, I wouldn’t worry about his finding a good home. Many people who truly love dogs would be glad to adopt him and give him good care. The positive side of the situation is this: anyone who does adopt a blind dog is bound to look after him well.

      If Craigslist is available where you live, that’s a good route, too. I have placed a number of dogs for friends through Craigslist–most recently an 8-year-old dachshund and a large 10-year-old mixed breed with bad skin problems. I included pictures of them so people knew exactly what they were getting. I had applicants e-mail me we spoke on the phone so I could screen them for sincerity, commitment, and ability to provide good care. In every case, the dogs found homes within 24-36 hours. However, I think your vet is most likely to do the right thing. He or she knows how to screen prospective owners.

      My dog Trudy has now been blind for over two years, and she’s one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever owned. Over a period of two or three months, she adjusted to her lack of vision and people are seldom aware of her handicap, except for the lettering on her collar, “I am blind.” Like most dogs, she relies more on her sense of smell and hearing than her vision. Dogs don’t have very good vision.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  3. Nancy says:

    Never ever ever list a dog on Craigslist!!! That is the WORST thing you can do!!!! People come forward to adopt a dog listed on Craigslist with lots of cash because the dogs are used as “bait” dogs in dog fighting rings!! This is a huge scam on Craigslist and is a well known fact!! And never “give”!hour dog away for free – as these shysters will operate as middlemen for these fighting rings! Please people!! Dot use Craigslist to advertise your pets to give away or for sale – it is throwing them into the line of fire for a brutal end to their lives! And as far as your Vet adopting your dog out because you can’t afford the we surgery – well, that is just utterly inhumane and awful – Veterinarians suck in that rather than letting the poor animal go back to his or her owner – they are more interested in collecting the money from someone else for your pet. Imagine if doctors did that with your kids?? Well – it is the same thing! These are our children too!! SMH… today’s .Vets show nothing but greed!!!

    Reply
    • beaconadmin says:

      Your point about Craigslit seems to be based on experience. However, I have had considerable success using it to find homes for dogs in desperate need of adoption. First, I write an honest description of the dog and its needs, including a photo. Then I require interested parties to e-mail me with their qualifications and expectations of the dog. Being a professional writer, I’m good at “reading” people by what they write. Then I schedule a phone call to determine their sincerity and ability to meet the dog’s needs. Finally, I make an appointment for them to meet the dog in my presence. All these dogs are now happy in their new homes (I also check up on them periodically), and the owners are delighted at being so well matched. Is this time-consuming? Of course, but if you love dogs as I do, finding the time is part of the territory.

      Your comments on veterinarians seem to be based on unhappy experiences, too. One of my daughters (age 47) is a small animal vet. She will not euthanize a dog or cat simply because an owner can’t be troubled to provide responsible care or can’t find the money to pay the vet bill. (Amy doesn’t own the clinic she works for and therefore isn’t allowed to dispense free care.) She will go to some trouble to find the right family to adopt the animal. She sometimes brings animals into her own home temporarily for this purpose. (As a result, she now has four dogs and six cats in her large home and fenced property.)

      Your statement about the greed of veterinarians may apply to some of them, but certainly not all. Amy has been known to leave her paychecks uncashed for several weeks in a row. And she’s not rich! I ask her why, and she answers that sometimes she thinks she shouldn’t be paid for her work because she loves it so much.

      There are good people out there, as well as bad. Some good people looking for dogs on Craigslist and some are veterinarians. And for many, money is not part of the picture at all. Only love and compassion.

      Barbara Cox (age 82 and life-long companion animal lover)

      Reply
  4. Michelle Lister says:

    My little shihtzhu, Harley, recently lost her sight. My pitbull, Riley, was over stressed and grabbed her up. She didn’t hurt her anywhere else but her tooth got her eye. She had to have it removed. Then she ran into the bed frame and damaged her good eye. She was on antibiotic drops for a few weeks but she eventually lost her sight completely. The first few days she clung to me. Then she got down and decided she was going to do things on her own. She can’t do a lot of things like she used to. She loved to run through the woods and explore. I feel so bad for her. I know she loves me and is happy most of the time. Do you think it makes her sad? Can she remember seeing? I’m hoping it bothers me more than her. She’s 7 and healthy and has several years left. I just want to make sure she knows she is loved and want her to always be happy

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *