How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Going Blind? (4 Signs of Blindness)

How can you tell if your dog is going blind

It’s a sad fact of life that dogs, just like their owners, will age and start to lose their youthful faculties. Loss of vision is a common complaint in older dogs, and it can be a gradual process that sometimes you won’t notice until the dog is almost blind.

If you suspect your dog’s vision is deteriorating, there are some things you can check for or monitor that will let you better tell if your dog is going blind.

In this guide I’ve put together all the possible signs of blindness in dogs to help you identify vision less.

Signs of blindness in dogs

What are the main signs of blindness in dogs? Well, symptoms of blindness will often vary from dog to dog depending on the root of the issue. However, if you are at all familiar with your dog’s behavior, you should be able to spot any unusual symptoms they display within very little time.

In some cases, dogs develop blindness rapidly whilst in others it takes years for any symptoms to appear.

1. Bumping into objects around the house

First and foremost, dogs experiencing vision loss will often have a difficult time moving around objects, especially if they have been moved, regardless of their other senses.

For example, they may bump or knock into furniture and objects, sometimes yelping or darting away in the process. In addition to this, they may act clumsy in general, knocking over their water bowls or food dishes whilst drinking and falling heavily to the ground when playing.

dog blindness symptoms
Sign of blindness can include bumping into things (Image via https://unsplash.com/photos/sbdNr7raebY)

2. Refusing to move from one part of the house

In severe cases of blindness, dogs may refuse to move from one area in the house that they feel safe in. They may struggle to find food and water, jump at loud or unexpected noises, look dazed and confused, and refuse to go out for walks.

3. No longer wanting to play like they did

Likewise, they may be reluctant to play with other pets in the household, becoming grumpy or snapping at them when they come too close. Sadly, dogs suffering from blindness will often develop anxiety and depression and refuse to eat for long periods.

4. Physical signs of blindness

When it comes to physical signs of blindness in dogs, you should be on the lookout for soreness, redness, and cloudiness in their eyes, as well as enlarged or irregular-looking pupils.

You dog might also start pawing at his eyes to relieve any pain, or as there way of trying to stop the loss of vision.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, take them straight to the vet so they can accurately diagnose what is causing the issue.

Bottom line is the best way to tell if your dog is going blind is to let a vet examine and test them. So, if you do suspect vision loss, please book a vet appointment.

Handy Hint: Some people believe it’s possibly cruel to keep a blind dog alive. I do not agree with this at all, and here’s why.

How to check your dog’s vision

There are some things you can do at home to check your dog’s vision. Wash your hands and then find a well-lit area and wait for your dog to visibly relax.

Get them to sit and then carefully examine their eyes (you can place your dog’s head in your hands if it makes them feel comfortable), looking for any signs of infection, disease, or foreign objects.

Similarly, check if there is any discharge, crustiness, or redness around their eyeballs. Make sure to compare the color of both eyes and the size of the pupils as well.

Another way to check your dog for vision problems or if they are experiencing blindness is by testing their menace reflex.

To do this, make sure your dog is calm and hold your palm open a short distance away from their face. Keeping your hand open, rapidly move your hand forward and then stop a few inches away from their snout, being careful not to accidentally strike them in the process.

If your dog can see, it should react by blinking or moving away.

However, if they barely react or stay completely still, they are probably experiencing vision loss.

Although it can be tempting to try this test multiple times, you should only attempt it once or twice so as not to cause any stress to your dog.

What causes blindness in older dogs?

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why older dogs tend to go blind at an advanced age. For example, they will commonly lose their vision after suffering a severe injury or contracting a nasty disease or illness.

In some cases, the causes of blindness in an older dog may could be genetic. Some dogs will begin to go blind due to an undetected genetic trait inherited from their parents, although this is relatively rare and unlikely to be the cause for most dogs. Additionally, when it comes to a more common cause of blindness in older dogs, cataracts are by far the most likely culprit.

The reason that cataracts form in the first place is due to changes in protein which slowly begins to alter the lens in a dog’s eyes. In the early stages, cataracts can sometimes be difficult to detect.

However, in most canines, this change is easily noticeable as it turns the lens in their eyes white, eventually clouding them over more and more as time progresses, with this inevitably leading to increased blindness in affected dogs.

signs of blindness in dogs
You can tell your dog is going blind due to this discolouration in the eyes – which could mean vision loss (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/shiba-inu-dog-blind-smile-portrait-262844/)

At times, injuries to the eye can also increase the chance of cataracts developing. Likewise, dogs with health conditions such as diabetes should also be monitored closely as they are at a higher risk of cataracts than other canines.

Although all dog breeds are at risk of cataracts, they are most commonly found in Poodles, Boston Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Bichon Frise, Silky Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers.

If you are the owner of one of these breeds, make sure to watch closely for any signs of blindness impairment and report any negative findings to your vet.

Glaucoma is a separate disease that commonly leads to blindness in dogs. Canines with this medical condition will experience increased pressure on the eye, leading to inadequate fluid drainage.

Although some dogs can live with this condition without completely losing their vision, chronic or recurring bouts of Glaucoma usually result in permanent and severe damage to the optic nerve.

Sadly, regardless of medical intervention or treatment, around 40 percent of dogs experiencing this issue will go blind at some point in their lives.

Additionally, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can also cause a myriad of ocular problems to occur in dogs, one of these being ocular detachment.

Dogs suffering from this painful issue will quickly experience vision loss, which can turn permanent when left untreated.

Lastly, it is worth noting that certain breeds of dogs are more likely to experience blindness than others.

What causes blindness in puppies?

When it comes to blindness in puppies, many of the same conditions that affect senior dogs can also affect their younger counterparts.

For example, it is not unheard of for puppies to be born with cataracts, a condition that many of us would be forgiven for believing only affects older canines.

Did You Know? Many puppies are born with worms which are passed through their mother’s digestive system whilst in the womb?

However, more often than not, blindness in puppies is usually caused by eye disorders or inherited genetic defects present at birth.

For example, progressive retinal atrophy (commonly known as PRA) is a term used to refer to a group of serious disorders that are inherited through defective genes. Here’s a vet’s definition:

“Atrophy means the partial or complete wasting of a body part. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), is a group of degenerative diseases that affect these photoreceptor cells. With this disease, the cells deteriorate over time, eventually leading to blindness in the affected dog.” (view source)

Although PRA can begin to show observable symptoms in dogs at any age, it commonly appears in puppies of certain breeds.

For example, Great Dane’s, Cardigan Welsh Corgi’s, Irish Setters, Norwegian Elkhounds, Miniature Schnauzers, Collies, and Cairn Terriers, are all known to be at greater risk of developing PRA during their puppyhood.

On the flip side, breeds of dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Portuguese Water Dogs, American Cocker Spaniels, and English Cocker Spaniels are more prone to developing this condition during adulthood.

If you are worried about your pup’s (or older dogs’) vision or are concerned that they may have inherited a disorder such as PRA that will lead to signs of blindness in your dog, discuss this with your vet.

Thankfully, there are genetic tests available for most breeds of dogs that diagnose PRA before symptoms become apparent. It’s one of the more effective ways of telling if your dog is going blind.

In very rare cases, puppies can also be born with Microphthalmia, a congenital malformation that severely affects the eyes.

Puppies with this condition have tiny and underdeveloped eyes that barely function, only having the ability to make out blurry and dark shapes at the most.

Similarly, anophthalmia is a closely related condition that can cause puppies to be born without any eyes at all.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, just like their human owners, the majority of dogs will eventually reach old age, becoming frail and suffering from related health conditions. Sadly, it is not uncommon for dogs to go completely blind during their senior years, which can cause both their respective owners (and the affected dog) copious amounts of stress.

However, unlike their human counterparts, I believe that dogs are better suited to dealing with blindness.

With practice, an older dog can almost entirely rely on their incredible sense of hearing and smell to maneuver around the home, with this being especially true if they have only lost vision in one eye or are partially blind.

For this reason, it is sometimes difficult for dog owners to tell when their dog is going blind, with this regularly leading to unforeseen complications down the road.

I won’t sugar coat it though.

Blindness can affect the quality of life for many dogs, particularly when it comes to navigating outside of their home. In unfamiliar areas, completely blind or vision-impaired dogs can easily get disorientated or frightened, wandering into dangerous situations or running away in fear of loud or unexpected noises.

Without the proper caution from their owners, blind dogs can quickly become lost, badly injured, or worse.

That’s why is important to understand the signs of blindness in your dog early. That way you can adapt to help them adapt. Not only does it help you to keep your dog safe from dangerous situations, but it also provides you with the opportunity to make your dog’s life more comfortable.

You might also like…

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/shiba-inu-dog-blind-smile-profile-262847/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts