My Chihuahua Kilo still sees just fine, but several years ago, I noticed my aging terri-poo Joey was having problems seeing things. The Vet said he had Glaucoma, and nothing could really be done for it.
So, we adjusted. And Joey did adjust quite well. It turns out, vision is not a dog’s dominant sense like it is for humans.
Vision loss or blindness in dogs can be a congenital condition, or it can develop during your pet’s life. Trauma or infections can be the cause of acute vision loss; on the other hand, progressive diseases such as cataracts, retinal degeneration, and glaucoma may cause chronic vision loss.
Chronic vision loss is common in old dogs; however, in some cases, it is not detected because pet parents attribute their clumsiness and disorientation to age and not to failing eyesight.
Vision loss can potentially occur in any canine, regardless of breed. However, many cases of blindness are thought to be genetic and breed or age-specific, for example, white dogs, such as white Boxers and Great Danes have a greater prevalence of blindness.
Chihuahua dogs are susceptible to blindness due to progressive retinal atrophy.
Signs Of Vision Loss
Pet parents must know the signs of vision loss so that they can provide their dogs with the necessary medical attention. Since many different eye conditions can cause vision loss, any sign of ocular disease should be taken seriously to prevent blindness. Some signs of eye disease are:
- Eye inflammation
- Ocular discharge
- Color changes (e.g., cloudy or discolored eyes)
- Eyeballs enlargement
- Constant rubbing of the eyes
Chronic blindness can be harder to detect; however, in these cases, the patients have better chances of compensating for vision loss with other senses. Some signs of progressive vision loss are:
- General disorientation
- Misjudging heights and bumping into walls, furniture, or other objects
- Confusion in new surroundings
- Reluctance to move
- Difficulty finding food and water bowls
Causes of Vision Loss
Eye problems, such as sudden vision loss in dogs, can be attributed to many causes. Any disease that blocks light from reaching the retina or that causes significant damage to the cornea, retina, or other eye structures can cause blindness. Causes of vision loss in dogs include:
- Lens luxation
- Retinal detachment
- Retinal degeneration
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Brain lesions
- Intoxications (e.g., ivermectin and lead)
- Untreated eye infections
- Entropion (the tendency of the eyelids to roll inwards)
- Collie eye anomaly
- Dry eye syndrome
- Retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy is a group of degenerative illnesses that affect mostly Chihuahuas, Labradors, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels. If your Chihuahua is losing vision, this could be the cause, and you should seek veterinary attention immediately.
Some eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cause irreversible vision loss; however, other causes, such as cataracts, lead to a reversible vision loss that can be corrected with surgery.
Prevention is very important; therefore, pet parents should not let eye infections go untreated, and a veterinarian should investigate any signs of diabetes or eye disease.
What Pet Parents Can Do To Ease The Life Of A Blind Dog
Dogs with impaired vision can learn to have a normal life. We should remember that vision is not the most developed sense in dogs; they rely on other senses like smell and hearing to accomplish their daily activities.
When a dog loses sight, especially when this occurs progressively, he/she can compensate with other senses and live a fairly normal life. Here are some things that you can do to help your blind dog:
- Do not leave your dog unleashed in an unfamiliar place.
- Avoid moving furniture in your house.
- Walk your dog on a leash.
- Announce your presence when approaching your dog by whistling or clapping your hands softly.
- Keep food and water bowls in the same area.
- Get your blind dog, a sighted dog companion.
- Spend as much time as possible with your dog.
- Consider getting a Muffin’s Halo for your dog. You can read about it and order one here. Amazon also has them here.
Signs of Worsening Vision Problems
As you can see, there are many signs of vision loss in dogs. However, as a dog owner, you may want to familiarize yourself with the signs that may point to a worsening vision problem.
Dogs won’t let their owner know that they are starting to lose their vision, which is why knowing what to look for is so important.
Can’t See Toys or Treats
Your dog’s vision problems may become progressively worse if you toss them a treat or toy, and they don’t see it.
In this case, it is important to also test their peripheral vision. To do this, toss the treat or their favorite toy to the far right and then the far left, and watch what your dog does. Do they notice?
Won’t Jump Off the Bed or Couch
If you notice that your dog is becoming more hesitant about jumping from furniture they used to jump from before or they are more hesitant to use stairs or go out at night, then their vision may be getting worse, and they may also be developing night blindness.
Night blindness is also known as senile retinal degeneration and is often age-related. With this condition, your dog has poor vision in dim light environments.
Stunned in Sunlight
If your Chihuahua dog seems a bit stunned when they are outdoors in the sunlight, it can be a sign of severe cataracts and worsening vision. The pupils will constrict in bright light settings, and the light then passes through the dense and cloudy part of a cataractous lens.
Hazards in the Home and Outside
If your Chihuahua is experiencing vision loss or other sight problems, you need to be aware of the hazards they may face in the home and outdoors.
Never let your pet run around loose outside of a fenced-in area until he knows and is familiar with his surroundings and is becoming adjusted to his sight problems. Keep them on the leash until you are sure that there are no hazards.
Make sure all the debris is picked up around the yard as well. This includes equipment, toys, and branches. These all pose tripping hazards for your Chihuahua.
The railings on your porch should also be examined. You don’t want to risk your dog falling through and off the porch.
If you have a door at ground level, utilize this for letting the dog in and out. Avoid any steps or raised decks until your dog adjusts. You can also attach a bell to the collar of your dog so it will make noise when they run.
Recovery from Vision Problems
Even if your Chihuahua loses their eyesight, their personality and acceptance of their owner will outshine. They will also be able to use their other senses incredibly well. Don’t panic as your Chihuahua learns how to get around with vision problems.
Allow them to find their own way around the home and their environment. You can lead them calmly when necessary and help them overcome obstacles that may be in their way as they learn. Many dogs are already well-trained, and the transition won’t be as difficult as you may think.
Some dogs may even recover if they have a positive prognosis from their veterinarian. Sometimes surgery and medication can help for certain conditions and can lead them straight to recovery. However, the best chance for any kind of recovery is the early detection of these vision problems.
This means that regular veterinarian visits for your Chihuahua and understanding the signs to watch for are all important for helping your dog stay strong, healthy, and happy, even in the midst of vision problems or uncertainty.
So have you had to deal with blindness with your dog? How have you dealt with it? Let us know in the comments!
Dr. Sara Ochoa
This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.