Dogs can go blind for many reasons. From progressive Progressive Retinal Atropine, known as RPA to cataract, glaucoma and accidents and more. Many are treatable if the dog is taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist as soon as any regularities in their eyes are noticed. Whatever the circumstances, living with a blind dog isn't as daunting as it sounds, as they can actually adapt quite quickly without much sense of loss. We’re probably the ones that feel it more. Especially because a dog's sense of smell is their most dominant sense, with hearing a close second.
Here’s some of my top tips for helping your dog adjust.
Firstly dog proof your home. Get down on all fours and crawl around your house and backyard looking for hazards. Don’t worry if you look a bit silly as it’s better for your dog. Put corner protectors on sharp furniture and baby gates at the top of the stairs until your dog can safely get around them. Also, fence off the pool or any other hazardous areas.
You can tap into their sense of smell by placing a few drops of different essential oils, or even scented pot plants in rooms, and important areas such as their water bowl, sleeping areas, near the doggy door, or even the back door. Use different textured rugs, mats and strips to map out the house, and help them to navigate the stairs. Then you need to walk your dog along common routes on a close lead very regularly until they start to find their own way around. Don’t change your furniture or your floor plan around though once you have done it, as you will confuse them. Always keep their food and water bowls in the same spot.
You can always use sound to direct them, placing a wind chime, or bell near the back door is a great way to help orientate them. Teach them important safety words when doing your on lead practice such as step up, and step down. For stairs; left, right, watchout or stop so your dog can learn to move with your commands.
In the early days you can wear small bells around your own wrist, or even attach them to other pets. Another dog in the house can become a great guide for your blind dog, and always make sure you have their attention before you touch them.
When heading out, keep them same walking routes and parks, and let others know that your dog is blind with a vest or a bandana so they know to approach slowly. Also make sure your dog is wearing a tag that says “I’m blind” with your number on it, just in case it ever gets lost.
Like all dogs, blind dogs still need plenty of mental stimulation and play. So toys with noise and scent are great, as are the treat release toys.
When leaving your dog unattended a limited space probably works best at first. Keeping a tv or radio on can also help to orientate your dog to the different rooms, and also reduces the feeling of loneliness.
Finally make sure your dog has a comfortable and safe spot they can retreat to when they need.
Should you follow all of these steps your dog should be fully adjusted within about three months, and hopefully so should you.
HIF is a Major Sponsor of Pooches at Play. For information on HIF pet insurance visit hif.com.au/pet.