When your dog loses her sight

Subtle ways to figure out your dog needs visual help before it’s too late

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Jan 21 · 4 min read
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Photo credit: Joey Nicotra/Unsplash

I sat in the back of my fourth grade class and wouldn’t answer anything. It was peculiar for someone like me, who regularly answered questions. I always turned in my homework on time and was voted “Most Educated Student” during my eighth grade education. But there was that time at the beginning of fourth grade where I stopped talking, ignored my teacher and just started focusing on the homework in front of me so I never had to take it home. The teacher would ask me a question, and I’d shrug and say I didn’t know the answer. The truth is I couldn’t see the chalkboard. I have no idea why I didn’t just admit it.

When I got my first pair of glasses — after my teacher grew suspicious and told my mother — and walked into a classroom after they were ordered, I was absolutely shocked. I saw writing all over the board and my eyes widened. I wondered whether this was new writing or had it been here the day before. I started raising my hand again and answering questions easily — and still refusing to do homework at home. (Buying me a bookbag was a waste of money in high school most of the time, too. The chattier the teacher, the more time I had to do all homework in class.)

But if I could just tell my parents, “I cannot see the board” and chose not to, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a dog who simply cannot tell his owner, “Something is going on with my vision. Can you help?” And just like I opted out of answering questions and just shrugged off talking to my teachers, it is too easy to assume your dog is being lazy or is unimpressed. But maybe the issue is (s)he just cannot see what’s going on.

Vision loss in dogs doesn’t always happen at once. Dog owners may notice subtle things like the dog not knowing a dish is full unless it sniffs for the smell of food or hears the dish being placed onto the floor. It could be that the dog doesn’t seem to run toward birds, squirrels or other things that it used to attack as a puppy.

Maybe the dog is suddenly clumsy, or starts bumping into furniture during the day or night.

Whatever the curious incident is, dog owners must be vigilant about making sure their pets get regular veterinary check-ups.

PetMD has a few tips for signs that a dog may need to see a veterinarian immediately.

  • Hide a toy and see if your dog can find it in plain sight. This one can be tricky because a dog’s sense of smell may still be strong. For that reason, you may want to consider washing the toy first. Otherwise it’s too easy to fool the owner.
  • Pay attention to change in eye color. For anyone who knows someone with cataracts, the signs will be noticeable. The eye color will appear to be an almost blueish gray shade and look cloudy. Check with a veterinarian to verify whether the dog has nuclear sclerosis or cataracts. Nuclear sclerosis may not affect the dog enough to need any kind of corrective surgery. However, there are chances that it may. Let a pet health professional make that call though.
  • Night vision. Similar to the toy trick, this one can be a bit tricky to detect, too. Just as homeowners or apartment dwellers get used to being around their own furniture in the dark, dogs will, too. In order to verify whether a dog is having trouble at night, you may need to move some furniture around just to see if he or she notices something is out of place.
  • Is it edible? Dogs will usually run to their dishes any time the owner places something inside, assuming it’s food or water, so try testing out dog treats or unfamiliar foods away from the dish. If the dog doesn’t seem to see this new gift but can smell it, this is a sign that another sense (smell) is being used to compensate. However, dogs commonly smell unfamiliar things anyway. Pay more attention in how often they have to smell things to even know that the edible item is in the room at all.
  • Pay attention to squinting. This could be a sign of vision problems or an eye injury, such as a scratch on the cornea. Signs of cancer may also be linked to squinting.
  • Discharge or inflammation. Unfortunately this is a common symptom of fungal infection (blastomycosis), a fungal infection that is linked to wood and soil. Contact a veterinarian immediately to treat this.

As with humans, the number of times that a dog should see a veterinarian may vary, depending on breed behavior and everyday incidents. A general rule of thumb, according to VCA Hospitals, is monthly visits for puppies, annual visits for adult dogs in the early years, and semiannual visits for middle-aged and senior-level dogs.

Parts of this post were originally written by Shamontiel and published on the Opie & Dixie blog.

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Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 480 completed walks with 80 dogs, eight dog-housesittings and six dog boardings at the time of this publication. Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!

Doggone World

For dog lovers, dog walkers and dog owners.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

Doggone World

Let’s discuss all bark-related, (mostly) feel-good content for dog lovers, dog walkers and dog owners.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

Doggone World

Let’s discuss all bark-related, (mostly) feel-good content for dog lovers, dog walkers and dog owners.

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