Try the New Jerky Treats! Chicken or Beef Flavored!

Shop Now
Blindness in Dogs

Blindness in Dogs: How to Know, Causes, Effects and Treatments

Blindness in dogs is a complete or partial loss of vision affecting one (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral). Canine blindness is more common among elderly dogs. 

Common causes of blindness in dogs are genetics, cataracts, glaucoma, uveitis, progressive retinal atrophy, sudden acquired retina degeneration syndrome, retinal detachment, corneal ulcers, eye injuries, tumors, neurologic diseases, autoimmune conditions, and diabetes. 

Sudden bumping into objects, reluctance to climb stairs, refusal to jump, and being easily startled are common signs of a blind dog. Mood swings and anxiety are accompanying issues. 

Eye drops, systemic meds, surgery, and supplements are part of the dog blindness treatment. Vision restoration is not guaranteed, and blindness in dogs is permanent. 

Canines and dog owners quickly adapt to the newly developed dog blind situation. Blind dogs learn to rely on their other senses, and several simple environmental changes ensure they live long and quality lives. 

How do You Know if Your Dog Is Blind?

You know if your dog is blind based on changes in behavior and eye appearance. The changes are subtle in some cases and striking in others. 

Common behavioral changes related to dog vision loss include bumping into objects, reluctance to walk up or down stairs, hesitating to jump on and off furniture, sniffing out treats and toys, and being easily startled.

Sudden mood swings triggering clingy or irritable episodes are typical for dogs losing sight. Anxiety signs are common in dogs suffering from blindness. 

You can tell a dog is blind if these signs are combined with changes in the eye's appearance. The eyes look cloudy, and the pupil does not respond to light.  

What Causes Sudden Blindness in Dogs?

Glaucoma and retinal detachment cause sudden blindness in dogs. The two common eye problems progress rapidly, depending on the speed of treatment. 

The blindness associated with glaucoma and retinal detachment occurs almost overnight. 

The other diseases and conditions that cause blindness in dogs are listed below. 

  • Genetics: Certain breeds are more prone to potentially blinding conditions. Examples include Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Old English Sheepdogs. 
  • Cataracts: Cataracts are milky clouding of the lens that causes vision deficits. The cloudy area affects certain portions of the entire eye, dictating the extent of the eyesight. 
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by increased intraocular pressure or IOP. The issue progresses rapidly and culminates in severe pain and blindness. 
  • Uveitis: Uveitis is inflammation of the frontal portion of the eye. Infection, cancer, and autoimmune conditions are frequent causes of uveitis. 
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease of the retina affecting the cells in the back of the eye responsible for registering light. 
  • Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome: SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome) is a fast-developing PRA type causing blindness within hours. 
  • Retinal Detachment: Retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the rest of the eye structures and occurs spontaneously in certain breeds, like the Shih Tzu. 
  • Corneal Ulcers: Corneal ulcers are deep defects in the cornea. Untreated eye infections are a common cause of corneal ulcers in dogs. 
  • Eye Injuries: Eye injuries periodically culminate in blindness. Dogs injure themselves during rough play or when having zoomies. 
  • Tumors: Tumors cause signs of dog blindness when developing in or near the eye. Benign and malignant tumors pressure the optic nerve, resulting in vision deficits. 
  • Neurologic Disease: Problems affecting the optic nerve cause neurological blindness. Brain problems, like stroke, infections, and tumors, cause vision impairment, too. 
  • Autoimmune Conditions: Blindness-causing autoimmune conditions are rare. The two more common eye problems are pannus and uveodermatologic syndrome. 
  • Diabetes: Blinding cataract occurs in 75% of diabetic dogs, according to a study, “Effect of Oral Alpha Lipoic Acid in Preventing the Genesis of Canine Diabetic Cataract: A Preliminary Study,” published in Veterinary Sciences in 2017. 

Can Sudden Dog Blindness Affect a Dog's Behavior?

Yes, sudden dog blindness can affect a dog’s behavior. Behavioral changes are an early sign of blindness but are not always attributed to vision loss. 

Dogs experiencing sudden vision loss act out of the ordinary. The dog behaves clumsily, is reluctant to move around or go out, sleeps more than usual, and is abnormally vocal. Some dogs become clingy, and others become distant out of fear and confusion.   

Vision loss causes anxiety in some dogs as it progresses. Anxiety harms the dog’s quality of life and the pet-owner bond. 

The behavioral changes associated with blindness stem from the dog’s inability to comprehend what is happening. 

Will Dogs Develop Anxiety After Sudden Blindness?

Yes, dogs will develop anxiety after sudden blindness. The inability to navigate their surrounding makes dogs vulnerable and anxious. 

Anxiety is defined as anticipation of impending danger and is common in dogs. Dogs gradually going blind require time to adjust, while sudden blindness is terrifying and causes anxiety. 

Stress relief is an integral part of managing blind dogs. CBD oil is one of the best remedies for anxiety control in dogs. 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural solution extracted from the hemp version of the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol relieves stress naturally by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

Daily use of CBD oil for dogs helps reduce anxiety and boosts overall health and wellness.  

Can Dogs Undergo Temporary Blindness?

Yes, dogs can undergo temporary blindness. Various issues have the ability to cause temporary blindness. The time necessary for vision restoration depends on the underlying cause. 

For example, flash blindness resolves quickly and without intervention. Flash blindness is temporary vision loss caused by exposure to high-intensity light, such as flash photography, laser point, lighting strike, or searchlight. 

Dogs with temporary blindness due to a brain mass pressuring the optic nerve need time and surgical or radiation treatment to restore vision. 

What are the Effects of Blindness for Dogs?

The effects of blindness for dogs are listed below. 

  • Confusion or Anxiety: Confusion and anxiety are immediate effects of blindness. Dogs experiencing sudden vision loss are prone to stress. Sight is a key sense, and pets rely on their sight extensively. Impaired or lost vision makes dogs feel vulnerable. 
  • Irritability or Aggression: Mood swings and irritability are common in dogs in the early stages of blindness. The feeling of vulnerability keeps some dogs on guard, resulting in unprovoked and unexplained aggression episodes.  
  • Pain and Discomfort: Certain blindness causes eye diseases, like glaucoma, which are painful. Pain affects the dog’s behavior and triggers other worrisome symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, and disinterest in daily otherwise fun activities. 
  • Traumatic Injuries: Blind dogs are prone to accidents. Bumping into walls and slipping on floors is pronounced, causing disorientation and injuries. Visually impaired dogs attempt to flee in some cases, further increasing the risk of traumatic injuries. 

What can Make a Dog Go Blind Overnight?

Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) can make a dog go blind overnight.  

The cause of SARDS is unknown, and the disease is more common in “smaller, middle-aged, spayed female dogs,” suggests a study, “Cofactors associated with Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome: 151 Dogs within a Reference Population,” published in Veterinary Ophthalmology in 2018. 

Vision loss due to SARDS manifests suddenly and unexpectedly. Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome manifesting as blindness in dogs is not treatable. 

SARDS is “one of the leading causes of currently incurable canine vision loss,” according to the paper “Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS)—A Review and Proposed Strategies toward a Better Understanding of Pathogenesis, Early Diagnosis, and Therapy,” which was published in Veterinary Ophthalmology in 2016. 

Does a Dog's Age Contribute to Blindness?

Yes, a dog’s age contributes to blindness. Canine senses, like human senses, naturally deteriorate with age. 

Older adult dogs and seniors have a higher-than-average risk of developing eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Glaucoma and cataracts are progressive and potentially blinding. 

Elderly dogs are prone to lenticular or nuclear sclerosis, manifesting as hazy or bluish lens clouding. Nuclear sclerosis does not cause blindness but impairs the dog’s visual acuity and depth perception, resulting in blind dog eyes

Small breed dogs are considered elderly or seniors aged 10 to 12, medium dogs aged 8 to 9, and large and giant breeds around 6 or 7. 

Pet owners who ask, “How do you know if your dog is blind?” must take their senior dogs to the vet every six to nine months for regular eyesight checkups to detect early signs of blindness.

Can Glaucoma in Dogs Cause Blindness?

Yes, glaucoma in dogs can cause blindness. Glaucoma is a painful and progressive condition caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP). 

Canine glaucoma is inherited (primary) or acquired (secondary). Primary glaucoma is prevalent in Terrier breeds, while secondary glaucoma occurs in dogs of all breeds due to eye injuries and diseases. 

“Canine glaucoma can lead to optic nerve degeneration and irreversible blindness due to multiple factors involved in its pathogenesis,” according to a study “Definition, Classification, and Pathophysiology of Canine Glaucoma” published in The Veterinary Clinics of North America in 2015. 

Treatment ceases its progression but does not cure blind dog eyes, meaning glaucoma in dogs has irreversible effects. 

Is It Normal for A Dog Losing Vision?

No, it is not normal for a dog losing vision. Gradual sight deterioration is expected in senior dogs. Vision loss is an age-related change that occurs slowly over a prolonged period. 

Non-age-related vision loss is not normal. Blindness indicates an underlying problem, an eye disease, or a systemic condition. Thorough physical examination and diagnostic procedures are necessary to determine the cause of blind dog eyes.  

How can Dog's Allergies Cause Blindness?

A dog’s allergies can cause blindness through severe corneal damage. Dogs sensitive to airborne environmental allergens like pollen, dust, or dander develop allergic conjunctivitis upon contact.  

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva clinically manifesting with redness, swelling, increased tear production, and itchiness. 

Dogs scratch their eyes to soothe the itchiness, which damages the cornea in severe cases. Corneal damage is so extensive that it results in vision impairment or blindness in rare scenarios.  

Allergy-related blindness works in theory, considering the chain of events itchy eyes trigger, but allergies are an infrequent culprit for blindness in dogs. 

Temporary vision blurriness is a widespread effect of a dog’s allergies. Allergies cause short-term watery eyes and discharge that blurs vision. 

What are Some Effective Treatments for Dog Blindness?

Some effective treatments for dog blindness are listed below. 

  • Topical Medications: Topical or eye drops are prescribed to treat dogs with eye infections and glaucoma. Commonly used options include antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-glaucoma drops. 
  • Systemic Drugs: Dogs with systemic underlying causes of blindness are treated with oral or injectable systemic drugs. For example, diabetic dogs are given insulin to correct blood sugar levels and restore normal vision.  
  • Eye Surgery: Surgery restores vision in cataracts and prevents further sight deficits in dogs with glaucoma. Eye surgeries are often risky, and dogs must be evaluated to ensure they are good surgery and anesthesia candidates. 
  • Radiation or Chemotherapy: Radiation and chemotherapy are options for dogs with cancerous growths pressuring the optic nerve. Radiation and chemo are used alone or combined with surgery. 
  • Eye Supplements: Dogs with slowly progressive blindness due to cataracts or retinal degeneration benefit from Ocy-GLO®. Veterinarians formulate the supplement with vitamins and antioxidants that support vision, Ocy-GLO® is a useful addition to dog blindness treatment

How to Take Care of Your Blind Dog?

To take care of your blind dog, make environmental adjustments and help it compensate for the vision deficits. 

“Blind dogs can cope with their environment, but owners must ensure their safety and avoid road access,” advises a study, “Coping with Blindness: A Survey of 50 Blind Dogs,” published in 1988. 

Help blind dogs by avoiding furniture rearrangement, placing carper runners on slick surfaces, putting textured mats at the tops and bottoms of stairs, blocking unsafe areas with baby gates, and using bells on doors and other household pets. 

Teach the dog verbal directions like “left” or “right” and verbal warnings like “watch” or “step.” Ask family members and friends to announce themselves before touching the dog.

Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on structure and routine. Create a meal time and exercise schedule to give the blind dog a sense of stability and familiarity. 

Blind dogs learn to “lead normal, active lives with minimal intervention from their owners,” according to a study, “Advice for Owners of a Blind Dog,” published in the Veterinary Nursing Journal in 2020. 

Can Dogs Recover from Blindness?

Yes, dogs can recover from blindness. The recovery, however, depends on the underlying cause and the extent of the eye damage. 

For example, a dog with vision issues due to diabetes recovers once insulin treatment is started and if the blood glucose levels are kept under control. Surgery restores full or partial vision in dogs suffering from cataracts. 

Blindness recovery is not possible in dogs with vision deficits caused by old age and sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS).