Cuddles has cataracts. She's not the first one of my beloved pets to start going blind. I have been told that pure-bred animals have a higher chance of genetic disorders due to inbreeding. Whenever purchasing a pet; it's important to find out the family history. That's not to say that's a fool proof method figuring out what you will have to deal with later on.
So looking down into Cuddles' eye's I only saw happiness. However certain breeds and temperaments can be very different. Some animals will become extremely depressed and lethargic. The emotions these animals have are so telling as to why we should be so careful with their feelings.
I have never been a cat person; mostly because I am deathly allergic. I know the feline variant can be very affectionate; and of course easy to house train. In any case I am sure it is the same for any pet owner. Human beings have many different outlets to going blind. Pets are a different story.
image source: inclusivetechprize.org/ideas/echolocation-enhancement-aid-blind
So the question for any owner is what do you do when your pet is unable to figure what exactly is going on. Just getting your furry friend to exit your vehicle can be hard to figure out. Imagine how hard that can be if your pet is twice your size. Although Cuddles is 40 pounds, she is starting to get a little nimble and frail as she is bordering on 17 years old. I can't have her risk jumping down and landing face first into the pavement.
So I after talking to other dog owners and of course a consultation with a veteranian; I was reassured. The majority of opinions stated that the vast majority of dogs will adapt and learn to get around. It was obvious that there will be a period of confusion and difficulty.
#1 Safety First
- Sort of like baby proofing, this may mean blocking off stairs, a swimming pool, or even putting barriers to anything sharp or pointed ie.. the corner of tables.
- When you cannot supervise; you might need to keep them crated.
- Use baby gates or an x-pen (a freestanding fence to corner them off safely)
- Start off with smaller spaces to put them in order so that they can map out their surrounds.
- Expand their surrounds slowly; and keep them familiar with the place they are house-trained
#3 Add Non-visual Cues
- Keep their surroundings the same and create a routine (do not move things around)
- Inside Cues are important for areas such as stairs or other danger prone areas (a stair runner, or even a bell)
- For food and or water use the animals extra sense of smell or hearing by creating scented areas (vanilla extract)
- Outside Cues such as gravel or wood chips along the fence in the yard can create boundaries
#4 Voice Commands, or SOUND
It’s important to keep your dog active, and some may become reluctant to take walks. One pet owner uses noise to guide their animal. “I put a bell on my shoe when taking walks, clapped my hands to get his attention and did a lot of talking to him.” Like anything new, the adaptation process may take some time. There will be falls and house breaking accidents in the home.
Teach them words like 'wait, 'stop', 'freeze', 'stairs' etc.. when trouble may be ahead.
When taking walks you can keep them by your side by just talking to them
No real explanation for this key point. There will be failure, possible injury, many pee puddles, but as long as you stay upbeat; your pet will remain upbeat. Some animals are upbeat and others have a natural anxiety. There’s no telling how long this will take to adjust since just like people, animals will react differently.
The one key thing is that blindness doesn't happen overnight. So you can get a start on it early when you start noticing a change. It doesn't have to go white to black. In any case, Cuddles is a happy little dog. She still is eating properly and as peppy as usual. I don't know what inspired me to write about this blog; but I hope it was useful to any pet owner.