k9.5 Rescue’s focus includes special needs dogs who might otherwise be euthanized if not given a 2nd chance in our organization. One such special needs is blindness. This can include seniors losing their site due to advanced age or an enuclation (the removal of one or both eyes) due to disease, such as Glaucoma. Despite how the dog arrived at the condition, caring for a blind dog varies little when their sight no longer exists.
Our Current Rescues
Currently we have two dogs in rescue whose eyes we removed (an enucleation) due to advanced glaucoma and severe pain. Noelle, a senior black Labrador, came to us with cataracts that developed into glaucoma despite medications and monitoring. Marci, an approximate seven year old black cockapoo, came to us with a raging case of glaucoma. She was in severe pain and suffered from a great deal of anxiety as a result, unable to see as it was, so the best course of action was an enucleation.
Noelle has been without eyes since 2007 and is now 13-ish years old. Marci’s eyes were removed at the end of January 2013. You may wonder how they’re functioning?
Noelle jumps up on the bed in the same spot nightly. She knows which dog bed in the house is hers, and she knows which crate to go to when I leave…every time. She jumps into the car with ease and knows how to walk up and down the stairs coming both inside and out without assistance. When she needs help or if another dog is in her path that she doesn’t want to upset, she barks. If she’s confused (we’re finding this more now that she’s aged) she barks to let me know. She knows exactly where the doors are, the water bowls, the food, and the counter where medications are distributed daily. When I made the move from TN to SC, she fell right into place without issue, learning the layout of the house with ease.
Marci isn’t fazed. Marci runs around the yard and has developed a habit of checking the left side of the yard’s fence line, she barks at any “wrong” noises, avoids a tree stump in the yard without running into it, knows where the back door is to come inside and go out and (of course) where the treat jar sits for her treat when she comes back from her potty break. She knows exactly where her foster mother is at all times and follows her around, jumps on the couch to lounge, and she even “back dances” on the couch without falling off. She constantly runs up and down the flight of stairs to the 2nd floor without issue, and easily jumps up on the stool to get on the bed.
So How Do We Work With Our Blind Dogs?
It’s really quite simple, for the main focus in caring for a blind dog is consistency and patience.
Animals are excellent at learning, which makes are job as a parent much easier. All we need to do is keep up our end of the bargain. Doing so is not a difficult task, as we only need to keep the balance of normalcy, guidance and encouragement.
Always remember, however, that if the dog runs into something or finds itself confused or upset, it doesn’t mean that you are failing as a parent or that the dog is suffering. It’s simply a learning curve. Locations alter, car rides are going to happen, and items are placed in and interfere with a recognized path. When a change takes place, it’s important to recognize that for a human or animal, new things can be a bit frightening. Lastly, let’s just face it…sometimes dogs just get excited and clumsy. Don’t let these types of issues upset you.
Tips for Helping a Blind Dog Adjust and Live Normally
1). Keep things in the same place. Do not constantly change things such as the dog’s crate, bed, your furniture, or water and food bowls. Things will happen on occasion and get moved around, and that’s okay. Just make a little extra effort to guide the dog to the object/place, and soon the dog will adjust.
2) Guide the dog with solid sounds such as snapping fingers or tapping on a door frame. Voices tend to carry confuse the animal, as it’s difficult to tell which direction the voice is coming from.
3) Talk to the dog and use key words to help the dog know the situation and action needed. This is really no different than typical training, but you can be a little more creative since you’ll want the dog to recognize objects or behavior. For example, “steps,” “step up,” “step down,” “bowl,” “bed,” “stairs,” “stop,” “go,” etc.
4) Praise the dog when he or she finds the item, place, or completes the task.
5) Let the dog be a dog. It’s human nature to become over protective or worrisome when you see your best friend struggling. Things are going to happen such as tripping or running into walls, doors or furniture. However, dogs still love to play, run around the yard, and act like a dog, so give them that joy. Provide them with toys, walks, and other playful activities. Even give them outdoor time to sniff, trot around and roll in the grass. While you will want to monitor, you don’t have to severely restrict.
Live a Happy Life While Caring for a Blind Dog
If you find that your dog has gradually become blind or has had an eye removed, find comfort in knowing that animals have an amazing ability to bounce back from the loss of sight. What the pet needs from you is love and the understanding that sure, there will be a little assistance required, but you will work together and it will all fall into place as a result. Blind doesn’t mean handicapped to a dog, and caring for a blind dog doesn’t have to be stressful or frightening. In fact, it can be a time of great bonding. So continue to enjoy your dog…there are still many happy times ahead for you both!