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Ask a Vet: How to Deal with a Dog Going Blind

Photo by Ponte 1112, via Flickr. 

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments. 

Q: I think my dog is going blind. What do I do?

A: Luckily, animals tend to adjust quickly! Take safety precautions: Seal-off decks, banisters, swimming pools, or anything else a pet can slide through or fall down. Dogs can learn the layout of your home and daily walk. Make sure to stick to the same route until they become confident. Keep your pets entertained. They still want to have fun! Lastly, dogs can learn up to 200 or 300 words, so don’t hesitate to use verbal clues in helping them navigate.

The two most prevalent conditions are glaucoma and cataracts. The warning sign of glaucoma often looks as though the eye is rolling up-and-out, with what is known as a raised third eyelid. As for cataracts, the symptom is a cloudy eyeball. If your pet is having trouble seeing balls or small items, or is bumping into walls, it is a sign to bring them to the veterinarian for further examination. Glaucoma is caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye, causing damage to the sensitive optic nerve, and the result can be very painful. Genetically, some breeds of dogs are more prone to glaucoma: American cocker spaniels, Basset hounds, Chow Chows, Siberian huskies. There are different treatment options, and in some cases it may be necessary to remove the eye. First, it’s important that cataracts are noticed and treated immediately. 80% of untreated cataracts develop into glaucoma. With dogs, 90% that undergo cataract surgery can return to good vision. Cataracts can be removed with a simple surgery, which prevents glaucoma from developing.