If your dog is blind or visually impaired, lifestyle changes can be made to help make life easier for them at home.
Most dogs adjust well to coping with blindness especially if the vision has been lost gradually. If blindness occurs suddenly it may take several weeks for them to adjust. They will learn to rely on their other senses eg. hearing and smell. Your dog should continue to have a good quality of life despite their loss of vision and will grow in confidence daily.
Below are a list of hints and tips which may help to make your visually impaired dog's lifestyle easier:
- Try to avoid loud noises or sudden movements. If people approach your dog, ask them to talk gently so as not to startle them and take extra care if there are children around.
- Try not to move your furniture around in the home or leave any obstacles like bags or shoes in their path. If there are steps down to the garden, consider making a ramp for your dog to use.
- Always keep their sleeping and eating areas in the same place. Some dogs may find it beneficial to have a drinking water fountain so they can hear the location of their water.
- Communicate with your dog by calling their name and using words like 'dinner' at meal times. Your voice will help orientate them to where you are. Tapping the bowl can help them to recognise their feeding time.
- Visually impaired dogs prefer to stay in their own surroundings so if you are due to go on holiday, try to use house sitters instead of a kennels as the environment will be very unfamiliar to them.
- Playtime is still important for your dog. Toys which squeak or smell provide lots of stimulation and play.
- Your dog will still enjoy their walks and time spent outside. A harness and lead will provide better guidance and control for your dog. If your dog is blind on one side then try to walk them with their blind side closest to you so they are able to see what is going on with their good eye. You will need to be their eyes and watch out for any obstacles which they might bump into.
- Try to keep familiar walks for your dog. Talking to them will help as well as carrying some bells in your pocket so they can hear when you are near. Allow your dog to explore the environment by sniffing as this will stimulate them.
- Make sure your dog is suitably identified with a collar and tag as well as a microchip.
- Check that your garden is always secure as a visually impaired dog cannot detect or run from danger.
- If your dog was used to spending time upstairs, it may be necessary to restrict their access in case they fall. A stair gate may be useful. However using a different texture rug at the top and bottom of the stairs may help your dog recognise the difference and prevent stumbling.
- Also different texture rugs in front of glass doors may help your dog to recognise that there is an obstacle.
- Some dogs also benefit from the company of other dogs, although it is important that they are of a similar temperament and not a boisterous puppy! Placing a bell on other pet members of the household may prevent your dog from being startled.
- Try not to carry your dog from one area to another (especially tempting if they are small) as this will confuse them. Walking helps them orientate themselves but you may need to offer guidance and lots of praise and encouragement until they get their bearings.