Blindness in Dogs: Causes, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Blindness in Dogs

Blindness in dogs can be a distressing condition for both the animal and its owner. Understanding the causes, recognizing the signs and symptoms, and knowing the treatment options are essential for managing this condition effectively. This article delves into the various aspects of blindness in dogs, providing a comprehensive guide for pet owners.

Causes of Blindness in Dogs

There are many different causes of blindness in dog's eyes. Like their people, many dogs suffer from loss of vision as they get older, or as a result of other underlying health issues or injury. However, unlike humans, dogs do not rely on vision as their most important sense. Their noses and ears allow them to adapt quite well to changes in their eyesight.

Here are some other causes of potential vision loss in dogs and some steps you can take to help your senior dog cope with any loss of sight.

1. Genetic Conditions

Certain breeds are predisposed to genetic conditions that can lead to blindness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is one such condition, where the retina gradually degenerates, leading to blindness. Breeds commonly affected include Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and Labrador Retrievers.

2. Cataracts

Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in dogs, characterized by the clouding of the lens in the eye. This condition can be age-related or result from diabetes, trauma, or genetic predisposition. Cataracts obstruct light from reaching the retina, causing vision impairment.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an increase in intraocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve and retina. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent blindness. Glaucoma can be primary (inherited) or secondary to other eye conditions like uveitis or lens luxation.

4. Trauma

Physical injuries to the eye or head can cause blindness. Trauma to one eye can result from accidents, fights, or foreign objects entering the eye, leading to retinal detachment, bleeding, or nerve damage.

5. Infections and Inflammation

Infections such as canine distemper or diseases causing inflammation like uveitis can damage the eye structures, leading to blindness. These conditions require prompt veterinary attention to prevent long-term damage.

6. Age-Related Degeneration

A middle aged pet may develop conditions like nuclear sclerosis, where the lens hardens and becomes opaque, causing reduced vision. Age-related retinal degeneration is also common in older dogs.

7. Systemic Diseases

Conditions like diabetes mellitus can lead to cataracts and subsequent blindness. Hypertension (high blood pressure) can cause retinal detachment or hemorrhage, leading to vision loss. Retinal disease, or progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that leads to blindness in dogs. PRA is a non-painful condition that tends to progress slowly over time, often starting with a decreased ability to see well at night.

8. Temporary Blindness

An untreated eye infection or stroke may result in temporary, sudden blindness or permanent blindness. Blindness is sometimes a secondary symptom to other canine diseases such as heart, liver, and kidney ailments or systemic diseases such as diabetes.

Also: Dementia in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of Blindness in Dogs

Recognizing the early signs of blindness in dogs can help in seeking timely veterinary care. Evidence of a dog losing vision can be quite obvious. Your dog might bump into walls or furniture or have trouble locating their dog food or favorite dog toys.

Your dog might stop making eye contact with you. The symptoms can also be subtler, such as being reluctant to jump on or off the couch, a new level of dog anxiety, or becoming clingy. Common signs include:

  1. Bumping into Objects: Dogs may start bumping into furniture, walls, or other objects they previously navigated around with ease in the early stages of loss of vision.
  2. Difficulty Navigating: Hesitation or reluctance to move, especially in unfamiliar environments, is a key indicator. Dogs may become more cautious or anxious.
  3. Cloudy Eyes: Visible changes in the eye, such as cloudy appearance, white spots, or changes in pupil size, can signal cataracts or other eye conditions in dogs depending on the severity.
  4. Changes in Behavior: Dogs with blindness may exhibit increased anxiety, clinginess, or become easily startled. They might also show signs of depression or withdrawal.
  5. Reluctance to Go Outside: Dogs may be hesitant to go outside or explore new areas, displaying signs of fear or confusion in unfamiliar settings.
  6. Increased Sleep: Dogs with loss of vision may sleep more, as they rely less on visual stimuli and more on rest to cope with their environment.
  7. Eye Discharge or Redness: Persistent discharge, redness, or swelling around the eyes can indicate underlying issues that may lead to blindness in your pet.
  8. Head Tilting or Circling: These behaviors in a pet can indicate confusion or disorientation due to vision loss.

7 Dog Breeds Prone to Blindness and Eye Disease

It’s no secret that genetic issues related to a small gene pool have led to dog breeds with poor eyesight and even being blind. Sadly, while more breeders are testing for problems such as hip dysplasia, many are not screening breeding dogs for genetic eye issues. Sadly, breeding for exaggerated facial features such as a smooshed nose and large eyes has led to many dogs developing poor eyesight and deteriorating vision. However, dogs with more natural skulls and longer noses, such as the Collie or Husky, often carry genetic disorders that lead to blindness. Of course, even though we are listing a few breeds prone to eyesight issues, eye conditions are so widespread, it simply won’t provide real insight into the problem. Let's look at the breeds most likely to have them.

  • Boston Terriers
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • Labrador and Golden Retrievers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Poodles
  • Collies

Diagnosing Blindness in Dogs

A thorough veterinary examination is crucial for diagnosing blindness and its underlying cause. Diagnostic procedures may include:

  1. Ophthalmic Examination: A detailed eye examination using specialized equipment to assess the retina, lens, cornea, and overall eye health.
  2. Tonometry: Measuring intraocular pressure to diagnose glaucoma.
  3. Electroretinography (ERG): Assessing retinal function to diagnose conditions like PRA.
  4. Ultrasound: Imaging to check for retinal detachment or tumors.
  5. Blood Tests: Identifying systemic diseases like diabetes or infections that could affect vision.
  6. Genetic Testing: Determining genetic predispositions for inherited conditions.

Treatment Options for Blindness in Dogs

Treatment for blindness in dogs depends on the underlying cause and the extent of vision loss. Blindness in dogs is usually permanent. Your vet will be able to guide you on your dog's individual prognosis. If your dog has lost their vision and their eye is still painful, your vet may advise an enucleation surgery, where your dog's eye is removed to allow them to lead a pain-free life. Options include:

  1. Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, or medications to manage conditions like glaucoma can help preserve vision or alleviate symptoms.
  2. Surgery: Surgical interventions such as cataract removal can restore vision. This is often the most asked about treatment option. In some cases, surgery to relieve intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients may be necessary. Restoring vision to cure a dog's blindness is rare and there are always risk factors.
  3. Management of Underlying Conditions: Controlling systemic diseases like diabetes through diet, insulin therapy, or other medications can prevent or slow the progression of blindness and allow pooches to live happy lives.
  4. Environmental Adjustments: Making changes at home to accommodate a blind dog can significantly improve its quality of life. Especially those losing their vision gradually. This includes keeping furniture in the same place, using tactile markers, and providing safe, enclosed areas for the dog to navigate.
  5. Training and Support: Teaching new commands and providing extra support can help blind dogs adapt. Commands like “step up” or “step down” can assist in navigating stairs, while leash training can provide security during walks.
  6. Regular Veterinary Care: Ongoing veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor the dog's condition and adjust treatments as needed.

Also: Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs

Living with a Blind Dog

Living with a blind dog requires patience, compassion, and a few lifestyle adjustments to ensure their safety and well-being. Consistency is key! Keep your dog’s environment consistent to reduce confusion. Avoid rearranging furniture and keep their food and water bowls in the same place when your dog's vision is impaired. Ensure your home is safe by blocking access to stairs and removing sharp objects. Using baby gates and providing a designated, safe space can prevent accidents.

Use verbal cues and physical touch to communicate. A blind dog and those with dog vision loss rely more on their other senses, so a gentle touch or a soothing voice can provide reassurance. Try to maintain a regular routine for feeding, walks, and playtime. Familiarity helps a blind dog feel secure. Especially older dogs who are very familiar with their surroundings. You can also provide sensory enrichment through toys that make noise, scent-based activities, and textured objects to explore.

You can help dogs with blindness adjust by taking advantage of their other senses. Try using flavor extracts like vanilla to scent mark important places in your house and your dog’s toys. But be sure not to let your dog ingest extracts or oils, which can be toxic if dogs eat them. Regular check-ups with the vet ensure that any changes in the dog’s condition are promptly addressed. As a part of a general wellness exam, the veterinarian checks that the eye responds properly to hand motion and light, examines the front part of the eye (the eyelids, conjunctiva, cornea, iris/pupil, and lens) for any obvious abnormalities, and looks at the back of the eye (the retina and optic nerve) with a special lens or scope.


While blindness in dogs can be challenging, understanding the causes, signs, symptoms, and treatment options can help pet owners manage the condition effectively. Dogs can go blind for a number of reasons, from disease to old age. With proper care, support, and adjustments, blind dogs can continue to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Can A Dog Go Blind Suddenly?

Dogs sometimes lose their vision in one or both of their eyes, often due to an eye disease or injury. Additionally, a dog may lose their sight if their brain becomes diseased or injured, as the eyes and brain seek to detect and interpret images. Blindness in dogs can manifest suddenly or develop gradually over time. Your vet will be able to guide you on your dog's individual prognosis.

How Can You Reverse Blindness in a Dog?

Most causes of blindness are irreversible, meaning the blindness is permanent. However, you should take your dog to the vet if you notice any eye changes or signs of vision loss. If your dog’s sight impairment is reversible, they have the best chance of regaining their vision when your veterinarian begins treatment right away.

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Paige Chernick is a Social Media and Communications expert living in NYC. For 10 years, she ran her own consulting company called PaigeKnowsFirst where she managed social content & strategy for many brands, finding her niche within the pet industry.
Paige has been a guest contributor for several publications and featured in articles on her successes with pets and social media. Paige’s rescue dog, Charlie, famously known by her social media handle @puppynamedcharlie, has accumulated hundreds of thousands of fans and made her a successful pet influencer early on in the game. Paige is also one of the Founders of The Pet Summit, a conference in the pet industry for creators and marketers, where she used her experience to create programs and classes to help guide and teach others.
In 2022, Paige became the Social Media Director for PRIDE+GROOM. She is now the Senior Vice President of Communications and remains very immersed in the pet industry on both the corporate side and the influencer side.