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How to Tell if a Dog Is Blind: Helpful Tests & Guide

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

blind shiba inu

Dogs are relatively adaptable animals. It can be surprisingly tricky to determine if they are blind, especially if they have been visually impaired for much of their life. If a dog is slowly losing their vision, you may not notice a sudden change in its ability to get around.

Though we may overlook their struggles right away, your canine can struggle with visual impairment just like people. Some causes of vision loss are entirely treatable, while others are not. Either way, your dog’s life can be made a bit easier by some changes to aid in their new impairment. However, first, you have to realize that they’re blind to begin with!

In this article, we’ll give you a few tips on determining your dog’s visual abilities. If you’re reading this article, you likely already expect that your dog may be blind.

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The 3 Ways You Can Tell if a Dog Is Blind

1. Visual Appearance of the Eyes

Sometimes, it just takes a quick look at your canine’s eyes to notice that they are blind. Many conditions that cause blindness leave visual marks on the eyes, such as cataracts. In a well-lit room, you may be able to notice these issues.

Usually, these problems look like cloudiness or fuzzy spots in the eyes. These can be a sign of glaucoma, which is most common in older dogs. Some developmental problems are also pretty apparent by looking at your canine’s eyes. If any physical injuries have caused blindness, you may be able to notice those as well.

Discharge and crusty buildup can be a sign of an infection, which can affect your dog’s vision as well.

Of course, you will need to visit your vet for confirmation. You shouldn’t try to diagnose your dog based on your observations alone. However, noticing any of these is an obvious sign that you need to make an appointment with your vet.

blind dog
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

2. Perform a Few Tests

When determining a person’s sight, a few tests are often performed. There are several similar tests for dogs. These may not pinpoint just how visually impaired your canine is, but you may be able to determine if your canine is experiencing some problems seeing. The extent of the problem will need to be determined by your vet.

The most common visual test is shining a gentle light across your pet’s eyes. They should dilate just like a human’s eyes. If they don’t, it is likely a sign that the eyes aren’t detecting the light at all. This is a sign of severe visual impairment, as light is usually the last thing to go. However, you will still need to confirm with your vet, which may determine the cause of the blindness.

The Menace Response Test is another standard visual test. You start by holding your open hand about a foot away from your dog’s face. Then, quickly move your hand towards your dog. You don’t want to touch your canine or move your hand so fast that you cause an air current. You want the visual of your hand to be the only sign that you’re getting close to your canine.

If your dog flinches or blinks, then they can see your hand. If they can’t, then they’ll likely sit there wholly unaware. This test may be unable to detect slight vision problems. Your dog may be able to detect the general shape of your hand coming towards them, which may cause them to blink or flinch even though they can’t see it very well.

Another test involves dropping something from above your dog in front of their face. The object can be something minor, like a cotton ball or even a favorite toy. It should not make noise, however. When the object enters your dog’s field of vision, it should follow it with its eyes. If they don’t, it may be because they can’t see it.

Usually, multiple tests will be performed to determine if your dog is blind or experiencing some level of visual impairment. One test won’t be enough to rule one way or another. However, several failed tests are a sure sign that your canine is blind.

If you perform these tests at home and your dog doesn’t respond appropriately, you should speak to your vet. They will likely perform the tests as well.

3. Keep an Eye on Your Dog

Sometimes, you may not need to perform any tests. Your dog’s blindness may be evident by how they move around in their environment and interact with their world. If your dog is bumping into newly moved objects, it may be an obvious sign that your dog doesn’t see well. Anxiety and hesitation when in a new place are another sign. When your dog can’t see, they may get upset when they’re in a place they don’t know. Increased aggression may also occur. Blind dogs may not always know what something is, which can cause fear aggression.

Scary, loud things may be terrifying to blind dogs.

Your dog may suddenly be unwilling to do everyday activities, like jumping up on furniture or going up or downstairs. They may be unable to see the steps or have a hard time judging their jumps, making them avoid the activities altogether.

Their inability to judge depth or distance may be the first sign that your dog’s vision fails.

scared dog
Image: LauraTara ,Pixabay

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Conclusion: How to Tell if a Dog Is Blind

If you believe that your pet may have vision problems, you should speak to your vet – even if they pass all the tests, we discussed. Some problems may seem like blindness but are caused by something else. For instance, ear infections can throw off your dog’s balance, which may cause them to bump into things or fall off furniture. They may pass all the visual tests but still need to go to the vet.

If your dog does turn out to be losing their sight, all isn’t lost. Dogs are very adaptable and typically don’t realize they’re “different” from other dogs. Many blind dogs can enjoy life just like they once did. They don’t find their blindness to be a big deal!

Featured Image Credit: David_Will, Pixabay

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