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“Is My Cat Blind?”: How to Tell and What It Means for You & Her

If you’ve noticed your cat attempting to jump up on furniture and missing or tripping over objects that are part of her everyday life, it’s time to visit the vet. These could point to impaired vision or blindness. Blindness in cats most often occurs gradually, although it can come on suddenly. Learn what causes blindness in cats, the symptoms, and what happens next for a blind cat.

What Causes Cats to Go Blind?

There are many reasons a cat can experience worsened sight or sight loss, ranging from disease to damage to the eyes. Common causes of blindness are:

– Cataracts

– Trauma to the head

– Ingestion of an antibacterial medication (enrofloxacin) that damages the retina

– Chronic hypertension that causes the retina to detach

– Glaucoma

Optic neuritis (inflammation of optic nerve)

Nuclear sclerosis (vision loss due to old age)

Inherited causes can also occur, but they’re less common in cats than in dogs. Unfortunately, they do happen more often in purebred cats.

one cat eye through white blinds

How Loss of Vision Is Diagnosed

Blindness Symptoms in Cats

The first signs of blindness that most cat owners notice are behavioral, and even these can be tricky. Cats are generally very good at coping with blindness. They compensate for a lack of one sense with their others. Some owners are shocked when they find out from a vet that their cat is blind in one eye!

Keep an eye out for a cat that:

– No longer attempts to jump onto furniture or high places; or if she does, she misses.

– Falls from familiar places

– Doesn’t move around the house as much as she used to

– Is more vocal – This could be because she’s calling out to you for your whereabouts, or she’s uncomfortable. (Glaucoma, for instance, can be painful because of increased pressure in the eyeball.)

– Trips over objects on the floor

– Bumps into objects or furniture that have always been there

– Won’t run if she’s startled, but instead freezes in place

But often physical symptoms are there as well. Dr. Kern, associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, urges cat owners to regularly check their cats’ eyes for:

– A hazy appearance

– Trouble focusing on objects in close range

– Cloudiness or opaqueness

– A change in the color of the iris(es)

– Two pupils that don’t look like each other.

Diagnosis by a Vet

If you’re not sure how to check your cat’s eyes, ask your veterinarian. They can show you what to look out for.

If your cat is showing signs or symptoms of vision impairment, take her to the vet for an official diagnosis. They’ll also give you important information about caring for a blind cat.

To determine what’s going on, first your vet will ask about your cat’s history, then they’ll administer vision assessments.

Your Cat’s History

These are some questions you should be prepared to answer about your cat:

– Do you think she’s partially or completely blind?

– Has the change been gradual or is it sudden onset blindness?

– When did you start noticing signs of vision loss?

– If the appearance of the eyes is different, when did that happen?

– Is she on any medications?

This will help the vet understand whether the blindness might be related to an underlying condition.

Vision Assessments

There are lots of tests that help a veterinarian determine whether a cat is blind. Most are done twice—once for each eye.

– The cotton ball test – Your vet will throw cotton balls (or something else without a scent or a noise) into your cat’s field of vision to see if he flinches or reacts.

– The pupillary light reflex test – In a dim room, your vet will shine a bright light into your cat’s eyes to gauge how his pupils react.

– Blood pressure test – This can help determine if hypertension is the issue.

– Brain scans – These look for tumors.

– Blood tests – These detect diseases, like kidney disease, that can cause eye problems.

How to Care for a Blind Cat

The diagnosis of partial or full blindness is scary, but in some cases, blindness in cats can be treated. For instance, the drug amlodipine is often used to treat high blood pressure. This is why regular check-ups are so important; catching issues early can prevent blindness!

If your cat has cataracts, take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist right away. This specialist may be able to perform cataract surgery and restore some sight.

If your cat’s loss of sight is permanent, don’t panic! Blindness in cats is manageable. Cats are incredibly adaptable. With a little help from you, yours can have a very fulfilling life.

Adopt some of these changes to make your cat as comfortable and capable as possible:

– Don’t allow your cat to roam by herself outdoors – If you’d like your cat to experience the world outside, consider training her to walk on a leash. And don’t forget to have your cat microchipped!

– Restrict your cat to a small, familiar space at first or if she’s in a new environment.

– If you need to introduce your cat to a new space, scatter treats on the floor. She’ll use her nose to find them and move slowly, familiarizing herself with the area.

– Don’t rearrange the furniture – Your cat has a “mind map” of your house. She may even attempt to leap from the floor to that counter or bookshelf she loves, confident in her surroundings!

– Add bells or tags to yourself and other animals in the house, so your cat knows where you are.

– Keep the floor clear of small objects, so your cat doesn’t trip.

– Highlight tricky spots like the top of the stairs with a scent with strong pheromones. Keep the scent consistent, so your cat knows what to expect when she smells it.

– Speak to your cat as you enter and leave a room, so she knows where you are – You may notice your cat becomes more clingy after losing her sight; she’s using you as a guide!

– Speak before you pet your cat to avoid an aggressive startled reaction.

– Keep her food and water bowls, litter box, and bed in the same places as usual.

– If your cat has glaucoma, speak to your vet about pain management.

If you think your cat is going blind, remain calm. She’s likely feeling anxious and scared, so keep your voice low and your movements predictable. Reach out to your veterinarian to schedule official vision assessments. They’ll be able to give you helpful tips as well.

And make sure to visit the vet for routine care, so they can spot and treat illness or disease before they cause blindness.

Ready to make an appointment for your kitty? Contact Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital today!

“Is My Dog Blind?”: How to Tell and What It Means for You & Him

If you’ve noticed your dog moving cautiously around the house or bumping into objects that are part of his everyday life, it’s time to visit the vet. These could point to impaired vision or blindness. Blindness in dogs can happen gradually or suddenly, and it can mean a big lifestyle change for both your pooch and you. Learn about the causes of blindness, the symptoms, and what happens next for a blind dog.

What Causes Dogs to Go Blind?

There are many reasons a dog can experience worsened sight or sight loss, ranging from disease to damage to the eyes. The most common causes are:

hand pets white dog's face

– Cataracts, often caused by diabetes

– Progressive retinal atrophy

– Retinal detachment, often caused by kidney failure and the hypertension that results from it

– Glaucoma

– Suddenly acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARD)

Some breeds are more likely to develop cataracts than others. These include:

– Miniature schnauzers

– Miniature poodles

– Cocker spaniels

– Golden retrievers

– Boston terriers

– Siberian huskies

Others are more likely to develop SARDS:

– Miniature schnauzers

– Dachshunds

– Pugs

– Maltese

– Mutts in general

If a dog goes blind, it will most likely happen to him in his old age.

SARDS

SARDS is especially alarming because it’s sudden blindness. If your dog could see yesterday and can’t today, he may have SARDS. The median age of dogs who develop SARDS is 8.5, and 60% to 70% of them are female. Unfortunately, the cause of sudden onset blindness isn’t yet known. Some specialists suspect an inflammatory or autoimmune culprit, or allergies.

How Loss of Vision Is Diagnosed

The first symptoms of blindness in dogs are often noticed by their owners. Forty to fifty percent of visually impaired dogs drink more water, eat more food, and urinate more. They also experience weight gain and often don’t want to play as frequently. They sleep more and might show signs of depression. You may notice your pup moving cautiously around the house and/or bumping into things in his environment. Some owners report these signs even in dogs with SARDS, where loss of sight is sudden.

For your dog to be officially diagnosed and to get the important information you need about caring for a blind dog, it’s crucial to take him to the vet. First, your vet will ask about your dog’s history, then they’ll administer vision assessments.

Your Dog’s History

These are some questions you should be prepared to answer about your dog:

– Do you think he’s partially or completely blind?

– Has the change been gradual or was it acute (He could see yesterday, and he can’t today.)?

– When did you start noticing signs of vision loss?

– If the appearance of the eyes is different, when did that happen?

– Is he on any medications?

This will help the vet understand whether the blindness might be related to an underlying condition.

Vision Assessments

There are lots of tests that help a veterinarian determine whether a dog is blind. Most are done twice—once for each eye.

– The maze test – The vet sets up a series of harmless obstacles in the room and asks you to stand on the opposite side of them from your dog, then call him. The vet will see whether your dog can make it to you on his own.

– The cotton ball test – Your vet will throw cotton balls (or something else without a scent or a noise) into your dog’s field of vision to see if he flinches or reacts.

– The menace assessment – The vet makes menacing gestures in the direction of your dog’s eyes. They are careful not to make them too close to his face, so he doesn’t feel air moving on his eyes. If your dog sees the vet’s gestures, his menace response will be to move his head or blink.

– The visual placing reaction (best for dogs that can be picked up) – The vet will hold your dog with his legs dangling and move him toward the surface of a table, as if they’re going to place your dog on it. If your dog can see, he’ll move his legs to step onto the table.

– The pupillary light reflex test – In a dim room, your vet will shine a bright light into your dog’s eyes to gauge how his pupils react. This helps reveal whether there’s a lesion.

How to Care for a Blind Dog

The diagnosis of partial or full blindness is scary, especially because most of the time, there is no treatment. If your dog has cataracts, take him to a veterinary ophthalmologist right away. This specialist may be able to perform cataract surgery and restore some sight.

If your dog’s sight loss is permanent, don’t panic! Blindness in dogs is manageable. In fact, most dogs adapt to loss of vision better than their owners expect. In a survey of 100 SARDS dog owners, just 9 reported that they thought their dogs’ quality of life was poor. In almost all cases, they said their dogs’ ability to navigate their house and yard and new places was moderate to excellent! Dogs are incredibly adaptable, and with a little help from you, a blind dog can have a very fulfilling life.

Adopt some of these changes to make your dog as comfortable and capable as possible:

– If your dog is crate-trained, take advantage of that at first—especially if he has sudden blindness to confine him in a familiar space when you’re not around. If he’s not crate-trained, use baby gates to restrict him to safe areas.

– Add bells or tags to yourself and other animals in the house, so your dog knows where you are. This can be especially helpful outside.

– Get down on his level to discover and remove any dangerous obstacles, like table corners. If you can’t rearrange something, add essential oils or another scent to it, so your dog recognizes when he’s near it.

– Utilize textures! Put a carpet runner at the top of the stairs, so he knows when he’s approaching them or a mat under his food and water bowls to help him find them.

– Keep him on a leash outside, so he doesn’t wander too far away, at least until he gets used to your enclosed yard.

– If you need to introduce your pup to a new space, scatter dog food on the floor. He’ll use his nose to find it and move slowly, familiarizing himself with the area.

– Teach him important commands:

    • “Heel” keeps him from wandering away when on walks.
    • “Stop” or “wait” warns him when he’s approaching an obstacle like a table or a tree.
    • “Step (up or down)” tells him stairs are in front of him.

Don’t forget to play! Your dog may not feel like playing as often as he once did, and you might need to adapt play to include noisy toys, but no dog’s life is full without some fun.

If you think your dog is going blind, remain calm. Your dog is likely to be anxious and scared himself, so keep your voice low and your movements predictable. Reach out to your veterinarian to schedule official vision assessments. He or she will be able to give you helpful tips as well. If your dog is partially blind or still seeing, do what you can to protect and strengthen his eyes. Beta carotene is great for dogs and can be found in many foods they like, including cantaloupe and carrots. And make sure to visit the vet for routine care, so they can spot and treat illness or disease before they cause blindness.

Ready to make an appointment for your pup? Contact Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital today!

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