Jump to content
CairnTalk

Eyesight in aging dogs


fiddler927
 Share

Recommended Posts

I discovered recently that my 13 year old Scottie, Black Lady, is blind in one eye. The vet says she doesn't have cataracts, so I don't know what has caused her blindness. My question is, is there any way to prevent dogs from going blind? Ellie is still a fairly young dog, just going on four years old, and she is in great shape. It's broken my heart to realize that the old Lady is losing her eyesight (and her hearing), and I just couldn't bear to see the same thing happen to Ellie. Any advice?

Laurie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know if this will help...here goes. Our littlest one has "dry eye", what this does is allow the eye to form ulcers and eventually cause sight loss. We put meds in her eye every day, and from a year ago the start of ulcers has decreased. The best way to help the dogs is to go to a specialist. I know this sounds repeatative. By hey, we also have been to a dentist and she had a root canal, been to a orthopedic for the knees. So there is no solution to blindness, but there is comfort and information that would help you...as for Black Lady, she sounds like she has adjusted and is still healthy. When you look at your dogs eye as see a blue hazziness that is the cataract, the ulcer looks like a white spot on the eye. Also if you have eye problems at certain time of the year, could be allergies. Deafness, well Ellie is going to tell you about what is going on faster than Black Lady. I did think my dear departed Shimba was deaf, funny how she could hear popcorn popping. Hey from the looks of it their nose sure comes in handy when the eyesight or hearing go. Don't you feel bad, age is what it is...we also shall be in that area of health some day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

terriers, including cairns, are prone to glaucoma. i had a shih-tzu who was blind in one eye from at least the age of five (when i adopted him). his other eye was affected by glaucoma and his eyesight gradually deteriorated in that eye as well. by the age of fifteen he was totally blind, and lived a good life for two more years.

i do think there are a few things to remember about dogs who are visually impaired or blind (a dog with eyesight problems is likely to end up blind in old age). first, the blindness itself is not in my experience a tremendous quality of life issue for a small dog, even the size of a scottie. if you dog is totally blind in one eye but the other eye is good, she might experience no real change in her vision at all, except for the narrowing on the blind side.

dogs live much more by smell and hearing than by sight, and perhaps by smell most of all (eventually my dog was both blind due to glaucoma and deaf due to age, and he plugged along very happily). dogs who spend their lives indoors have often memorized the location of doorways and objects so that many owners do not realize their dogs have vision problems until they rearrange the furniture or remodel the house. so long as they do not have to become paranoid of moving around because of being partly or wholly blind, dogs will enjoy life just as much because they will have delicious food and be able to touch you, just the same as always. small dogs can be picked up and carried around when necessary. unfortunately some terriers are sensitive about being touched when they are not expecting it. be sure to condition your dog to accepting your touch under all kinds of conditions. touch and pet her more frequently than you might otherwise. there will be times when you have to touch her to prevent her hurting herself, or pick her up to carry her upstairs or put her in the car. she should feel that this is never invasive or scary. this is critical. a dog who feels that not only her vision is gone but that she is now being unexpectedly poked, grabbed or abducted by mysterious hands will not be happy at all. bigger dogs have to be conditioned to accept a friendly guiding pull on the collar, scruff, or even tail if necessary. harnesses for bigger dogs help tremendously when guiding upstairs or even going for walks as usual.

all dogs are sort of visually impaired compared to people. they don't adjust well at all to going from light to relative darkness, and while they see moving objects excellently, they don't see still objects well at all, regardless of the color. in a way dogs spend most of their lives compensating for these vision deficits (compared to cats, people, birds, etc). a dog with poor eyesight will have these problems more seriously. baby gates are essential to prevent the dog accidentally falling downstairs, or venturing into any area where there could be serious hazards (like an open dishwasher door). you may find that she starts to follow the line of walls to orient herself, and she may take more time finding her food and water bowls, or her bed. give her the time! if you don't rush her she will figure out exactly how to manage her affairs, and she will appreciate the independence.

the real problem for dogs with problem eyes is pain. glaucoma hurts, a lot! so do the lacerations of the cornea or sclera that partly or completely blind dogs get from constant injury to their eyes because the cannot see when something is going to hurt them. you have to think ahead to prevent your dog injuring her eyes, and accept that even with good prevention she may still scratch her eyes accidentally. check her eyes frequently, in good light, to see that the eye has not been punctured or lacerated. punctured eyes (even if they have turned milky) are not as big a deal as it might seem --they can be sewn up for a few days to allow the eyeball to heal, and then will be perfectly good. a bigger problem is infection, so it is important to get injured eyes inspected and get on an antibiotic regimen if necessary. vets can easily check eye pressure to detect glaucoma (which might be a cause of blindness or might just set in even if the eye is already blind). have both eyes checked regularly, since glaucoma can affect sighed eyes and cause blindness, and affect blind eyes and cause pain. if glaucoma is present, you might have to treat regularly with a timoptic solution (this is expensive stuff, since it is the same medicine used in people, but considering the pain of glaucoma it is certainly worth it). remember that even with treatment glaucoma can get out of control, and can even "spike" in such a way that your dog can be blinded, temporarily or permanently, in a matter of hours.

a totally blind eye is nothing but a liability to a dog, and you should consider having it removed. this is a surprisingly hard decision to make, for most of us whose dogs are not in a critical life-or-death crisis (which can happen if infection or hemorrhage sets in). it is not a complicated operation, but it involves anesthesia, and in an old dog that is a serious matter. i had one of my shih-tzu's eyes removed (at age thirteen), and i am glad i did. it was a great relief to him, and an end to his problems of injuries, pain, and infections. since he had a lot of hair flopping over his face anyway it made very little difference in his appearance. we are used to looking into our dog's eyes (and the rest of their faces) and on some level we feel the dog will not be the same person, or we won't experience her the same, if this choice is made. it's not true! your dog will be completely your dog, and just as close to you (or closer) without an eye that causes her nothing but pain and suffering.

that said, such a choice is only one i would recommend if in fact the eye in question is totally and completely blind, which might take some time to ascertain. even the ability to tell light from dark, with no ability to make out detail, is a great asset to a dog and her independence. particularly with glaucoma patients, sight may "switch on" unexpectedly even after weeks of blindness. you will know if your dog suddenly starts to see. the recurrence of vision will likely be temporary, but i would not deprive a dog of the opportunity to have sight recur unless there is no other choice. i waited at least a year after the last recurrence of vision to be sure that my shih-tzu's sight in the blind eye would never recur before deciding to have the eye removed. it was the right decision after all hope of sight in the eye was gone and the eye itself was nothing but a source of pain, injury and a lot of worry for me.

there are several good websites for support of owners of blind or partially blind dogs. some discuss helpful devices, such as the "angel vest" (a vest that projects a very small and light rod in front of the dogs face to let it know when it is approaching an obstacle). i didn't find that my dog needed any devices, apart from baby gates or other barriers. his floppy hair always told him when he was near a wall or object, and he learned to use it extremely effectively.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to the both of you for your advice. I will have to take Black Lady back to the vet to see what might be done. I do know that she doesn't have cataracts: the vet said she has what he called "nuclear sclerosis," a hardening of the lens of the eye. He said that they don't usually go blind from that, just can't see as well in low light (as I myself am experiencing as I age). Also, she doesn't appear to be in pain. No ulcers, no injuries as far as I can determine. But the pupil in that eye is fixed and dilated, and she plainly does not see out of that eye.

I've had to learn to be careful waking her the last couple of years. Her hearing isn't what it once was, and when she falls asleep, she's really out, so if I touch her, she startles very easily. She's always been a gentle dog with me, but even a gentle dog will bite if startled, so I try to wake her very gently! Ellie, on the other hand, while she is playful and good natured, has shown herself to have a bit of a temper if provoked; I guess this is typical for her breed? I don't know a lot about Cairns, really, since I am an "accidental" Cairn owner!

Laurie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yes, they do have "tempers." i think they extremely good-natured dogs, but as terriers they are protective of their personal spaces, and are aware enough of everything around them to be able to anticipate trouble even if it doesn't arise. it's one reason i recommend that a dog with sight or hearing problems (or one on the way to them) be more carefully conditioned to tolerate unexpected touching. if a dog is deaf and blind, it might be best to alert it to your presence by walking heavily or moving its sleeping surface to awaken it before touching. none of us like to be awakened suddenly from a deep sleep --being unable to see who it is or hear an apology would make it double annoying! once you have a cairn's confidence you can probably get them used to anything. on the other hand, i think any terrier, especially a scottish terrier of some type, who is allowed to be possessive of its space can be a serious problem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Laurie, my 8-year-old Cairn has developed cataracts. I don't think yet about doing something about it after talking to the vet. I don't notice anything different about his behavior at this point. But I just feel bad for him, and am sorry about your Scottie Lady. Am grateful that you brought up this topic.

Pam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Once again, thanks to all.

Yes, PK, I know that my mother always warned me about terriers being potentially bad tempered; in fact, when I was about 7, I was bitten by my neighbor's fox terrier (after being warned numerous times to stay away from him, as he was bad-tempered). Not the first time I had been bitten, but it did make me a little more respectful of a dog's personal space! That's why I'm careful with Black Lady now.

Black Lady did bite me once: she had chased a rabbit across the yard, and when it dove easily through the chain-link fence, Black Lady, who was just a puppy, tried to follow. Her collar got caught on the fence, and she yelped terribly. She wasn't hurt, just frightened. Unfortunately, when I went to free her, she bit me out of her terror. Other than that, she did bite my grandson once (my son wanted to know what his son had done to her)!

Ellie has nipped at me a couple of times, but beyond that we've done a pretty good job of teaching her not to bite.

Pam, thanks for your kind words. I too notice that Black Lady is doing quite well, in spite of her handicap. Of course, at 13 she's not as spry as she once was: she doesn't get in on chases after rabbits and squirrels as much anymore (and of course, Ellie, being a Cairn and not being as close to the ground, is much faster). But she does still like to play and go for walks. She can tolerate quite a long walk without wearing out (I'm more likely to be worn out first).

Ellie is like the Energizer Bunny (do our friends in the UK know about the Energizer Bunny?): she just keeps going, and going, and going....

Laurie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register after. Your post will display after you confirm registration. If you already have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

CairnTalk.net

  • A meeting place and
    online scrapbook for
    Cairn Terrier fanciers.

ctn-no-text-200.png

Disclaimers

  • All posts are the opinion and
    responsibility of the poster.
  • Post content © the author.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Site Guidelines | We put cookies on your device to help this website work better for you. You can adjust your cookie settings; otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.