This Is How to Tell If a Dog Is Going Blind

by | Jun 10, 2020 | Health and Nutrition

Your dog’s tail might be wagging, but silent signs of vision problems take a toll on your pup’s quality of life.

With 89.7 million dogs owned throughout America, it’s no doubt we love our pooches. But as dogs age, be on the lookout for signs of blindness. Early detection and treatment are crucial to ensuring your pup lives a healthy and happy life.

Let’s review the causes of vision problems, how to tell if a dog is going blind, and treatment options.

What Causes Blindness in Dogs?

Similar to humans, dogs can go blind for various reasons. Diseases, trauma, and old age are the most common culprits behind canine vision problems.


Cataracts damage the water balance in the eye lens and cause cloudy vision. Most cataracts are hereditary, with over 100 dog breeds known to have high rates of the disease. 

Glaucoma causes fluid to buildup and puts pressure on the eye, resulting in retina and optic nerve damage. Forty percent of dogs with glaucoma end up blind within one year.

Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) can occur in any dog breed. The illness is most prevalent in middle-aged female dogs. The disease is gradual but leads to permanent blindness.

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of dog blindness, making it imperative to ensure your dog eats right and exercises. One in ten dogs will become diabetic, and 75% of diabetic canines lose their vision.

Overweight humans and dogs are more prone to diabetes. Make it your mission to keep you and your pooch in healthy shape through proper diet and exercise


Accidents happen, especially to excited puppies. If your pet goes through a traumatic incident, blindness may occur. 

Vision problems are most common in dogs who are hit by cars, receive facial wounds, or survive housefires. Anything that causes damage to your dog’s eyes, brain, or nerves can lead to permanent blindness.

Old Age

Senior dogs are more likely to have eye problems. Vision changes tend to occur around 7 years of age, although owners may not notice anything until the dog is 10 or 11 years old.

How to Tell If a Dog Is Going Blind

Your dog’s eyes give away warning signs of early blindness. While doing a checkup, pay attention to each eye. Dogs may suffer blindness in one eye, but not the other.

1. Check the Eyes

Check your dog’s eyes once a month. Early treatment prevents full-blown blindness.

White spots and crusty buildup around the eyes are a sign your dog is going blind. Small specks create a veil over the eye. They may be early symptoms of glaucoma or cataracts. 

Shine a flashlight at your dog’s face. Normal pupils adjust in different lights, similar to human eyes. If the pupils do not dilate from the light, your dog may be going blind.

Stare at your canine. A blind pooch will have limited eye contact. If your dog fails to meet your gaze, it might be due to vision loss.

2. Watch for Clumsy Behavior

As your dog’s vision fades, he or she will exhibit abnormal behavior. Observe your dog’s normal routine, from playing to feeding.

Clumsy behavior is a telltale sign your dog is going blind. Your dog may bump into furniture, misjudge leaps, or fall off furniture. Your dog may be apprehensive about running and jumping due to vision loss.

Rearrange your furniture to create a dog-friendly obstacle course. See if your dog can complete it and observe particularly clumsy behavior. Try doing this at night, since nighttime vision is the first to fade.

3. Test Your Dog’s Reflexes

Dogs instinctively blink when objects approach them. Slow or diminished reflexes are a way to tell if your dog is blind.

Use a room with normal lighting. Cover one of your dog’s eyes. Slowly bring your hand close to the open eye. Your dog should blink as your hand approaches.

When testing your dog’s reflexes, move your hand slowly, so your dog isn’t alerted. Avoid touching their whiskers, as this can irritate your pooch.

If your pup fails to blink in either eye, schedule an appointment with your vet.

You can also use a cotton ball to test reflexes. Cover one of your dog’s eyes and drop a cotton ball. Release the cotton ball above the dog’s head, so they don’t see where it came from.

As the ball drops, your pup’s eyes should follow it. Once the ball is on the ground, your dog may sniff or try to eat the cotton ball. 

If your dog responds to the cotton ball, it’s a sign of healthy vision. If your pooch doesn’t acknowledge the object, there may be an eye problem.

4. Look for Behavioral Changes

Is your dog blind? You can detect signs of vision problems in your pooch by observing subtle behavioral changes. 

Signs of blindness in dogs include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and low energy
  • Aggressive or defensive behaviors
  • Depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Hesitation to explore new places or areas of your home
  • Diminished desire to play or exercise

Dog owners should be familiar with their pup’s normal behaviors. Changes in how your dog plays, acts, or sleep means something isn’t right. 

5. When in Doubt, Visit the Vet

If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, take Fido in to see your local vet. Blindness in dogs is common as canines age, but early treatment is the most effective way to ensure your pup maintains healthy vision. 


This Is How to Tell If a Dog Is Going Blind

Treating Blindness in Dogs

If your vet detects blindness in your dog, he or she will devise a treatment plan. The treatment may consist of medications, eye exercises, and a better diet.

Nutrient-rich foods can prevent and protect your dog’s eyes. Some of the best foods for dogs with vision problems are:

  • Blueberries (antioxidants)
  • Broccoli (phytonutrients)
  • Small fish (omega fatty acids)
  • Carrots and pumpkin (carotene)

For severe blindness, some dogs may require surgery.

Fine New Health Hacks for You and Your Pooch

By following these tips, you can tell if your dog is going blind and seek treatment. Early detection is key to ensure Fido maintains clear vision and lives his best tail-wagging life.

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