Taking care of your vision can often seem like a full-time job. You need to wear sunglasses even in overcast weather, you should never mess with your eyeglass prescription without first talking to your doctor, and the litany of daily tasks with contact lenses – cleaning, storing and replacing – can seem like busywork from your days in school. Fortunately, laser vision correction can help simplify your life and improve your vision past the point where you might’ve thought possible, but the popularity of LASIK and other similar procedures just proves that many people are interested in taking care of their eyesight.
But what about your pets’ vision? It’s easy to know when your own vision is going or when a friend has trouble reading things at a distance, but animals can’t very well tell you that the food in their bowl looks a bit out of focus this morning. However, healthy eyesight is just as important to you as it is to your furry friends, and it’s your responsibility as an owner to make sure your pets are taken care of. But how can you know if your pets’ eyesight is deteriorating, and what can you do about it?
A rough deal
Many owners find it hard to sit back and watch as their beloved family pets slowly lose their vision, and while this can be a stressful period for both you and your pet, you want to be sure what’s actually happening before you move forward. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explained that dogs and cats can both go blind from causes that also affect humans: traumatic injuries, progressive illnesses or just old age. Cataracts often develop in older dogs and cats, but pets can also be born blind. However, the ASPCA noted that this is a much different scenario. Instead of having healthy vision stripped away from them after living that way for so long, pets born without sight are usually very good at adapting to their circumstances.
However, the source did note a few behaviors that all owners should be on the lookout for in pets they suspect of having poor vision:
- Bumping into walls, low tables or other obviously positioned furniture
- Hesitating in new areas
- Staying in one spot for a long period
- Jumping or being startled when being petted.
All of these signs may indicate that your pet isn’t seeing as well as he or she used to. While vision isn’t the most important sense to a dog or cat, the sudden loss of it can throw their world into disarray – they may smell you when you come home, but there’s no visual information to confirm it. Imagine if you suddenly didn’t know who was walking into your home. Wouldn’t you be a little anxious, too?
Because animals usually use vision in conjunction with senses like hearing and smell, PetsBest.com explained that a simple test with a cotton ball can serve as a fairly reliable indicator of your pet’s vision. Grab a puff of cotton and make sure your dog is paying attention. Wave it in front of his or her face a few times, then drop the cotton ball from shoulder height. Because it doesn’t have a scent and doesn’t make a sound when it hits the ground, pets with healthy vision will think something’s wrong with it and go over to investigate. Blind pets, though, might not even know the cotton ball is there at all.
If your dog or cat fails this simple test, it might be time for a visit to the vet.
While humans who experience vision loss can simply undergo a custom LASIK procedure and be back at their normal lives usually within a day or two, pets have much fewer options when it comes to surgery. AnimalEyeCare.net explained that while the technology exists to replace the corneal lenses in dogs with artificial versions, there are some ethical concerns over the procedure, and animals’ eyes experience much more swelling and inflammation than humans’, making recoveries more perilous.
Surgery isn’t the only thing owners can do to make their pets’ lives more comfortable though. If you relied exclusively on hand signals to tell your pet to sit, stay or anything else, dog obedience blog Cesar’s Way recommended switching over to verbal commands. If your pet has gradual vision loss, he or she will come to associate the former visual commands with the new audible ones.
There are also some quick fixes you can apply to your own home to make it easier on your pet. The ASPCA noted that pets are very good at memorizing their usual surroundings, so you should try to leave the furniture in your home exactly where it is. Make sure common walking areas are clear. If you have to rearrange a room, do it gradually or limit it to areas where your pet doesn’t usually go.
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