Blindness in Cats and Dogs

Posted on June 12, 2015

Vision in cats and dogs is different than humans.   Their night and peripheral vision is better, but ability to see fine details and color less developed.  Animals can disguise vision loss by compensating with other senses, such as hearing and smell.

Sudden loss of vision is more traumatic for pets, as stumbling, running into objects or refusal to move may occur. When vision is lost gradually, pets adjust better.  Blind pets struggle when their environment changes such as rearranged furniture or moving to a new house.

How vision works

Normal working vision requires light to reach a properly functioning retina, optic nerve and brain function.  Retinal cell must be able to focus upon light properly with varying light levels to ensure color vision and motion perception.  Eye alignment and coordination of globes is also required. The ocular eye tissues (cornea and lens) both need adequate clarity.

At the veterinary visit

1.       Discuss with the veterinarian if the blindness was gradual or onset quickly

2.       If both eyes are affected

3.       If your pet sees better in the day, night or neither

4.       Any discomfort your pet may be experiencing

5.       Changes in behavior

A veterinarian will likely perform a full general health exam and to decide further recommended testing.  Blindness may affect other organs of the body.

Common causes of vision loss

1.       Cataracts

2.       Opacification of the cornea

3.       Inflammation inside the eyes

4.       Retinal disease, optic nerve disease or central nervous system

The disorders may be caused by infections, cancer, diabetes, injury, blood pressure, glaucoma, autoimmune, aging or hereditary origins.

Treatment

A veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible whenever visual impairment is suspected.

Many disorders when treated result in regained vision.  A veterinarian will establish the likely causes for blindness and offer testing to verify the diagnosis and possible treatments.

A referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist may be recommended for an eye evaluation and advanced testing of retinal function.  Many pets are able to adapt well to partial or even total vision loss after a couple of months. It is necessary to make sure blind animals function in a normal and safe environment free from swimming pool, vehicles, or other hazards.  Support groups, as well a publications and online information is avail to help pets and owners cope.