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What Causes Blindness in Dogs?

Some dog breeds are more susceptible to hereditary eye diseases that can potentially cause blindness

Breeds at high risk of developing blindness:

Due to Glaucoma
Bassett Hounds
Boston Terriers
Chow Chows
Cocker Spaniels
Great Danes

Due to Retinal Detachment
American Cocker Spaniel
Bedlington Terrier
Border Collies
English Springer Spaniel
German Shepherd
Miniature Poodles
Labrador Retriever
Miniature Schnauzer
Toy Poodles
Shih Tzu

Due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy Akita
Miniature longhaired Dachshund
Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Terrier

Other factors contributing to blindness include age, gender, and existing medical conditions.

Diabetes leads to cataracts, which can contribute to blindness. High blood pressure in dogs can increase the risk of vision loss due to retinal detachment. Older dogs often develop blindness associated with cancer and retinal detachment. Blindness can be slow and gradual or can occur suddenly due to injury or disease. More often than not, vision loss is a secondary symptom. It may signal a more serious condition requiring immediate veterinary attention. Blindness isn’t always permanent. It is sometimes temporary due to things like infection or stroke and may affect both eyes or just one.

How can you tell if your dog is suffering vision loss?

You may notice changes in your dog at the onset of the vision loss. However, most people will miss the initial signs and only notice once significant vision loss has set in. If you notice any sudden changes in behavior, please seek professional advice from a veterinarian. There may something going on requiring immediate attention. The following behaviors are common to a dog experiencing vision loss:

  • Clumsiness
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty finding food or toys
  • Loss of playfulness
  • Bumping into objects
  • Overly cautious when walking
  • High-stepping gait
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty playing catch
  • Depression
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Itching
  • Reluctance to move
  • Cloudiness

Testing for Blindness

Annual eye examinations will help not only identify blindness but other conditions as well. Your veterinarian will likely want to do a full exam to rule out conditions with vision loss as a secondary symptom. Blood work, an MCR and CT Scan, a cerebral spinal fluid test, and a neurological and ophthalmologic exam will help determine the cause and extent of the vision loss. Early detection is key.


Blindness requires adjustments for both you and your dog. It is important to treat your dog as normal as possible. This will help speed up the adjustment period, prevent depression, and reduce dependency. Do not coddle your dog or keep him from learning his environment. Picking up your dog too often will disorient him and increase his stress level. If you pick him up, try to return him to the same location facing the same direction. It will help build his confidence and maintain control. Try to use language to help prepare him for things like loud noises. Alert him to obstacles in his path by using an alert word or phrase consistently. Keep him physically and mentally challenged by introducing him to new places gradually. Help proof his daily surroundings by adding bells to the doors, establishing schedules and routines with all members of the household participating, and avoid rearranging furniture. Many of the things you can do parallel things you would do for humans suffering from vision loss and blindness.