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Retinal Detachment in a Dog – Advice for Blind Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

Dear Dr. Debra,

I'm just e-mailing the group in hopes of some MAJOR support. Today my partner and I learned that our 2-year-old Boston terrier has Detached Retina's in both eyes.

I can't tell you how, in learning this, overwhelmed and devastated we were. (And still are - utter shock!) Just yesterday evening Charlie was running with our other dog, Violet (a Brussels Griffon), in the dog run, chasing his favorite tennis ball and just yesterday evening Charlie started reacting a little "odd".

When I would call Charlie's name, it's as if he was looking to HEAR my voice as opposed to looking at me straight in the eyes, which he normally did. I threw his favorite chew toy over the couch in the hopes that he'd make his normal beeline for it, and as he jumped off the couch to retrieve his crazy chicken, he ran right past it. My heart began to sink and then I tried the same thing with one of his favorite treats. I asked him to sit, give me a down, a big bear and then I placed the treat right in front of him a few inches away and gave him his release word - "OK" I said, and to my worst fear, he walked right past the treat and sniffed it out to retrieve and eat it. I knew then that something was wrong.

We called our vet immediately who gave him a thorough eye examination and referred us to a specialist here in NYC. She looked at my baby boys eyes and to my astonishment, she exclaimed that both of his retinas had been detached. I'm still numb and we're awaiting the blood work results to make sure there is no other underlying cause for his detachment. (His blood work tests have since come back and his blood work is fine.)

My big fear is, now we face a world that is dark. Not only for Charlie but also for myself, my partner and Violet. How does a perfectly healthy 2-year-old dog who just 24 hours ago was running and playing adjust to a world where something or someone is turning off the light? How do I give him a "good quality of life" when it tears my heart out to see him struggle, re-adjust, reprogram and try to make sense as to what's happening to him.

I would love some insight, some help and someone to say it's going to be all right and it can be done and that Charlie can have a good quality of life - light or no light. I'd like to believe that there's still some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel...it seems to be getting a little dark for all of us.

Alone in the dark in New York City - Dante, Aaron, Charlie and Violet

PS - Thanks and any and all help or suggestions as to what we could
do to improve Charlie's quality of life would be greatly appreciated.

Dante Sciarra - Bronx, New York


Answer

Hi Dante– thanks for your email. I'm so sorry to hear about your dog! What must have been awful to deal with. There are several causes and it sounds like your veterinarian and the specialist are trying to figure out the cause. We have a very good article on retinal detachments in dogs. Go to Retinal Detachment in Dogs. This article discusses the common underlying causes.

The underlying cause will help determine if any aspect of his vision will return.

I have to tell you, I've diagnosed many blind dogs that the owners had not idea. When the vision loss is gradually, dogs compensate amazingly well. Some owners only realize their dog is blind after they get a new living room set or rearrange the furniture in their homes. Dogs are amazing and can really deal with blindness.

When the vision loss is sudden, most owners will recognize the change, as the dog has not had time to compensate. Certainly, it takes time and patience as dogs adjust. I have an article for you to read about living with a blind dog. Go to this article and see what you think.

Regarding quality of life, I seen blind dogs that are otherwise healthy have very good quality of life. As I mentioned, it takes more patience and time on your part but blind dogs can have a very good happy life.

When living with a blind dog, safety is important. Dogs should only be leash unless confined in a fenced in yard under supervision. You need to restrict access to balconies, bodies of water such as swimming pools, and open decks. You need to be consistent in your furniture and their immediate surroundings e.g. placement of their water and food bowls.

Please, email me and our users and let us know what happens.

Best of luck!


Dr. Debra



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