Rescue Journal

more about blind dogs...

Carol  ·  Aug. 25, 2010

lucky, by the way, is feeling much better today!

anyway..i had a call today from someone considering various options for their 9 yr old blind shitz that is not coping too well with her blindness. the vet referred them on to me so we had a frank discussion ( ie..i talked, he listened) about the realities surrounding blindness in dogs, management strategies, differing coping skills of the dogs (and their owners), quality of life issues, surrendering to a shelter or sanctuary and euthanization.

afterward i was thinking..i really am no expert on this..i just know what i know (and what i think i know but maybe don't really!) who am i talk to anyone about the issues while struggling with the decisions they are trying to make.

when i got home, i went back and figured out how many blind dogs i have had..the number surprized the past 6 years i have had 31 dogs (plus a few cats) that i consider to be virtually blind (some may have had the ability to see dark and light but i am not sure about that because they couldn't tell me.)...but visually i knew that they could not see well enough to identify much of anything and relied on their other senses mostly instead.

anyway...maybe that does make me a bit of an experiential expert cuz not too many other folks have lived with that many.
soooo..i am glad that i took the time to speak with him and tell him some of what i know.

but here is the thing i did not think to share..blindness is not a singular event for anyone. it is a combination of many things....the extent of the actual blindness, the personality and coping ability of the dog...the tendency to think in positive or negative terms for BOTH human caregiver and dog, the physical environment and how easily it can be adjusted to meet the dog's needs and how much disruption, if any, that will cause for the other humans and animals living in the same home. it depends on how much time the caregivers are willing and/or able to invest in ensuring that the affected blind dog feels good, feels confident about his or hers place in the family's normal and every day life. it also depends on other animals and how they react to the blindness of one, if other animals are not good with the blind one..the blind one will always feel unsafe and at risk. and finally it depends on what are the expectations of everyone surrounding the blind dog......because unfair or unrealistic expectations not only sets the dog up to fail...but..dogs know when they are not quite measuring up to snuff and this erodes their confidence and feelings of wellbeing even more.

it is easy to sprout off a whole bunch of advice and tell others, well... you should be doing this, or should not be thinking about certain things like euthanization or should be doing whatever it takes to deal with your blind dog. the problem of course is this....there are so many different factors beyond just the blindness thing that telling someone what they should or should not do based on my own experience, skill sets, capabilities or really unfair and not very helpful either...i don't know them...i don't know their dog and i am not living that life and walking side by side thru thick and thin with any of them.

so...what did i tell him?...i told him what were some of the things that we did to give our blind dogs a life that was comfortable for them here. i invited him to come out and visit during one of our tours and see what living at a full and busy sanctuary was like for various unique individual blind dogs (we currently have 5 or 6 full or significantly visually impaired) and how we had chosen or adjusted their environments to suit each of them individually. i also said that any animal, especially a blind one, found shelter living much more difficult and challenging than predictable and familiar family home living.

and finally i said that when making decisions in the best interests for our beloved furry friends....if those decisions are given careful and considerate thought..if those decisions are based on respect and caring and a very deep love and concern to do what is right and best (ie not selfishness, laziness, guilt, or fear)...the answer that comes, will be one that can be lived with, no matter what it happens to be....committed and continued problem solving and management, surrender or euthanization.

of course the hard thing for me personally is..i will probably never know the final outcome for that little blind dog..unless they decide in the end to surrender the dog here...which i really hope they don't.



Another good resource:

Levin, C. D. (2003). Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide For The Owners of Blind and Low-vision Dogs (2nd ed.). Oregon: Lantern.

We purchased this book before we adopted Arthur and found it helpful. The author, Caroline Levin, is a registered nurse.


One of the best resources I have found for coping with blind dogs is Rolling Dog Ranch Sanctuary, now located in New Hampshire. They take in many, many blind cats, dogs and horses. As Carol says, every situation is unique but their site might be of use to people looking for more information on blind animals:


I think each blind dog has to be evaluated on an individual basis. Our Arthur was totally blind but was a very confident boy. However when his hearing started to go last year, losing this very key sense he really relied on had a really big impact on him. From my experience of owning a totally blind dog, moving a blind dog out of their familiar environment is something that needs to be considered very seriously, particularly when they are older and have other health challenges. No easy decisions unfortunately.


yup I would agree. of all of the blind dogs I have have known you to have some do cope better than others and have a higher quality of life because of it and it is a combo of many factors. Hope the little guys works it out with him family though.