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What are Vision Problems?

Because your dog has such a profound sense of smell and hearing, loss of vision can go unnoticed. Vision problems can be difficult to diagnose, and range from red eyes that need moisturising drops, to inflammatory or infectious disease.

Your aging dog may find that his vision is compromised as he ages. If you suspect your dog is having vision problems, it is best to call your veterinary clinic and book an appointment with the specialist. Some vision problems are a symptom of early disease, so early diagnosis may help extend the vision of your pet.

Your dog uses several senses to get around but it’s important to keep their eyes healthy as vision loss can occur rapidly if left unchecked.

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Symptoms of Vision Problems in Dogs

Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart/liver disease can bring on vision changes.

  • Your dog’s eyes may be red and weeping with fluid which can affect the vision 
  • Cloudiness in the eyes
  • Changes to the colors of the eye 
  • Bumping into things (a sure sign that vision is impaired) 
  • Behavioral changes such as apprehensive behavior 
  • Pawing at the eyes or face 
  • Inflamed looking eyes, swelling or puffiness
  • Reluctance to go to unfamiliar places 
  • Squinting or partially closed eyes 
  • Startling easily or being confused 
  • Reluctance to jump or use stairs 
  • Aversion to bright light 


Vision and eye problems in your dog can be identified in specialised categories 

  • Hereditary - Canines can be born with a predisposition to have a certain trait such as an ingrown eyelid
  • Inflammation – Through inflammatory conditions or an infectious disease 
  • Congenital – Your dog may be born with a certain condition or affliction 
  • Trauma – Injury or damage through an event that affects the eyes
  • Tumor - Eye and eyelid tumors caused by disease

Causes of Vision Problems in Dogs

  • Vision loss and blindness can be a result of normal aging, injury, or disease factors 
  • Diabetes in dogs is rising with heredity playing a large part, with obesity and nutrition contributing factors 
  • Cataracts occur when the lens in your dog’s eye turns cloudy and prevents light from reaching the retina 
  • Glaucoma is a painful condition caused by fluid pressure inside the eye with damage to the retina and optic nerves 
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited condition; the retina deteriorates causing blindness and affects both eyes 
  • Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is much like PRA with no pain and deterioration of the retina but it develops suddenly and ends in total blindness in a matter of a few days or weeks
  • High blood pressure, Cushing’s disease, heart, liver, and kidney diseases can be a cause of vision loss 
  • Corneal ulcers from an eye injury or a foreign object in the eye 

These are just a few things that may alter the vision of your pet; a veterinarian check-up is vital if you want a chance of saving your dog’s eyesight.

Diagnosis of Vision Problems in Dogs

If you are in any doubt about the health of your dog or his vision, taking him to be given a full health examination is recommended. Rarely does a vision problem resolve itself; in fact, it can become far worse and cause permanent damage without treatment. Your veterinarian will check not only your dog’s eyesight but he will assess the overall health to see what may be contributing to the problem (such as obesity or parasitic conditions). Early intervention may allow medical or surgical treatments to be successful. 

Cataracts can cause the lenses of your dog’s eyes to become cloudy as he ages, and like humans, surgery is recommended and has a very high success rate in dogs who recover their vision (90%). Other eye and vision problems may just need specific eyedrops to clear as an example, a bacterial infection. Your veterinarian eye specialist may discover a foreign body in the eye causing a corneal ulcer and surgery may be needed to remove it. With so many probable causes, your veterinarian is your best choice to help solve any problems with your dog’s vision and health.

An ophthalmologist may be consulted. He will examine your pet’s eye and perform tests including a Schirmer tear test, fluorescein stain evaluation to check for ulcers and tonometry test which can detect glaucoma.

Treatment of Vision Problems in Dogs

Depending on the cause of your dog’s problem vision, whether disease, infection, or old age, your veterinarian is best advised to talk over the options with you. For example, an in-grown eyelid where the eyelid turns in causing the lashes to rub on the eye may need surgery to correct the eyelid. Diseases, such as diabetes which may be causing vision loss can be treated with a change in diet and exercise, and/or daily insulin shots. As with all disease the earlier it is found, the easier it is to treat and resolve. Glaucoma conditions may need medical and/or surgery treatments but are more successful with early intervention. 

With a gradual loss of sight, your dog will adapt quickly becoming more reliant on his other senses to get around. Training your dog early to stop or halt will help when you see that your vision impaired pooch is about to walk into something. Dogs can live quite adequately with impaired vision, if they don’t sense your worry and panic. Dogs who lose their sight quickly may take some time and reassurance to get used to their condition, and changes may be needed to the environment to enable him to move confidently around the home.

Recovery of Vision Problems in Dogs

While it is sad if your dog loses its eyesight, it is not the end of the world. They have such great personalities and acceptance and they will just get on with life using their other great senses. Don’t panic or fuss over your dog as it may make them concerned and sense something is wrong. Let them find their own way around, help them by calmly leading them around obstacles or saying ‘stop’ if they are well trained and they will find their own solution. Many dogs go on to lead a happy meaningful life even if they no longer have perfect vision. Other conditions have a positive prognosis for recovery, and after surgery or medication your dog can recover to lead a full life. Early detection of any vision problems is the key to successful recovery.

Vision Problems Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Vision Problems

Our chihuahua/terrier seems to be In great health but his bison seems to be getting worse but at close distance . He finds his toys by smell and brings to us if we throw it he goes after it. It loses it when getting close. The vet said sometimes dog lose sight and the adapt well but that didn’t give me any clue. He bumps I to things a lot worriesome because he hits is nose or head on walls but keeps going . Sometimes looks in wrong direction . His eyes are not cloudy but pupils are large all the time

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Golden Retriever
14 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

discolored pupil

Lily seems to have trouble
Seeing with one eye. She searches around when something is right near her. If we cover the “bad” eye the other is fine, when we reverse and cover the good eye. She acts like she sees nothing I front of her. She is otherwise in excellent condition. The bad eye seems to have a different color or almost looks like cataract

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Golden Retriever
One Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Vision Problems

I have a year old golden retriever. He seems afraid of any and everything from a distance including me. Once I get up closer to him he knows me. This is with other people and things too. He also seems to have a fear or trouble going between things that are close together a couch and chair or baby gate blocking 1/2 the door. He has bee afraid of his own shadow since a puppy. Should I be worried and is there anything that could be done for this.

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Cocker Spaniel
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Bloodshot, glossy, unfocused nkda

My daughters dog was groomed yesterday at his regular groomer. His eyes this morning are unfocused, bloodshot, and glossy. I used his regulator ear cleanser, antibiotic eye ointment , and nose gel for his psoriasis after coming home from the groomer. He is acting fine but, his eyes are what is abnormal. Earlier this morning he looked fine. This onset seems acute. Rocco is a cocker spaniel.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
I'm not sure what the cause may be for Rocco to have these problems with his eyes, and it may or may not be related to his grooming since he seemed fine this morning. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to eyes, and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to some eye conditions than other dogs. It would be a good idea to have him seen right away by a veterinarian to have an examination and make sure that everything is okay. They'll be able to look at his eyes and determine what is happening, and what treatment he may need.

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Pit bull mix
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Vision Problems

Adopted a stray, 1 yr old pit bull mix. We’ve noticed that she doesn’t always look straight at what she is seeing especially at distance and at low light. We know she can see cause she is new to the house and yard and navigates fine even at speed. Just seems to lose track at times.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
It is difficult to say without examining Chloe and looking at her eyes with an ophthalmoscope what the specific issue is. If she is otherwise in good spirits and health I wouldn’t be too worried but I would recommend keeping an eye on things and bringing this up with your Veterinarian at your next check up. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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