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What is Losing Sight?

A dog’s sense of sight outperforms a human’s sense of sight, even though they do not see in color. A dog’s eyes are positioned differently than humans and they can view a much larger area at a time. There are also dogs that are used to hunt, and various sight breeds depend on their sense of sight to be able to capture their prey.

When a dog begins to lose his sight, it can be heartbreaking for the owner. Dogs that become older in age or have underlying health conditions have been known to lose their sight, and it can be difficult to watch this sense deteriorate.  However, dogs are very adaptable creatures, and it may not be as difficult for them as it may be for the loving owner.

Dogs can lose sight for a variety of reasons. It can be due to a serious health issue, such as a tumor behind the eye or in the brain, or as a result of aging’s natural process. Reasons that dogs may lose sight include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Eye infections

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Why Losing Sight Occurs in Dogs

There are several different reasons why dogs go blind. Typically, it is due to an underlying health issue. Reasons why blindness can occur are:


Diabetes is the inability of the body to produce insulin, and can cause significant changes to the blood vessels, even in the eyes. High blood glucose levels damage blood vessels and when the blood vessels of the eyes are damaged blindness can occur.


Cataracts are the clouding of the eyes’ lenses, and can cause blurry vision in beginning and then blindness later on if not treated. If your dog has cataracts, your veterinarian can give you treatment or surgical options to possibly prevent him from losing his sight.


Glaucoma can cause loss of vision by too much pressure. The fluid does not drain adequately and the pressure builds. This pressure can cause blindness if not treated by a specialized veterinary ophthalmologist.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is a degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. This condition is a genetic abnormality, and, unfortunately, there is no treatment. Research is still being conducted on possible treatments that can slow down the progression of the illness.

Eye Infections or Injuries

There are several different eye infections that, if left untreated, can cause loss of vision. Eye infections can begin with a cold or allergy, a scratch on the lid or cornea, an injury to the eye, a fungal infection, or can come from bacteria. Viruses can also cause eye infections.


A tumor either behind a dog’s eye or in the brain, either benign or cancerous, can cause blindness. Tumors are often hard to diagnose in the beginning, as the dog may not be showing any signs early on.

What to do if your Dog is Losing Sight

If you are noticing signs that your dog may be losing his sight, such as clumsiness, walking around aimlessly, bumping into furniture and walls, exhibiting nervous behavior, or just not being able to find things, then make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will begin by asking questions about your dog’s symptoms. He will need as much information from you as possible as to when you began noticing something amiss in his behavior, and if there are any other symptoms involved. He will take a close look at your pet’s health history and his age, and will perform a complete physical examination, including taking blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. He will also perform a thorough eye examination. These tests will give the veterinarian preliminary results and will help him determine what direction to take in terms of more laboratory testing.

Your medical professional may then choose to perform a neurological examination, a CT scan, and test his spinal fluid. Any other tests performed will be determined by your veterinarian, and your dog may even be referred to a veterinary vision specialist.

The treatment your dog receives will depend on the underlying health condition. Unfortunately, blindness is irreversible in most cases; however, there are ways to help your companion (and you) adjust to this condition. You can adjust your lifestyle and environment for your dog by doing several things. These actions by you do not take much effort, and can make your dog more comfortable. 

Be sure to keep your dog on a set schedule for meal times and keep the food and water bowls in the exact same place. Even being moved by a few inches can confuse your dog, so you may want to use small stickers as to wear the dog bowl should always go. Using the same commands, in the same tone of voice, each time a meal is ready will also help. If you go for a walk, take the same route each time so he can become very familiar with the smells and the feel of the ground beneath his feet. Be sure to take a route that is safe and typically animal-free; a barking dog or loose animals may scare your companion. You will need to start slow at first, but once he gains confidence, he will be able to walk perfectly fine.

Safety-proof your house by covering sharp corners on tables (or even removing some of the tables altogether), use a ramp for outdoor steps, and be sure your home is clutter-free. Some dog owners use scents to allow the dog to know where he should and should not be. For example, you can use a vanilla scent under rugs to show him that he is in a particular room. Some owners use plug-in scents to keep their dog familiar and comfortable with his setting.

Prevention of Losing Sight

It may be difficult to actually prevent blindness, as it can come on suddenly once you notice a change in his behavior. You can, however, prevent him from the difficulties adjusting in the beginning.  Making your house more of an “open space” and avoiding moving any furniture can prevent your dog from having difficulty around the house. Always occupy your dog outside as well.

Talking and petting your dog often can help prevent your dog from losing self-confidence and feeling lonely. As a loving dog owner, give your blind dog a lot of attention and companionship so he can feel secure.

Regular veterinary visits can detect early stages of infections, glaucoma, or other health conditions that can affect your dog’s vision. Be sure to have regular check-ups with your medical professional and especially if your dog is having symptoms concerning his eyes.

Cost of Losing Sight

The cost for treating glaucoma is approximately $900. Having glaucoma diagnosed early can help prevent vision loss. Other underlying health conditions such as eye injuries have a treatment expense of approximately $600.

Losing Sight Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Labrador Retriever
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


My dogs eyes are unable to focus. They look like they are rolling back in her head or going off to the side. She can't keep them open for long and has been sleeping a lot. Other then that, she has been acting normal. She is eating, going to the bathroom normal etc. what could this be?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
684 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without seeing her, I'm not sure what might be going on with her eyes, or her vision. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as soon as possible, as they'll be able to examine her, determine what might be going on with her, and what treatment options there might be. I hope that she is okay!

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