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Cataracts And Eye Sight Loss In Dogs With Anxiety Disorders


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A bit under a year ago, Justice's vet said during a check up that he had very early signs of cataracts, although I couldn't see anything. When he had his stitches from surgery taken out a couple of weeks ago, he was looking up towards the lights while waiting for the treats she gives him at the end of each appointment, and she noticed that his cataracts have grown and showed them to me. She said it shouldn't be affecting his vision much yet but he will start to have difficulty at night soon. I'm happy to do whatever I need to accommodate Justice as his eye sight deteriorates and will be buying a couple of lamps to leave on at night as a first step.

Hopefully the growth of the cataracts will continue to be very slow and not cause major problems for him but I like to think things through ahead of time, so am trying to work out potential issues and what we may have to deal with as it progresses. I know that a lot of dogs cope great with losing their vision, especially when it's gradual, so with a different dog I might not be as concerned. Justice has PTSD and as a result, has developed fears he never used to have, including loud noises like storms or fireworks, people yelling and noises where he can't see the cause (so something like a bang in the kitchen from something falling over when I'm in the lounge with him and can't be the cause of the noise, when the same noise wouldn't bother him if I was in the kitchen banging around), and has panic attacks when he sees another dog. I had thought that perhaps reduced vision may end up being helpful if a dog appears because he won't have a panic attack if he doesn't see it, but if the dog rushes him it could potentially be even more traumatic if he doesn't see it coming, as it was an attack where he was blindsided by the dog that triggered the PTSD and panic attacks. I'm fairly concerned that he may start freaking out about a lot more noises though, if it starts getting harder for him to see where the noise is coming from.

Has anyone been through loss of vision with a dog who has an anxiety disorder of any kind? Did you find that it made the anxiety worse and if so, do you have any suggestions for managing it and/or general tips on how to help Justice through this when it happens?

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No real help. Big hugs.

We used a night light for Guin as she started being able to see less. We have a lamp we were using for Scottie - but I found it was over-heating and scaring me - so we just leave a back light on (kitchen/dining area). We could probably do with just a touch more light in our room but we're limited with only one power point behind the bed.

I think big things for us were similar to all the stuff you read about dogs going blind - always making sure things were where she expected them to be- food, water, beds. She was a real shorty too - so even things like shoes being left in the wrong spot unstuck her.

But that's all slightly off theme from your post. Hope someone here can help / offer personal experience. You've got a great team around you (both) so I'm sure the transition will be.... as easy as it can be.

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Our papillon didn't go completely blind, but he did have cataracts and poor night vision. We had night lights for him both inside and out, and like Scottsmum his bedding and bowls were always in the same place. Just regular dog-with-reduced-vision things.

He didn't have any anxiety issues. It must be so hard on a dog with nose phobias, and the humans who love them. Thinking of you.

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Loki has cataracts and is a walking basket case :o His started around 7 or 8 years old and the first signs were personality changes, not the cataracts. In fact it made more sense when the vet picked them up. He started freaking out at storks, fire works, ect. He hates other dogs rushing him and needs long slow introductions. (not always possible :mad )

Bad news is nothing we did really helped. Rescue Remedy did at first, as did a Thundershirt but not always all the time. Same as keeping a light on for him at night. But he has calmed down a lot now, and he's now 14. Still a basket case and possibly getting a bit senile. Having a very strict routine helps. He hates change of any kind. For some reason he has become attached to various bedding and a chair and is less likely to stress if he has access to them over night.

I'm not really helpful :o

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.... We could probably do with just a touch more light in our room but we're limited with only one power point behind the bed. ...

For supplying a night light, even during blackouts, I bought a few solar garden lights on $2 special at Bunnings. They sit out in the sun and charge up every day, run their light all night. So I just have a couple near the house and can bring one or two in at night so the dogs have some light and pop them outside to re-charge in the morning, quick and easy. This was more for Piper who was always night-blind from young. Also put one by the front and back step so she didn't stumble at the step going in or out at night. (They are still going strong after three years, not bad for $2 each).

Snook, I mentioned in Scottie's thread, Frodo went through a bad stage of fear/insecurity when he started losing hearing and vision, but then he adjusted well and copes well. I don't know about taking an insecure vision-impaired dog on walks if there are possibly aggressive uncontrolled dogs about. Is there anywhere you can drive him for exercise/play that is 'isolated' and not over-run by off lead dogs or on-lead uncontrolled dogs? This whole issue is huge and was just one of our reasons for leaving suburbia - there are disadvantages to living in semi solation, but the dogs can run our little paddocks in absolute safety. (Maybe I should start a safe off lead exercise well fenced field 'business' but it's too far for anyone to travel).

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My parent's dog went gradually blind over the space of a few years, and she suffers from separation anxiety. I housesit for them on their regular trips away, and have noticed a few things change re her separation anxiety.

In many ways, she is more anxious. If she is awake, she wants to be near you (as she always has), but when she can't see you, she starts pacing through the house, banging into things as she gets more and more panicky. I tend to crate her to keep her safe when I have to leave her for short periods.

She can't read other dogs any more, and was T-boned by an off leash dog before I could body block it. She now occasionally snaps at other dogs, which she never used to do. You are right about the loss of vision helping here though, as most passing dogs she is blissfully unaware of.

On the plus side, she has coped phenomenally well with being blind. She still rough houses with my dog and it is amazing how gentle she is with her teeth when she can't even see where he is. My folks live on acreage, and we made a "bumper" for her so she could still go off leash on the trails and she was totally fearless wearing it. She quickly learned what a shouted "careful!" meant and would orientate really well to clicking or clapping but, if anything, was a bit too sure of herself when free ranging.

Aside from her separation anxiety, I would classify her as a very confident dog, so I think you are right to be concerned that Justice's PTSD may get set back further by being blind.

Let's hope his cataracts never become a real concern for him.

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... She quickly learned what a shouted "careful!" meant and would orientate really well to clicking or clapping but, if anything, was a bit too sure of herself when free ranging.

This made me laugh. I'm always amazed at how well they cope when they go deaf or blind. :heart:

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No real help. Big hugs.

We used a night light for Guin as she started being able to see less. We have a lamp we were using for Scottie - but I found it was over-heating and scaring me - so we just leave a back light on (kitchen/dining area). We could probably do with just a touch more light in our room but we're limited with only one power point behind the bed.

I think big things for us were similar to all the stuff you read about dogs going blind - always making sure things were where she expected them to be- food, water, beds. She was a real shorty too - so even things like shoes being left in the wrong spot unstuck her.

But that's all slightly off theme from your post. Hope someone here can help / offer personal experience. You've got a great team around you (both) so I'm sure the transition will be.... as easy as it can be.

Yeah, I don't think I'd be messing around with a lamp that overheats. While I'm in a small unit I can't see any issues with lighting things well enough for him, although it might be more of a challenge once we move but I'll cross that hurdle when I get to it. Whether I can sleep with a lamp on in my bedroom is another matter since I have insomnia as it is but I'm sure I can find a way to cope. Justice being able to see is more important to me anyway.

I knew I'd need to keep furniture and bowls etc in the same place for him but hadn't considered stuff like shoes lying around, so thanks for mentioning that.

Our papillon didn't go completely blind, but he did have cataracts and poor night vision. We had night lights for him both inside and out, and like Scottsmum his bedding and bowls were always in the same place. Just regular dog-with-reduced-vision things.

He didn't have any anxiety issues. It must be so hard on a dog with nose phobias, and the humans who love them. Thinking of you.

Thanks for the support.

Loki has cataracts and is a walking basket case :o His started around 7 or 8 years old and the first signs were personality changes, not the cataracts. In fact it made more sense when the vet picked them up. He started freaking out at storks, fire works, ect. He hates other dogs rushing him and needs long slow introductions. (not always possible :mad )

Bad news is nothing we did really helped. Rescue Remedy did at first, as did a Thundershirt but not always all the time. Same as keeping a light on for him at night. But he has calmed down a lot now, and he's now 14. Still a basket case and possibly getting a bit senile. Having a very strict routine helps. He hates change of any kind. For some reason he has become attached to various bedding and a chair and is less likely to stress if he has access to them over night.

I'm not really helpful :o

Justice is 11 this year. It must have been tough seeing Loki trying to deal with this while he was still so young. I'm sorry it's been so tough on him, and no doubt on you as well. Your post is helpful because it gives me an idea of what we could potentially be facing. Of course, Justice might surprise me and breeze through this issue, but I strongly suspect that he won't given how easily he gets distressed since developing the PTSD and panic attacks.

.... We could probably do with just a touch more light in our room but we're limited with only one power point behind the bed. ...

For supplying a night light, even during blackouts, I bought a few solar garden lights on $2 special at Bunnings. They sit out in the sun and charge up every day, run their light all night. So I just have a couple near the house and can bring one or two in at night so the dogs have some light and pop them outside to re-charge in the morning, quick and easy. This was more for Piper who was always night-blind from young. Also put one by the front and back step so she didn't stumble at the step going in or out at night. (They are still going strong after three years, not bad for $2 each).

Snook, I mentioned in Scottie's thread, Frodo went through a bad stage of fear/insecurity when he started losing hearing and vision, but then he adjusted well and copes well. I don't know about taking an insecure vision-impaired dog on walks if there are possibly aggressive uncontrolled dogs about. Is there anywhere you can drive him for exercise/play that is 'isolated' and not over-run by off lead dogs or on-lead uncontrolled dogs? This whole issue is huge and was just one of our reasons for leaving suburbia - there are disadvantages to living in semi solation, but the dogs can run our little paddocks in absolute safety. (Maybe I should start a safe off lead exercise well fenced field 'business' but it's too far for anyone to travel).

The solar lights are a great idea. I'll look in to those for outside, rather than leaving the back light on all night. They could be good if there is a long hallway or something in our next place, as I'm hoping to move from a small unit to a house with a big yard.

That's what we do now for walks. He can't cope with walking around the neighbourhood unless it's after about 10-11pm when normal people have their dogs at home and our main park is one we drive to that has a low risk of seeing another dog. We also sometimes use on leash parks in the CBD during the day as the likelihood of seeing a dog when everyone is at work is fairly low. Justice completely shuts down when he sees a dog at any distance, even if he's safe inside the car, so I'm already used to doing my best to avoid dogs. I can't control everything though and we have been rushed by a dog at our main park. I did everything I could to get out of there when we saw it coming over 100 metres away and got away without Justice seeing it but then it took off from its owners and ran about 200 metres to get to him (it's a huge area with two big ovals and a walking path) and the owners couldn't even see it any more from where they were. When it went back to them they didn't put it on leash and it came back for round two. It set him back hugely and he hasn't recovered from it yet even though it was months ago, so any dog doing that and him not seeing it coming could possibly be as traumatic for him as when he got attacked and didn't see it coming, given his mental state these days. He's miserable stuck at home though, so I can't not take him out at all even though there will always be some element of risk.

My parent's dog went gradually blind over the space of a few years, and she suffers from separation anxiety. I housesit for them on their regular trips away, and have noticed a few things change re her separation anxiety.

In many ways, she is more anxious. If she is awake, she wants to be near you (as she always has), but when she can't see you, she starts pacing through the house, banging into things as she gets more and more panicky. I tend to crate her to keep her safe when I have to leave her for short periods.

She can't read other dogs any more, and was T-boned by an off leash dog before I could body block it. She now occasionally snaps at other dogs, which she never used to do. You are right about the loss of vision helping here though, as most passing dogs she is blissfully unaware of.

On the plus side, she has coped phenomenally well with being blind. She still rough houses with my dog and it is amazing how gentle she is with her teeth when she can't even see where he is. My folks live on acreage, and we made a "bumper" for her so she could still go off leash on the trails and she was totally fearless wearing it. She quickly learned what a shouted "careful!" meant and would orientate really well to clicking or clapping but, if anything, was a bit too sure of herself when free ranging.

Aside from her separation anxiety, I would classify her as a very confident dog, so I think you are right to be concerned that Justice's PTSD may get set back further by being blind.

Let's hope his cataracts never become a real concern for him.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with your parents' dog. It must be difficult for them to see their confident dog become anxious and panicking at time and struggling with off leash dogs. It's great that she's generally coping pretty well though and is still able to do things she loves like playing with your dog and going for walks.

It would be wonderful if Justice's cataracts don't become much of a concern for him but it seems to be the pattern with him that not much goes smoothly and easily, so I'm not holding my breath. We'll deal with whatever comes but I cope much better when I'm prepared for things ahead of time. When he was diagnosed with a mast cell tumour recently, I didn't freak out because I'd already worked through the likelihood that one day our luck would run out and new lumps would stop being the benign fatty kind and it felt a bit different, so I kind of expected it. If I hadn't already been ready for it, I probably would have fallen apart as my resilience is very low when it comes to stress these days, which is why I want to be as ready as I can be for the worst case scenario and if it turns out to not be an issue, then that will be an awesome bonus.

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.... This made me laugh. I'm always amazed at how well they cope when they go deaf or blind. :heart:

What makes me laugh, and sometimes you need to laugh not to cry, is how the hearing magically tunes up when the eyesight is failing. And confirms they could hear everything but everything when selectively pretending not to. Love it.

I have a blind pony, and when Ben was sighted he was brilliant at 'playing deaf' to voice aids. Now he relies on voice to help him, amazing that a whisper two fields away is crystal clear because it suits him. Little bugger. And the coping is wonderful, he was enjoying play-fighting with his paddock buddy this morning, rearing up and striking then wheeling around with a high double-barrel back kick. And Arnold is good, he must realise Ben can't see because he always holds back, whereas out with the herd in earlier years it would be full-on.

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Industrial areas are super quiet outside business hours. That's where I first learnt to drive and park, as there's pretty much no one around on the weekend!

We've used deserted car parks before, and cemeteries, but I would be a bit worried that some businesses in industrial areas might keep yard dogs on site to guard it? Have you found that to be an issue at all?

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.... This made me laugh. I'm always amazed at how well they cope when they go deaf or blind. :heart:

What makes me laugh, and sometimes you need to laugh not to cry, is how the hearing magically tunes up when the eyesight is failing. And confirms they could hear everything but everything when selectively pretending not to. Love it.

That's a kick in the guts for dogs with noise phobias though. It's a shame that if a dog must lose his sight or hearing, the noise reactive dog can't always go deaf and movement reactive dog blind. Perhaps Justice will hear preceding warning sounds of something crashing and become less fearful with a warning, but it could swing the other way through back-chaining. :(

Mental illness sucks. If anyone's going to help Justice though, it's Snook. She's a champion. :)

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Industrial areas are super quiet outside business hours. That's where I first learnt to drive and park, as there's pretty much no one around on the weekend!

We've used deserted car parks before, and cemeteries, but I would be a bit worried that some businesses in industrial areas might keep yard dogs on site to guard it? Have you found that to be an issue at all?

I haven't. The industrial areas near me are mainly strata title complexes, though. I can imagine that if you were in the inner city where there's lots of old style industrial warehouses that might be an issue. You might have to scope it out in advance.

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You're so sweet, PK. Thanks for the kind words but I'm far from a champion. I struggle a lot with Justice's issues.

I'm inner suburbs but there are industrial areas not too far from here. I'll check them out. It might give us an option for going out on weekends as at the moment, we only do week days while everyone is at work, so he has to stay home on weekends. Speaking of which, we're just heading out to his favourite park now. :)

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You're so sweet, PK. Thanks for the kind words but I'm far from a champion. I struggle a lot with Justice's issues.

I'm inner suburbs but there are industrial areas not too far from here. I'll check them out. It might give us an option for going out on weekends as at the moment, we only do week days while everyone is at work, so he has to stay home on weekends. Speaking of which, we're just heading out to his favourite park now. :)

You do a bloody awesome job :heart:

I think we all struggle when caring for them is a bit harder than usual. I've cried more than once - over the standard SA stuff and in the last few days too. It's hard and it zaps you but at the end of the day I've got my boy and I wouldn't swap him for the world.

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Hi Snook, have you thought about cataract surgery for Justice?

First thing I would suggest is that you see an eye specialist. They will be able to assess Justice's eyes and tell you exactly what is going on and whether there is anything you can do. The thing is, if surgery is a possibility for you, you want to get onto it sooner rather than later.

As dogs age they can get cloudiness in their eyes (senile nuclear sclerosis) which is just a normal part of aging. These changes aren't cataracts and generally only affect night vision and close up vision. Surgery or treatment is not needed for these patients.

But cataracts are different and they do cause complete vision loss. They may progress slowly over a few months/years or very quickly (sometimes in a few days!). Whether you do surgery or not, cataracts need to be treated/managed. Surgery is recommended to restore vision, but if you decide not to do surgery you should treat the cataracts with drops. As cataracts progress they cause secondary problems in the eyes which are painful (including uveitis, glaucoma and lens luxation). So we recommend using anti-inflammatory eyes drops to prevent these problems.

If you decide not to do surgery, most dogs cope very well without sight. I would say 95% of dogs do fine and about 5% don't cope. There are heaps of things you can do to help a vision impaired dog.

- teach them key words such as 'step up', 'step down', 'slow', 'stop' etc.

- use scented oils around the house as markers eg lavender oil for food/water bowls, citrus for steps, etc. You only need a tiny drop and generally only need to do it once.

- don't rearrange your furniture or leave things lying around.

- treat your dog as normal as possible. Most dogs will just get on with life. Some dogs prefer to do a familiar walk every day, others are happy to mix things up.

-there are halos and goggles available but most dogs don't need them. We only recommend them for dogs that aren't sensible lol.

- a normal visual dog uses its nose for approx 70% of its navigation so it's not such a huge upheaval for a dog to go blind. Sight is nowhere near as important to a dog as it is to a human.

If you have any questions or want any more info, send me a pm. I'm happy to email you all the info we have on cataracts, blind dogs, etc. :)

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I feel the same way as you do, Scottsmum. No matter what Justice and I have gone through or what may be yet to come, I wouldn't be without him.

Thanks so much for all of that information, Kirty. I did do a bit of googling on cataracts and surgery and the information I read indicated that it's not as successful as it is in people and that there is a reasonable chance of it being unsuccessful or causing complications. I wouldn't make a decision on it without consulting with a specialist but I didn't get the impression that it would be likely to be a good choice for Justice. Then again, it was just random sites that came up on a search and I don't know how valid the information is.

I did read a bit about the cloudiness vs cataracts and the need to treat cataracts if you don't go ahead with surgery. Thank you for all of the tips for managing a dog with vision loss. I really appreciate it. I'd love to read anything you've got on cataracts and blindness, as at least I'll know it's from a good source and I'm getting the correct information. Any information about how successful surgery is likely to be would be great too. I'll send you a PM. :)

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I've had a lot of vision impaired or blind dogs :)

Way back before cataract surgery was even an option they did fine and still do. I wouldn't hesitate to go for surgery if a dog was freaked out or was still 'young' and had gone blind before their senior years. But so far they've just been senior, and normal plodders. IMHO their sense of smell is so strong, I think it would be the one sense that if they were robbed of it, it would effect their enjoyment of life.

My very first silky hated (feared?) strange dogs out in public, they didn't even need to be near her. :o We managed with a bit of caution but when she slowly lost her sight she slowly lost her stress about them. They simply didn't exist anymore.

In the earlier blindness days she lost it at a lady with her handbag over her arm. :laugh: it must have looked like a dog being carried (the woman didn't notice, she wasn't even close enough).

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I've had a lot of vision impaired or blind dogs :)

Way back before cataract surgery was even an option they did fine and still do. I wouldn't hesitate to go for surgery if a dog was freaked out or was still 'young' and had gone blind before their senior years. But so far they've just been senior, and normal plodders. IMHO their sense of smell is so strong, I think it would be the one sense that if they were robbed of it, it would effect their enjoyment of life.

My very first silky hated (feared?) strange dogs out in public, they didn't even need to be near her. :o We managed with a bit of caution but when she slowly lost her sight she slowly lost her stress about them. They simply didn't exist anymore.

In the earlier blindness days she lost it at a lady with her handbag over her arm. :laugh: it must have looked like a dog being carried (the woman didn't notice, she wasn't even close enough).

If surgery has a high chance of success and is in Justice's best interests, then I'm certainly willing to speak to a specialist about it. My priority is his well-being and happiness and I couldn't bear the thought of him going through unnecessary stress and anxiety from reduced vision. If Justice's only issue was something like being reactive towards other dogs (which is a big issue I know.. I'm not trying to minimise it), then it may be in his best interest to having less vision for the reason you said.. if he doesn't see them he doesn't stress about them. My biggest concern is the anxiety and noise phobia he's developed since being attacked and that it seems to be related to not being able to see the source of the noise. Less vision seems like it could well exacerbate that and have him getting stressed about a lot more things than he does at the moment. It's also not like he just jumps at the noise and recovers quickly. He gets very distressed, climbs all over me and depending on how bad the noise is for him, may shake uncontrollably. I've been through that happening multiple times a day when he had an adverse reaction to the first medication his vet behaviourist put him on and developed a severe noise phobia as well as extreme general anxiety. It was horrific. If coming off of the medication hadn't resolved most of it, he would have been headed for euthanasia because I just couldn't ask him to live like that.

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Surgery has much better success rates now than it used to. Dogs don't have the same success rates as people (for lots of reasons) but they are still very good. :) I will get some stuff for you tomorrow.

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