By Karen Belfi
I think we can learn many life lessons by living with a blind dog. They teach so much about courage, joy and love. Opening up your home to a blind dog is an amazing experience, and one I highly recommend. However, there are some things you should know beforehand. Here are some questions that you should consider when thinking about adopting a blind dog.
- What is the cause of the eye problem? Is there a treatment and, if so, what is the cost? Eye issues are caused by many things. Some are treatable, and that treatment could be expensive or may even require surgery. You need to know what the treatment is, if you can afford it and if you’re prepared to care for a dog needing the required treatment
- Does he/she have any vision currently? Some diseases, like cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cause a dog to lose his vision gradually. Other conditions may cause vision loss, but not total blindness. If he has some vision, it may make it easier for the initial adjustment. However, even if he is totally blind, he can still adjust to your house and yard.
- Will the condition worsen? Is this a condition that is stable or can the condition get worse? Sometimes the eyesight will stabilize, other times the dog’s vision will get worse.
- What veterinary follow up is necessary? You need to know when, and how often, your dog will need to see the veterinarian. Ask whether a regular vet can treat this condition, or if you will need to see a veterinary ophthalmologist.
- What commands does he know? It will be helpful for you to know what commands your dog has been taught. Often blind dogs are taught “watch” for things in their way, and “step up” and “step down” for curbs, stairs, etc. There are lots of other ones, and knowing what commands he knows will help you keep him safe.
- What do I need to keep him safe? There may be obstacles in your home that could be dangerous for a blind dog. For example, gating steps and trimming bushes that have eye-height branches are two ways you can keep your blind dog safe from harm.
- How well does the blind dog adapt to change? Some adapt well and quickly, while others take time. You need to be aware of how adaptable your potential new family member is.
- Are there any sounds/smells/surfaces that make him nervous? My blind dog, Pete, won’t walk on grates on the sidewalk. Others are afraid of traffic sounds. It will be helpful for you to know so you can gradually work on this issue.
Beyond these specific questions about blind dogs, there are basic questions you should ask before adopting ANY pet. (Read Petfinder’s Pet-Adoption Checklist for the questions to ask.) If you’re ready, you will be opening yourself up for an amazing experience. Your blind pet will teach you more than you can possibly imagine!
Karen Belfi is the President of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehoming blind and visually-impaired dogs. She and several others founded BDRA after realizing how many blind dogs in shelters fall through the cracks. She is an RN and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three dogs, two of whom are blind. She has had many blind foster dogs over the years and never fails to be amazed by their resilience, their joy, and their courage.