Vision loss in dogs

Vision loss in dogs doesn’t always happen at once. Dog owners may notice subtle things like the dog not knowing a dish is full unless it sniffs for the smell of food or hears the dish being placed onto the floor. It could be that the dog doesn’t seem to run toward birds, squirrels or other things that it used to flee to as a puppy. 

Maybe the dog is suddenly clumsy, or starts bumping into furniture during the day or night.

Whatever the curious incident is, dog owners must be vigilant about making sure their pets get regular veterinary check-ups.

PetMD has a few tips for signs that a dog may need to see a veterinarian immediately.

  • Hide a toy and see if your dog can find it in plain sight. This one can be tricky because a dog’s sense of smell may still be strong. For that reason, you may want to consider washing the toy first. Otherwise it’s too easy to fool the owner.
  • Pay attention to change in eye color. For anyone who knows someone with cataracts, the signs will be noticeable. The eye color will appear to be an almost blueish gray shade and look cloudy. Check with a veterinarian to verify whether the dog has nuclear sclerosis or cataracts. Nuclear sclerosis may not affect the dog enough to need any kind of corrective surgery. However, there are chances that it may. Let a pet health professional make that call though.
  • Night vision. Similar to the toy trick, this one can be a bit tricky to detect, too. Just as homeowners or apartment dwellers get used to being around their own furniture in the dark, dogs will, too. In order to verify whether a dog is having trouble at night, you may need to move some furniture around just to see if he or she notices something is out of place.
  • Is it edible? Dogs will usually run to their dishes any time the owner places something inside, assuming it’s food or water, so try testing out dog treats or unfamiliar foods away from the dish. If the dog doesn’t seem to see this new gift but can smell it, this is a sign that another sense (smell) is being used to compensate. However, dogs commonly smell unfamiliar things anyway. Pay more attention in how often they have to smell things to even know that the edible item is in the room at all.
  • Pay attention to squinting. This could be a sign of vision problems or an eye injury, such as a scratch on the cornea. Signs of cancer may also be linked to squinting.
  • Discharge or inflammation. Unfortunately this is a common symptom of fungal infection (blastomycosis), a fungal infection that is linked to wood and soil. Contact a veterinarian immediately to treat this.

As with humans, the number of times that a dog should see a veterinarian may vary, depending on breed behavior and everyday incidents. A general rule of thumb, according to VCA Hospitals, is monthly visits for puppies, annual visits for adult dogs in the early years, and semiannual visits for middle-aged and senior-level dogs.


Shamontiel L. Vaughn contributed to this blog. Find out more about her at