If you observe your dog struggling to navigate their surroundings, it could be an indication of potential vision issues, whether in one or both eyes, or even partial vision loss. Conducting simple at-home dog eyesight tests can provide an initial glimpse into your furry friend's visual health.
Should you detect any alterations in your dog's eyes or vision, a prompt visit to the vet can make a significant difference. In some cases, timely intervention can lead to a full restoration of your dog's vision. Dogs experiencing eye troubles should ideally be seen by a vet within 24 hours for the best outcomes. Luckily, there are simple tests you can perform at home to get an idea of your pup's visual acuity. So let's get started!
Dog eye test #1: Dog Obstacle Course
Turn your living room, backyard or porch into a pup-friendly obstacle course! Set up a few hurdles, rearrange some items (safely, of course!), and create a little maze. The objects can be ordinary items like chairs or bins. Use whatever you want, just make sure to establish a clear course path. Then, encourage your dog to navigate through it. A pup with good vision will tackle the course with confidence, while one with vision problems might hesitate or bump into things. Be careful not to be over enthusiastic as this may cause the dog to rush, hence creating an ineffective assessment.
If you have stairs in your home and your dog has handled them well in the past, observing your dog going up or down a flight of stairs can provide insight on vision impairment. A dog who is reluctant or hesitant to go up or down the stairs may be showing signs of vision impairment, but it's important to consider that this reluctance can also be indicative of orthopedic problems.
Dog eye test #2: The Menace Response Test
This one sounds intense, but it's actually quite gentle. Dogs blink when something gets close to their eyes. This test is performed by quickly passing an object close to your dog’s eye to test his blinking reflex. The test should be done in a room that has normal lighting.
Stand about a meter away from your dog, make sure they're aware of your presence, and then quickly and gently "threaten" to touch their eye with your hand (but you don't actually touch them!). A dog with good vision will blink or move their head away in response to the perceived threat. If your dog doesn't react, it might be an indication that they're having trouble seeing.
Dog eye test #3: The Pupillary Light Reflex (PLR)
Grab a flashlight and head into a dimly lit room. Make sure your pup is comfortable and relaxed. Hold the flashlight one or two inches from the dog’s eye and shine the light into one of their eyes. Observe the reaction of their pupils. They should constrict (get smaller) in response to the light. This is called the pupillary light reflex.
When it is dark, the dog's pupils will dilate (get bigger) to facilitate better vision. When you shine light into the eye, the presence of light will cause the dog’s pupil to constrict. Do this with both eyes to ensure both are reacting appropriately. If you notice that your dog's pupils are still dilated, then this is a clear indicator that your dog is suffering from visual problems and he is not able to detect light easily. A prompt visit to the vet is highly recommended in this case.
Dog eye test #4: The Dazzle Test
This test is a bit like asking your dog to attend a canine rave party! In a dark room, switch on a bright light (but don't point it directly at your dog's eyes). Watch how your pup reacts to the sudden change in light. A dog with good vision will likely squint, blink or turn their head away. If your dog doesn't seem bothered, it might be a sign of vision issues.
Dog eye test #5: The Cotton Ball Test
This test requires a cotton ball and a well-lit space. You can consider covering one of the eyes and switch after the first test to examine both eyes. Grab a cotton ball and toss it gently in front of your pup. A dog with good vision will track the movement smoothly and follow it with their eyes. If your dog seems disinterested or has trouble following the cotton ball, it could be a sign that they're struggling with their vision. The cotton ball works well in this test because it doesn't make an audible thud when it lands.
How to care for your dog's eye health
These five tests can be helpful in testing your dog's vision at home, but only your vet can diagnose eye problems in your dog. Even if your dog does not suffer from any eyesight problems, she will still benefit from routine visits to the vet. Your vet can catch potential eye problems early.
Keep your dog’s eye clean
Gently wipe away any gunk or discharge from your dog's eyes with a clean dog eye wipes like this Artero Cosmetics Finger Eyes Wipes For Dogs. This helps prevent infections and remove unsightly tear stains. Sometimes supplementation with lutein and omega-3 is necessary to stop tear stains. Discuss with your vet if your dog needs additional nutrients for her eye health. Naturvet Tear Stain Supplement Plus Lutein Soft Chew Soft Chew Dog Supplement is a good choice as it comes complete with multiple nutrients for your pup’s eye health.
Our furry companions' eyes are sensitive, and they can easily be irritated by harsh chemicals found in everyday products. When it comes to grooming and cleaning routines, it's crucial to choose items specifically formulated for our four-legged friends. Look for shampoos and cleaning solutions that are labeled as pet-friendly and free from harsh additives. These specially designed products are gentler on your dog's delicate eye area, reducing the risk of irritation or discomfort.
A well-rounded diet plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal eye health for our dogs. Essential vitamins and antioxidants, such as Vitamin A, C, and E, along with minerals like zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, all contribute to supporting eye function. Give your pup treats rich in Vitamin A, carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids like this Absolute Holistic Roast In The Bag (Cod & Carrot) Natural Dog Treats or add a meal mixer/topper made with fresh antioxidant-rich ingredients like this Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Freeze-Dried Topper Dog Food to your dog’s diet for a nutritional boost. However, it's crucial to consult with your vet for personalized dietary recommendations tailored to your dog's specific needs. They can offer expert guidance on the best diet to promote eye health based on factors like age, breed, and any existing health conditions.
Senior dog eye problems
As our pup ages, it's essential to be vigilant about their eye health. Here are three common senior dog eye conditions—glaucoma, cataracts, and nuclear sclerosis. Let’s understand their similarities, differences, and the telltale signs can aid in prompt intervention and treatment.
Glaucoma is a stealthy condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye, leading to optic nerve damage and potential vision loss. It can develop gradually or strike suddenly, and early detection is crucial. Symptoms may include redness, cloudiness, excessive tearing, and a noticeable bulging of the eye. In advanced stages, your dog may show signs of pain or discomfort, such as rubbing their eyes or avoiding bright lights. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to irreversible blindness.
Cataracts are a common age-related eye issue in both humans and dogs. They occur when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, obstructing the passage of light and causing vision impairment. Initially, you may notice a subtle bluish or milky discoloration in your dog's eyes. As the cataract progresses, your pup's vision may become progressively blurred, eventually leading to blindness if left untreated. In the early stages, using the Lanomax Cataract-Dissolving Lanosteral Eye Drops for Dogs & Cats may help to improve your pup’s vision. In more advanced stages, your veterinarian may recommend cataract surgery.
Often mistaken for cataracts, nuclear sclerosis is a benign and age-related change that affects the eyes' lenses. It typically manifests as a subtle bluish-grey haze within the eye. Unlike cataracts, which obstruct vision, nuclear sclerosis tends to have a milder impact. Dogs with nuclear sclerosis may experience slightly reduced visual acuity, but it rarely leads to significant vision loss. It's essential to differentiate between nuclear sclerosis and cataracts, as they require different approaches to management. In all cases, a prompt visit to the vet is essential for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment. Early intervention can significantly improve outcomes for these senior eye conditions.
Remember, these tests are not a substitute for professional veterinary care. If you suspect your dog is having vision problems, consult your vet for a proper examination. Keeping an eye on your pup's vision is just one way to show them you care, and they'll thank you with tail wags and puppy kisses!
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.