- Understanding How Your Dog Sees
- So, How Does This Affect Dogs With One Eye?
- Causes Of Vision Loss
- Surgery vs Sight Loss
- Growing pains
- What Can You Do To Help
- 1. Be Patient With Them
- 2. Don’t Approach From Their Blind Side
- 3. Let Them Walk On Their Comfortable Side
- 4. Try To Not More Furniture
- 5. Educate Others How To Approach
- 6. Take Care At Dog Parks
- 7. Learn From Others
- What Quality Of Life Should You Expect?
Whether a sudden surgical removal or a slowly developing blindness, many dogs can develop a loss of sight in one of their eyes. When this happens, it can cause a major disruption in how your household functions. However, with a proper understanding of what your dog is going through, you can make this transition as smooth as possible.
Dogs with one eye can live a full and happy life! They are still the same, loving dog they were before, now with a little less vision. If you do have a dog who is blind or has only one eye, be sure to approach from their good side. Being startled from their blind side may be frightening for your dog. They will also need to learn to be more vigilant when walking about, as they may accidentally collide with objects they didn’t realise were there. However, if you are patient with your dog, you can help them live a full and abundant life.
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Understanding How Your Dog Sees
The field of vision which your dog can see is determined by two things: the shape of their skull and the position of their eyes. In people, our eyes face forward which gives us a large area of binocular vision. This means that both of our eyes can see a wide area in front of our faces, but we have poor peripheral vision. When we want to look towards something in our periphery we generally prefer to turn out head so that we can clearly visualise the object. This can be seen in the image below. The view in blue is what we can see with both eyes whilst the area in grey can only be visualised by one eye.
When it comes to canines, the position of their eyes and the shape of their skull gives them a distinct field of view. Their eyes are found further back along the side of their face. This gives dogs significantly better peripheral vision when compared to humans. Likely a survival adaption from a need to hunt for food, having this style of vision can help identify prey. The image below encapsulates this perfectly.
When you compare this to the field of view we can see, there are two noticeable differences.
- The area of binocular vision is significantly reduced in dogs compared to people. By having eyes further back in the skull, the area which both eyes can see is significantly reduced. This can be seen in the image above.
- The total field of view of dogs is significantly greater than that of people. Animals can see further behind themselves that we can, which is an adaption from hunting and searching for prey.
- Note that the field of view depicted for dogs can be different between breeds. This image denotes the field of view of a German Shepherd for the location of their eyes. A Pug, for example, a commonly loved brachycephalic breed, will have a different field of view.
If you want more information regarding how your dog sees, you can read my article here: Do Dog’s See Colour?.
So, How Does This Affect Dogs With One Eye?
When dogs loose sight on one side of their face, they develop a blind side. This may seem obvious, but is it important to consider how this new blind spot can impact your dog.
If a dog was to lose vision on the left side of their face, they will only have sight on the right side of their body. In the image above, imagine a dog only being able to see in the green and yellow quadrants. This means that there would be a large blind spot on the left side of their body. If anything was to occur on that side of their body, they will not be able to see it. Depending on the stimuli, this can cause fearful behaviours to develop.
Not only will your dog have a blind side, but their depth perception may also be significantly affected. To determine depth your brain requires inputs from both of your eyes. This gives your brain two separate pieces of information to determine how far away an object is. You can test this yourself quite easily. Close one of your eyes, then reach out to grab a small object from in front of you. When you do this, you will likely grasp the object incorrectly or incorrectly determine how far away it is. If you try this multiple times with different objects, you may see this effect.
This effect is also replicated in our canine friends. By losing the ability to see out of both eyes, their brain struggles to perceive depth. This means your dog may accidentally collide with furniture until their brain learns to identify where objects are. Another change you may see is that your dog is unable to catch a ball or toy that is bounced in their direction.
Causes Of Vision Loss
There are a variety of reasons that your dog may develop a loss of sight. A brief list has been included here; however, if you want a more in-depth list then talk to your veterinarian. Ocular diseases are a complex topic, and can only be briefly touched on here.
These diseases may not directly lead to vision loss, however, may be an impacting factor.
Note: This list has been referenced from the Pathologic Basis of Veterinary Disease, Sixth Edition textbook.
- Developmental Anomalies
- Diabetic Cataract
- Eyelid Absence
- Foreign Body Injury
- Lens Luxations
- Neoplastic Tumours
- Retinal Detachment
Surgery vs Sight Loss
When dogs (and people) lose their sight, it occurs in two ways: sudden or gradual vision loss. These two methods have vastly different effects on how your dog will adapt to having a loss of sight.
An example of a sudden loss of vision is ocular surgery. This could be from a foreign body injury or an ocular tumour which requires removal of the eye. These types of injuries tend to not have a prolonged onset of vision loss, meaning your dog hasn’t slowly become accustomed to having impaired sight. These dogs may take longer to become comfortable and accustomed to their new field of view. Especially when compared to animals who have had a prolonged loss of vision.
Gradual vision loss in animals is generally a painless, slow developing ocular condition which causes a loss of sight. These animals become accustomed to a gradual loss of sight over a prolonged period. When their sight finally goes, or they have surgery to remove the eye, they are more comfortable with having less vision. You may find that these animals don’t take as long to acclimate, and will already know their boundaries.
During the first few days after losing sight in one eye, some dogs can have growing pains getting used to their new capabilities. The time it takes for dogs to get comfortable with their new sight can vary, however, most dogs should quickly adapt to their new vision. It is important that you understand this and help your dog through this time.
Firstly, as already discussed, the field of view which your dog will be able to perceive has been significantly reduced. They will have developed a blind side where they can no longer see. This means your dog may be startled if anybody was to walk from the blind side to the visible side abruptly. This initial scare should pass once your dog learns to become comfortable with their new vision. However, it is important that you don’t purposely scare or frighten your dog. Although this may be accidental, unknowingly being touched where you cannot see can understandably be frightening.
Make sure to teach young children not to approach your dog from their blind side. Especially if they want to pat your dog, as your dog may growl or be frightened if they are unknowingly touched.
You may also find that your dog will now accidentally run into objects. If they turn their head to look behind them, they will now lose any sight of the direction they are running. This means they may accidentally run into objects in front of them without recognising they are there. This should decline over time as your dog begins to learn their limits, but make sure remain vigilant about this.
With a loss of depth perception may come an inability to play all the same games they use to. This especially can include playing catch with a ball or frisbee. Since recognising the location of a ball or frisbee in the air requires highly tuned depth perception, your new dog may struggle to do this. If you do decide that you want to continue playing catch with your dog, keep any throws slow and small until you and your dog learn the limits.
What Can You Do To Help
During the time directly after surgery or a pronounced loss of vision, there are multiple things that you can do to help your dog acclimate.
1. Be Patient With Them
The best thing you can do for your dog is to be patient. It may take them some time to learn how to function with a loss of vision. Especially if it was a sudden onset. If your dog has had surgery, give them the time they need to learn their new capabilities. This period should only be a few weeks as most dogs will quickly adapt. Dogs with one eye are no different to other dogs, however, make sure to be patient during the time it takes them to adapt.
2. Don’t Approach From Their Blind Side
Until your dog becomes comfortable with their new field of view, try not to startle them from their blind side. This includes petting or abruptly walking in front of them without giving them a warning. A warning can be given in many ways, some of which include:
- Talking to them so they know your location before you make contact
- Patting first from their good side before approaching their blind side
By making sure your dog knows of your presence, you can reduce any anxiety of initial fear when you make contact.
Even once your dog becomes comfortable with their new sight, this is still a good practice to have. You may even know how frightening it can be when you are suddenly touched from behind when you aren’t expecting it. This is the same reaction your dog may have on their blind side.
3. Let Them Walk On Their Comfortable Side
When I was researching stories of people who have had their dogs lose an eye for this article, I found a common trend. Many people would mention their dog’s walking behaviour changing. They discussed how their dog preferred to have their blind side toward them. This is to allow their good side to watch out and have you as their protection on their blind side.
This is understandable, as a natural protective behaviour of dogs is to keep watch of their surrounding. If you have a dog who loses sight on the side they prefer to walk, understand they may suddenly become uncomfortable and want to switch.
This becomes more challenging if you walk multiple dogs together. However, if you are patient and understanding of your dog’s needs this can be easily achieved.
4. Try To Not More Furniture
Try and keep furniture and object around the home in their regular places. Your dog will learn where furniture is located and how to navigate and avoid collisions. If you begin to completely rearrange the house, your dog may have problems learning where they can and cannot walk. This also includes the location of your dog’s food and water bowls. Do your best to keep these in the same place they have always been. It is important that your dog can access these at any time, as you don’t want them to be unable to find water on a hot summers day.
5. Educate Others How To Approach
It is important that you help others learn to approach your dog safely. Teach them to approach how you do, by identifying yourself and approaching from their good side. This is especially important to teach children, who may be slightly forceful during play. If a child was to hit a dog on their blind side, your dog may act out in a sense of self-protection.
6. Take Care At Dog Parks
Another important tip is to take care if you take your dog to a dog park. Other excited animals who jump from their blind side may scare your dog. People have said that their dogs were quite fearsome at dog parks after losing sight in one of their eyes.
If you do decide that you want to keep taking your dog to the dog park, be strategic about how you do so. Go during quieter times when there are fewer dogs around. This will allow your dog to better keep track of other dogs so they don’t become frightened.
7. Learn From Others
The last step is one that you are already doing. If you feel overwhelmed at all, reach out to other people who have gone through similar situations with their own dogs. They will be able to give you valuable, first-hand advice.
Join forums and reach out asking for people to share their stories. Join dog walking groups and talk to the other owners about your story. They may have a friend who also has dogs with one eye. A strong recommendation is to talk to your veterinarian. They may know more helpful information which they can teach you about how to care for a dog with one eye.
What Quality Of Life Should You Expect?
A fantastic one. Dogs with one eye are very similar to other dogs. Once they learn their limitations, they are still joyful and loving family pets. You may have other health issues which can impact their quality of life, however, your veterinarian will discuss this with you.
When researching stories for this article, I came across a forum post talking about Harley. Harley, a German Shepherd who only has one eye, who still competes in agility even after his surgery. This goes to show how well-adapted dogs can be with only having sight in one eye. They are incredibly tough animals, and even though they may be partially blind, they will still be as energetic and active as ever. If you want to read about Harley, you can find the forum post here.