Special Needs Dogs
Every year thousands of special needs dogs are killed simply because they are deaf or blind, three-legged, have a medical condition treatable with medication, old, big, or simply black.
It shocked me when I first found out that black dogs are harder to adopt than others. It never crossed my mind and I wonder why it's so.
I saw a two and a half year old large black dog when I entered the shelter one day and now she's been with us for two years. My dog Sydney is beautiful, friendly, loving, loyal, and black. After hearing that it was harder for black dogs to find homes, I was extra glad we had chosen her.
There are animal welfare organizations that care only for special needs dogs and we owe them even more gratitude than other animal welfare organizations. They work extra hard to help these special needs dogs find homes.
Over time a dog becomes visually impaired or totally blind due to a variety of disorders. If their owner feels they can no longer care for him, the dog may end up in a shelter.
A sad but true story; how unfair; a dog abandoned after being a loyal and loving pet. Would someone return their child if they developed a disability? Taking on a dog is much the same; it's a lifetime commitment.
Some of the most common causes of blindness in dogs include:
Cataracts - a film forms over the eye and as time goes on, vision may worsen. Cataracts can be treated and sight may be restored through surgery, especially if treated early on.
Glaucoma - is an increased pressure in the eyes. Fluid builds up in the eye and doesn't drain properly. The optic nerve is damaged and blindness occurs. Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops or surgery. Frequently a dog is already blind by the time glaucoma is detected.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy - an inherited disease of the retina, the tissue around the eyeball. Over time the pupils become dilated and eventually blindness occurs.
Suddenly Acquired Retinal Degeneration - a disease of the retina that causes blindness quickly, within a matter of days to weeks.
A Dog's Reaction to Blindness
Your dog's personality, age, health, training, other animals in the house, and the dedication of you, their owner are contributing factors to how a dog adjusts to blindness.
Younger, healthier dogs will adjust more easily. If you've spent time training your dog, the adjustment will be easier as you'll need to teach him more commands specific to blindness. And whether you are dedicated to working with your dog to help him adjust may be the biggest factor in his reaction to blindness.
Dogs may become fearful and display aggressive behavior when their vision is impaired. This is not something you would tolerate before he lost his sight so do not not allow this behavior now. It's important not to coddle your dog or allow him to become more dependent on you. He will quit performing tasks he could easily do for himself. You want to treat him in much the same way you did before he lost his sight.
Your dog will take his cues from you. So although you may feel sorry for his loss, act as normal as possible. Most dogs that become blind adjust well and lead happy near-normal lives. So don't give up on your dog. They can still be that fun and adoring pet you've loved and cared for. They just need a little more of your time to help them deal with their disability.
If you are thinking about adopting blind, visually impaired, or special needs dogs, know that the dog can live a long and happy life with just a little extra care. Dogs use their other senses to help them adapt.
Some of the things you can do to help your dog:
- When you approach your dog always speak softly so you don't startle him when you touch him. When people visit your home, explain that your dog is blind and tell them to speak softly before touching him.
- Dogs are able to memorize the layout of your house so don't rearrange your furniture.
- Of course, be sure your yard is fenced and all gates are kept securely locked.
- Always keep your dog's food and water in the same place.
- Keeping a radio turned on and in one particular spot allows your dog to get his bearings.
- Both you and other pets can wear a jingling bell so your dog can find you.
- Clicker training is a good training tool for blind dogs.
- Teach your blind dog a command such as "watch" to let him know when things are in his way. "Step" is also a useful command,when there is a step in front of him.
- Get down to your blind dog's level and look for things that could harm him such as sharp table edges. Do this inside and outside your home so you can take measures to protect him from these dangers.
- Keep a name tag on your dog that has your contact information and notifies others that your dog is blind. Also consider putting in a microchip.
You can see that it's not that difficult to accommodate and care for a special needs dog that is blind. Volunteers and foster parents are always needed to help homeless animals, especially those with disabilities, so consider fostering special needs dogs.
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