Helping your pet adjust to blindness

As soon as I learned that Sweetie Pie’s blindness was irreversible, my top priority became transforming our home to accommodate our newly-handicapped family member.

The first thing I did was to go to the store to pick out some distinctively-textured door mats… one for each exit and entrance. I also bought a small rug for the top of the stairs and one for the bottom of the stairs. Sort of like “floor braille,” to help Sweetie Pie find her way around more easily.

And it has worked well… Sweetie Pie has learned that once she finds the mat, she can zero in on getting through the doorway.

It doesn’t matter what kind of mat or carpet it is, as long as it’s somewhat distinctive and different from the rest of the surrounding floor.

Here’s an example of the type of mat that works particularly well, I think. Figure that you’ll spend $10-$30 each if you want nice mats that sort of fit into your decor.

I like this mat because, 1.) it has a distinctive texture for Sweetie Pie to easily recognize, and 2.) it has a high-contrast design, which Sweetie Pie might be able to see somewhat. At least I’m guessing she may still be able to discern some brightly-colored shapes. So I like something like this:


Sweetie Pie’s Eyes

Sweetie Pie is my 7-year old chihuahua/Maltese female furry friend. Four months ago, we were walking off-leash in our familiar neighborhood park and Sweetie Pie wandered off in a different direction… one she had never taken before.

Now everyone who knows Sweetie Pie knows that she likes her routine, and she is a creature of habit. So when she broke with tradition and wandered off to the left, it caused me some concern. Then when she went bonk into the fence, then bonk again as she tried to get past the fence… I knew something was very wrong.

Since this occurred on a Saturday morning, I was able to get Sweetie Pie right into the vet’s office that day. It was confirmed… Sweetie Pie was indeed blind and my vet suspected that it was retinol atrophy. It was recommended that we take Sweetie Pie to the canine ophthalmologist for further tests and diagnoses and so it was confirmed again… Sweetie Pie was indeed blind. Her diagnosis was progressive retinol atrophy and there was no known treatment. It is not painful for her… It’s just like the lights are always turned off.

So… My first job as doggy mommy and primary caretaker of Sweetie Pie was to make our home more handicap-friendly. No more leaving shoes around for my little blind angel with fur to stumble over! No more sloppy Mommy!

Chia Seeds Rock

Yes, it’s true that I am a big fan of the benefits of chia seeds.

I use chia seeds in my power shake every morning and I add them to whatever else I eat throughout the day… pasta, salads, smoothies, etc.

And yes, I add chia seeds to my doggies’ lunch every day too.

I heard about chia seeds from my sisters, who both got good results in energy level and weight loss.

So I thought I would experiment with it, since I was looking to add nutrients and fiber into my diet as a natural remedy for improving high cholesterol.

Results so far… I have lost 9 pounds since July 1. Today is July 27th, so that’s 9 pounds in less than one month.

There is virtually no taste to the seeds. They are totally neutral and the closest thing you can compare its taste to is water (when it’s gelled), and ever so subtly nutty when they are raw.

I eat them two different ways:

1.) raw & crunchy, and

2.) as a gel with a tapioca-like texture. (You could also describe the gelled chia seeds as similar to tomato seeds.)

Once I got hooked on chia seeds, I purchased a special carafe so I always have chia gel fresh and at hand. Here’s what I bought:

And here’s how I buy my chia seeds:

Peanut butter cookies, cooked and on the bakin...

Image via Wikipedia

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 1/2 cups warm beef broth
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup bacon bits (optional)
2 T honey (optional)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.Combine wheat flour, oats, bacon bits, honey, and flax seeds in large bowl. Stir in broth and peanut butter. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, mixing in more flour as needed until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Roll out dough to small round balls. Flatten cross-wise with a fork, like peanut butter cookies. Place 3/4 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
3.Bake 25 minutes. Turn oven off; leave biscuits in oven until completely cool.

This recipe makes a LOT. My doggies are very picky eaters but they love these!

There’s a commercial about a hockey mom who takes a car full of 10-year old hockey players to a very important game. Every time one of the kids takes a hit, the mom just cringes. I relate to that.

That’s how it feels when your doggy (or kitty) first goes blind. It just breaks your heart every time they bonk their nose into something… especially when they’re going fast.

Sweetie Pie is so smart! About two months into her blindness, she started carrying a small stuffed animal around with her a lot. Especially whenever she gets excited and knows that we are going to go out for a walk. As soon as we get outside, she gently puts the toy down. Then she picks it back up on the way back inside.

I noticed that she still bonked into things… but the stuffed toy softened the blow. What a genius doggy! See how adaptable they are?

But back to the title of this post….

When your pet first goes blind, they need assurance that you are near, so make sure to talk to them a lot. Let them know where you are. Tell them you’re coming up behind them so they won’t be startled. Eventually, their other senses will become keener and you won’t have to talk to them all the time. But at first, talking to them a lot will help your pet get their bearings.

It might make your neighbors wonder if you’re going meshuga, but… could be worse!


Luckily, Sweetie Pie–my newly blind 7-year-old dog–has a little sister, 4-year-old Frieda.

I was told by the doggie ophthalmologist that it will be very helpful for Sweetie Pie, since there is another dog in the house to act as a “seeing eye” dog.

At first, I did not observe any advantage at all. Sweetie Pie and Frieda just ran off their separate ways, as they usually do. However, one day about 2-1/2 months into the blindness, I noticed that Sweetie Pie was following Frieda more closely, and always seemed to sense where she was.

It was true… as long as Sweetie Pie (the blind one) could sense or smell where her canine sister was, she moved about with more confidence. Frieda, on the other hand, had also adjusted to her sister’s new handicap. Now instead of always leaving Sweetie Pie in the dust, she seemed to make sure to “touch bases” with her every now and then… almost as if she’s giving Sweetie some reassurance.

It seems like the more time that goes by, the more Sweetie Pie leans on her little seeing-eye doggie/sister. I’m glad she has a seeing sibling to help her have a more normal, playful life.

The doggies love Lake Tahoe!

If you are a pet owner and you learn that your beloved pet has gone blind, it can be frightening and somewhat overwhelming. Of course the first issue is safety.

You, as the pet’s parent, need to learn quickly about things to do in order to make your pet’s life as safe and comfortable as possible for them. You are now the owner of a “special needs” pet so there are some adjustments that need to be made in your home and in your pet’s daily routine.

Here are a few tips that will help you create a safer home for your blind pet:

1.) Shorten the leash. I learned very quickly that my dog Sweetie Pie will fall right off the curb if I let her get too close to the edge. Left on a long leash, she might also bump into tree trunks or other walkers. So shorten that leash and keep your pet close to you.

2.) Watch out under-foot. Until your pet gets used to being blind, they are not going to get out of your way when you walk towards them (like they used to). So keep a vigilant watch for where you’re walking, especially if you have a small pet who could get crunched. And when you go visiting, make sure to alert other people about the need to watch out for your blind pet.

3.) Confine your pet to familiar surroundings. Try to avoid rearranging the furniture. Take your pet on familiar walks to familiar places. Take about three months to allow your pet to adjust to being blind… in places where they feel safe and familiar.

4.) Soften sharp edges. I have a wrought-iron decorative banister that is positioned right in the middle of the major hallway from kitchen to living room. After I saw Sweetie Pie bonk into it the first time, I wrapped the banister with a soft fiber-filled pillow sham. She still bonks into it, but now it’s more like a soft thud… and it doesn’t look too weird in my already eclectic home.

5.) Talk to your pet. Unless your pet is deaf as well as blind, talking to your pet will help them find their way. For example, my blind dog Sweetie Pie has been trained to walk towards me when she hears “This way, Sweetie Pie… This way!”

Caring for a blind pet requires patience and diligence… but it does get easier with practice.