Monday, September 1, 2014

BLIND DOG PARENTING – LOOKING AFTER A BLIND DOG

DOG CARE – Part 6

BLIND DOG PARENTING – LOOKING AFTER A BLIND DOG



BLIND DOG PARENTING

LOOKING AFTER A BLIND DOG
Ponderings of a Pet Parent
By
VIKRAM KARVE

A dog can become blind due to many reasons.

Diabetes is a major reason for loss of vision in dogs – dogs with diabetes develop cataracts which may result in blindness.

Whatever the reason, losing vision and becoming blind is traumatic for the dog and distressing for the owner (pet parent).

A vet once told me that a dog got so traumatized and depressed after becoming blind that the dog had to be put to sleep.

Unlike human beings dogs cannot speak and nor can you explain things to them like you can do to human beings.

Dogs get confused and disoriented when they suddenly become blind.

Pet parents become distressed and anxious when their dogs become blind.

A pet dog’s blindness will necessitate lifestyle changes in both the pet parents and the dog.

As a pet parent, you have to overcome your own personal grief, and you will have to help your dog cope with blindness.

Here are a few things dog owners (pet parents) can do to help their dogs mitigate the effects of blindness and with cope up with the tragic situation of losing vision.


COMFORT YOUR BLIND DOG

You must constantly comfort your blind dog.

Try to always be at your dog’s side, touch your dog, and talk to your dog in a loving reassuring voice.

You must “talk” to your dog much more.

Speak to your blind dog in your normal, cheery voice.

Your voice will be very soothing for your blind dog.

In fact, in the initial stages of your dog’s blindness, lovingly caressing and cheerfully talking to your dog will relieve your dog of the distress, agony and sense of isolation due to sudden loss of vision.

Talking to your dog will provide comfort and lessen the dog’s sense of isolation.

Your voice and your touch will assure your dog of your companionship.

The most important factor in how well a dog copes with blindness is the love and reassurance you give your dog, as a pet parent.

You must remember that despite becoming blind, your dog can continue to be a loving companion – in fact, the bonding between you and your dog will become stronger.


HELP YOUR BLIND DOG RE-ORIENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT

Sudden onset blindness can be much harder for both the dog and pet parent, than a gradual loss of vision.

A dog with sudden onset blindness is plunged into darkness without warning will become disoriented due to which the dog will experience trauma and anxiety.

As a loving pet parent, you must help your dog overcome this disorientation caused by sudden blindness.

One mitigating factor is that dogs do not rely on their sense of vision to the same extent as do humans.

Your dog depends on other senses like hearing and smell

Of all your dog’s senses, eyesight is third in order of importance after hearing and smell.

You can help your blind dog re-orient by facilitating your dog in using these senses of smell and hearing, along with the sense of touch.

It is best to start re-orienting your dog in a known environment – like your home.

Then, gradually extend to other familiar environments, like your dog’s regular walking routes and play area in your compound.

Be patient when you guide your dog in his familiar surroundings.

Let the dog sniff around, recognize familiar smells – and if you are outside – let the dog “mark” familiar spots.

Help your dog “map-out” his surroundings in his mind, both inside your house and outside.

To help your blind dog negotiate his way around, teach your dog “key words” such as “1-2” for climbing stairs, “walkie-walkie” for the dog to follow you, “stop” for your dog to stop whenever there is some obstruction/hazard etc etc.

You will see that within a few days, your blind dog will re-discover and map-out your house and his familiar surroundings.

You must facilitate your blind dog to overcome the disorientation caused by sudden blindness and re-orient himself by allowing your dog plenty of opportunity to explore and sniff around.

Soon, your blind dog will start enjoying going out on walks with you as before.

However, you should be very careful to ensure that your dog does not injure himself, so keep an eagle eye and a tight leash.

As time passes, you will notice that your blind dog’s sense of smell, touch and hearing will become more sensitive and, to a certain extent, this will compensate for the loss of vision.


TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO AVOID INJURIES TO YOUR BLIND DOG

You must take precautions, both indoors and outdoors, to ensure that your bind dog does not injure himself due to his lack of vision.

Remember, a blind dog cannot see things like before – the blind dog can only smell, hear and sense things.

Inside your home, remove all potential hazards, like tables with sharp edges and other obstructions, by rearranging your furniture in order to make your home safe to move around for your blind dog (you must do this quickly, before you start re-orienting your dog to your house).

A blind dog may have a tendency to walk close to the walls in order to avoid obstacles in the middle of the room so ensure you close cupboard doors, slide in all drawers and keep areas near the wall clear of objects so your dog does not bump into them.

Outside, you must keep your dog on a tight leash and be very alert to ensure your dog does not injure himself by stepping onto sharp objects or banging his head or nose into walls or things.

Preventing injuries is particularly important for blind dogs who have diabetes, since curing of injuries is difficult in diabetic dogs.

Do not scare your blind dog by suddenly touching him or by moving objects (like his food bowl) towards him.

Talk to your dog before you extend your hand.

Tap your dog’s food bowl and call out “Food” or “Mum Mum” to your dog and let your blind dog slowly sniff and approach so that he does not injure nose by banging it against the bowl.

Avoid taking your dog to unfamiliar places where the dog will get disoriented and is likely to injure himself.

As I said before, preventing injuries is particularly important for blind dogs who have diabetes, since curing of injuries is difficult in diabetic dogs.


MAKE LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO CARE FOR YOUR BLIND DOG

You will have to keep the “morale” of your blind dog in high spirits at all times in order to prevent your dog sinking into despondency and depression due to his blindness.

For achieving this, you will have to make changes in your lifestyle.

When your dog becomes blind, you will notice that the dog’s personality may change and your dog may become more affectionate as he becomes totally dependent on you.

A blind dog’s constant need for love and companionship may create “separation anxiety” in your dog.

Your blind dog will always want you in close proximity and will hate to be left alone.

Your blind dog may howl in a heart rending manner if he senses you are going out and leaving him alone.

This means, that if you have a blind dog, you or someone from your family will always have to be at home.

You will not be able to go out together.

You will not be able to leave your blind dog at a boarding kennel and go outstation on vacations.

Even if you have to go out on work, someone will have to be at home to look after the dog.

Many people are ready to look after a healthy dog.

But it is difficult to look after a blind dog.

This is particularly so if your dog is diabetic in addition to being blind, since you have to give him the prescribed diet and medicines at the proper times.

So, you will have to give maximum companionship to your blind dog, both indoors and outdoors.

Talk to your blind dog in a cheerful manner, play with him, take him out for walks, and establish your dog’s routines.

In order to help your blind dog adjust better, it is good to take your dog for a walk on the same route where the smells, sounds and feel of the ground are familiar.

Walk slowly and let your blind dog sniff around and help him become comfortable and re-assured.

You will not be able to take your blind dog with you on visits to other places, to avoid disorientation and injury.

In a nutshell, in order to keep your blind dog in good cheer and high morale, you will have to give him constant companionship and spend more time with your dog.

This will entail lifestyle changes involving curtailment of your social life, and may necessitate compromises in your work life too.


BLIND DOG CARE

Looking after a blind dog is a challenging and stressful task.

Words cannot describe the agony a pet parent feels when he sees his beloved dog suddenly become blind and helpless.

Most loving pet parents get terribly distressed when their dog becomes blind and loses his vision.

Remember that your pet dog can sense your emotions, so it is best that you maintain a calm, upbeat, positive and cheerful attitude and do not transmit negative vibes to your blind dog.

You must help your blind dog adjust to vision loss as quickly as possible, and restore your dog’s confidence and keep him in high morale.

Here are some words of sage advice to pet parents whose dogs have become blind:

“What I say to people is, look, your dog couldn’t read, write or drive a car, anyway. He’s already got four other senses that are better than yours. As long as you take good care of him, he’ll be okay.”

~ Nick Whelan, Canine Ophthalmologist, Ontario Veterinary College

When your dog becomes blind, you must lovingly help your dog adapt his lifestyle to compensate for his blindness.

You must bond closely with your dog and develop the dog’s self-confidence so that your dog remains cheerful despite his tragic loss of vision.

When people get dogs they never imagine that their dog can become blind, or develop some other serious disease or disability.

Let me post a poem (I discovered on the internet) in which a blind dog speaks to its “parents”:

I cannot see you Mommy, when you cuddle me so near.
And yet I know you love me, it's in the words I hear.

I cannot see you Daddy, when you hold me by your side
But still I know you love me when you tell me so with pride.

I cannot see to run and play out in the sun so bright
For here inside my tiny head it's always dark as night.

I cannot see the treats you give when I am extra good
But I can wag my tail in “Thanks” just like a good dog should.

“She cannot see. The dog is no good” is what some folks might say
“She can't be trained, she will never learn, She must be put away.”

But not you, Mom and Daddy, You know that it is alright
Because I love you just as much as any dog with sight.

You took me in, you gave me love and we will never part
Because I am blind with just my eyes, I see you in my heart.

~ Sherrill Wardrip


BLIND DOG PARENTING

If you are a genuine dog lover, pet parenting may turn out to be more difficult than parenting your human children.

Your human children will grow up, leave the “nest” and fly away to their careers and to pursue their own lives.

But your dog will be dependent on you for his entire life – you will have to bring him up in his childhood, look after your dog in his old age, and, you will have to endure the pain of your dog dying before your eyes, for dogs only live for around 10 years.

Adopting a dog is a challenging long term commitment – you are committing yourself to look after the dog for the dog’s entire lifetime of about 10 years and care for the dog in its illness and old age.

Remember – it is easy to get a dog, but it is difficult to look after the dog for its entire lifetime.

And, by a twist of misfortune, if your dog becomes blind, let me summarize the essence of Blind Dog Parenting, and recap the 4 points I told you on how to look after a blind dog:

1. Comfort your blind dog

2. Help your blind dog re-orient to the environment

3. Take precautions to avoid injuries to your blind dog

4. Make lifestyle changes to care for your blind dog


(To be continued…)

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
1. This is based on my personal experience and are my personal views. These tips may or may not work for you. So please do your own due diligence before considering these pet parenting tips.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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