The average lifespan of a dog is 11 years. Small breeds tend to live the longest — upwards of 17 years, while large breeds (over 100 pounds) are considered elderly around age 6 or 7. Larger dogs typically have more strain on their joints and heart, hence the shorter lifespan.
Caring for an elderly dog isn't as simple as feeding him and taking him out to go potty. In fact, it's much more complex. And what about an elderly dog that's gone blind? Here, we'll show you seven ways to help take care of your beloved friend.
DogTime states that dogs can go blind because of an illness, genetics, cataracts or serious injury. Cataracts are typically seen in dogs that are older, but genetics can make them appear in younger dogs, too. DogTime found that the breeds most likely to develop cataracts are Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
Luckily, both the dog and the owner will adjust to a dog going blind. If the blindness occurs suddenly, such as from an injury, the adjustment will be longer than if it occurs slowly over time, as seen with cataracts.
Just because your dog's gone blind and is aging doesn't mean he should be put down. Surprisingly, some people think it's cruel to keep a blind dog, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Dogs don't have nearly as good vision as humans, in general, so being blind really doesn't affect them too much. Dogs are already partially color blind, they can't focus on objects that are close to them and they don't see many details, so their going blind is actually harder on you than it is on them!
Talk to your dog regularly to reassure him of your presence. One-word commands are best, since dogs don't understand full-on sentences. Regularly interact with your dog by telling him to sit, come or stay. Use a happy, cheery voice as well. Dogs are always in tune with their owners, so remain happy and positive in their presence.
Don't move around your dog's food or sleeping area. Blind, elderly dogs like routines and are comforted knowing where their food and bed is located. Also, try not to move around your own furniture often, as you may create anxiety in the dog or cause the dog to walk into something.
Keep the hallways clear and use gates to keep your dog out of rooms that may be dangerous. If you have stairs, block the steps so the dog can't go up and down, or help her go up and down each time. Stairs tend to be a point of stress for blind dogs, so use them minimally. Also, consider placing padding on table corners, hard edges and other areas where your dog may get injured.
Blind dogs feel secure when they're on a leash. If your dog has suddenly gone blind, use the leash around the house until the dog gets familiar with the territory. Also, always walk your dog with a leash to prevent her from wandering into the street.
Barbara, owner of a 7-year-old lab, used to take her dog on nightly long walks. Since he's aged quite a bit over the past year and has started developing cataracts, the dog is only able to walk short distances before tiring out. Barbara listens to her dog's cues, only walking past a few houses before turning around. Exercise is good, but it should be kept at a minimum for elderly dogs.
While it's not going to be the best time to introduce a new pet to the mix, it's a good idea to keep your dog socialized. Keep in mind that this only applies to dogs that are in relatively good health. If your dog tends to get stressed out when other dogs are present, don't feel obligated to socialize him. Ideas include going to a mellow dog park (or go when you know it won't be busy) or visiting your local pet store (again, when you know it won't be busy).
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