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05/27/2008

Have you ever wondered if a dog or cat can see in mirrors, or just exactly what they see?  What happens when a dog goes blind? You would be surprised how many people have posted messages in online pet memorial websites honoring the memory of a blind pet who lived a happy, otherwise healthy life without eyesight.

Many times puppies may initially react to reflections in mirrors as though it were another animal, but according to a Cornell University expert, Dr. Katherine A. Haupt, they “habituate to the mirror image when they realize what they are looking at doesn’t smell like a dog or bark like a dog.”

Blind DogsWith dogs, eye contact is a key ingredient in communicating authority. Meaning, direct stares mean a challenge, which we often see when a more dominant dog stares down another dog who is less dominant. And just like people, those who avoid eye contact may be more submissive and anxious, not wanting to have a confrontation.  When a dog’s eyes are partly closed, it could be a signal of cowardliness, or just suspicion.  

One of the dog’s most important senses, a dog's sight is simply not as developed as in humans. They can barely differentiate different colors, especially the colors from green through orange, although some research shows they can tell the difference between a blue and a red ball. A dog’s field of vision is much broader than ours, yet their vision is also three dimensionally limited. 
 
-- Blindness in dogs can be a sign of old age but many dogs can lead near normal lives without their sight. Eye sight ranks third in importance compared to smell and hearing for dogs.

-- If you have a dog that has started showing signs of blindness, here are some helpful tips:

-- Always walk your dog on a leash, and keep talking to the dog because he will hear your voice as a guide.

-- Guide your dog around the walls of each room in the home or apartment and let him sniff the walls, and bump into them as he goes along to establish references.

-- Do not move any furniture if you can help it, and try to always push chairs in at the table.

-- If your pet lives outdoors, you should check into an “invisible fence."

-- Be careful to add barriers or covers to pools and hot tubs so your pet doesn’t fall into the water and drown.

-- Keep food and water bowls in the exact same place. As a reference in case your pet becomes disoriented.

--If your pet does get disoriented, take the animal to its bed or food bowl. This landmark will re-orient him or her.

-- Watch the stairs, a major problem for blind pets. You should place a barrier to prevent your dog from falling down the stairs or landings.

-- Leave a TV or radio playing softly near your pet's bed or wherever they spend the most time when you are gone. The soothing sound may help prevent fear and barking.

-- Be patient with your dog. Don’t pick up small dogs and do things for them, because it is better if they are forced to learn how on their own.

One of the hardest things to do when you have a canine friend is to watch your pet age. Dogs experience many of the same physical and mental changes that humans do. They find it a little more difficult to get around, and their hearing and vision often deteriorates.

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