THESE DOG DAYS
A resource for disabled dogs and their owners
Meet Walter the Borzoi from Central Florida. Walter was diagnosed with bilateral mature cataracts and micropthalmia at ten weeks old. Micropthalmia in dogs is a condition where they are born with abnormally small eyeballs, which typically leads to other malformed eye structures and varying levels of vision impairment. When combined with cataracts, this means that Walter has little to no vision.
A huge thank you to Samantha for taking the time to share your experience with Walter and passing on some great advice for others caring for vision impaired dogs.
What is a regular day like with Walter?
Since he was ten weeks old, Walter has joined me at work everyday. I work at an animal hospital that allows us to bring our dogs to work. I share an office with co-workers that also bring their dogs. He likes to "oversee" operations, but mostly brings joy to my workday.
We leave work around 4:30 PM and head home. At that point, we will either take a walk around our lake or play in the yard or inside. After some exercise, and a quick nap, he's ready for dinner. He uses the rest of the evening to catch up on sleep.
We spend most weekends at home. Our favorite activities are ones that involve Walter. We like to take him to events downtown or on a peaceful walk around our neighborhood. He is very laid back and entertains himself if he is bored.
What advice would you offer to someone adjusting to life with a blind dog?
Walter is the first vision-impaired dog I have ever had. I learned quickly not to move furniture. If we leave a dining room chaired pulled out, he may bump into it.
He loves toys, so I get excited when I find toys that are easier for him. He loves balls, and an easy one for him is Ethical Pet's Sensory Ball. It has a jingle bell that rings when it rolls, so he can easily chase it.
We also love KONG's Trekkers and Cruncheez. They both have beads inside that rattle, which he loves! KONG is also very durable!
Put yourself in their shoes (or paws). It's easy to forget that a dog doesn't always understand a situation. Sometimes you can get upset or frustrated, but it's important to try to see the situation through the dog's eyes.
I am always amazed at how happy Walter is. He lacks the sense of vision but it never slows him down. I think if I lost one of my senses, I might wallow in sadness. I am constantly being surprised by how well he handles new things.
Was there any treatment that you tried for Walter?
At ten weeks old, he was started on Diclofenac eye drops once daily. We also started two supplements and a new diet to try to reduce the cataracts. Despite the eye drops and changes, his cataracts still progressed. We initially discussed cataract surgery with his ophthalmologist, but he wanted to wait until Walter was at least a year old.
In the mean time, I did research and spoke with people who did have cataract surgery performed on their dog. A lot of dogs experienced complications, such as glaucoma which resulted in removal of their eyes. I took Walter to the University of Florida for a second opinion, where we settled on not doing surgery. Since his eye lids cover 50% of his retina, a successful surgery could still lead to reduced vision. Most importantly, they were concerned that since he had developed cataracts at such a young age, he may not have developed the interneural pathways to process his sense of sight. Even though they perform test prior to surgery to make sure his retinas function, nothing would be able to tell us if he could actually see after surgery. Since he lives a happy, pain-free life, we opted against surgery.
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