How to Play with a Dog with Limited Vision from Glaucoma

Buffy, my 8-year-old cocker spaniel has glaucoma. She cannot see things right in front of her or at a distance. Somehow she manages to not bump into furniture or people. When she does that, then I know she is blind. It has happened before, but we have been lucky at bringing her eye pressure down. Cocker spaniel sitting in her bed

It won’t last. At some point, she will lose her vision completely and due to the high pressure, her remaining eye will need removal. High eye pressure makes the dog feel like she has a migraine headache.

Last June Buffy became blind in her right eye due to high pressure, and it was removed.

On December 22, her ocular pressure rose in her left eye and she became non-visual. Fortunately, a trip to the veterinary ophthalmologist saved her sight by using a needle to release the pressure. If her pressure had risen even eight hours later, she would have had to suffer with a migraine and blindness through the entire long holiday weekend. Lucky Buffy—well sort of she regained only a portion of her site, but at least she can still see and her eye pressure is still normal.

Buffy is enjoying playing, at least on a more limited (and frustrating) basis. Some things I have learned are:

  • Keep playing. Just because your dog has limited vision, she still wants attention and play. Your dog will let you know when she cannot play.
  • Use squeaky toys.
  • Large stuffed animals are usually better than balls, since the dog is more likely to bump into it and find it.
  • I had been playing in a smaller room with bright light, but Buffy has shown me she can often find balls that go in other rooms and in the dark. She just keeps her nose (and ears) near the ground and she eventually bumps into the toy.
  • Scenting a ball with vanilla (a trick recommended for blind dogs) didn’t work for Buffy.
  • Soft squeaky balls are better when they can bounce off a wall so the she is more likely to see it moving.
  • Don’t give up! I sometimes sit at the computer and work while Buffy searches. Often a few minutes later she will have the ball in her mouth. She’s quite persistent and will usually find it—it just takes a while.

I do have a Muffin’s halo for when the day comes and she is completely blind, but for now, it’s sitting on the shelf. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she can see for many months to come!

Does anyone else have ideas on how to play with a dog with limited vision? Please comment below.

You can read more about Buffy’s experiences with glaucoma below.

Nearly Blind—Buffy’s Stages of Glaucoma

Blindness Temporarily Thwarted

Oh My – She Lost an Eye

From 20:20 Vision to 0:0 Overnight—What Happened?

25 thoughts on “How to Play with a Dog with Limited Vision from Glaucoma

  1. That’s so cute the way she still wants to play! You can also see how her other senses pick up, like scent, when she can’t rely on her sight. She’s lucky she has such a caring person like you who understands her disability and how best help her. Sandra and Dolly

  2. What a cute video! Dogs are such amazing creatures! Watching how excited she gets over that ball and how determined she was to find it. I have to believe that one of the major advantages to frequent play for dogs with limited vision is the the stimulation of their mind. It’s not that different than my grandmother explaining why, at the age of 90, she still tackled the newspaper crossword puzzle every day. She said the play kept her mind sharp. Buffy is adorable and I hope she never loses that sweet sparkle in her eye.

  3. Sounds and SMELLS can be great tools to be able to play with a visually impaired dog. As long as the environment is safe or familiar (or both), I’m sure she can have a great time.

  4. Wow…now I want to read the rest of the story. I am glad that you have an ophthalmologist available to help her out. It looks like you are on the right path with playtime. Buffy will probably come up with new games for you to play with her.

  5. Poor sweet Buffy!! I have had work done on my eyes due to glaucoma as well. Had to have pressure released. I think it is getting near time to have it done again soon as I can tell things are getting a bit more blurry.
    I think it is pawsome you are giving ways to play with a dog with glaucoma!

  6. Aww Buffy is too cute. I was going to guess the same as you. Squeaky noisy toys that help use the other senses will help train them/playtime. Thanks for sharing the video demonstration too. Oh and happy 2018! Love the new layout & look on the site. 🙂

  7. Your tips come at a good time for me. – my Soldier is deaf and is slowly losing his vision. If he continues to lose his sight, I’ll have to find ways to play with him that doesn’t involve sight or sound. That will be a challenge!

    • Losing both sight and sound can be a real challenge. I had a deaf dog once and could use hand signals. Now with Buffy losing her sight, I need sounds. I guess you’ll have to rely on scents and vibrations, like stomping your foot on the floor.

  8. OMD I am so sorry and know how you feel, Layla is nearly 11 and losing her sight in her left eye. My vet has just told me it is from old age. She is still playful but she is afraid to go out at night for her last pee, she is afraid to take treats from my hand and little things like that but am taking it as it comes. I am just acting like normal as much as possible to keep the stress and worry out of the house as I know there is nothing else I can do.

  9. These are wonderfully helpful tips! My bestie had a yorkie who was blind and it’s amazing to see how they adapt and still find ways to play, even if it’s different than before. Her boy was a VERY senior rescue, so he was past the play stage, but the large stuffie is a great idea!

    • The great thing about dogs is that they are so accepting of their condition. They don’t mope about why they can’t do something anymore like we do. I once had a paralyzed dog and we still figured out how to play ball. I just threw it directly into her mouth for her to catch it. She loved it!

  10. Our spaniel, Jenny Sue went blind at 5 years old. She played fetch, swam and did everything a dog with vision could do as long as she could hear. She would hear when a toy was thrown what direction it went. She learned the sound of her toy hitting hardwood, linoleum or the thud of the carpet. Her nose and ears became her eyes.

    She was so special to us. She had so much spunk and we would never have taken going blind as well as she did. Unfortunately, when she started to lose her hearing at age 12, the play stopped. I still have some marks on the walls and ceiling where her pork chop toy hit. I honestly do not have the heart to wash them off or paint over them. To us, they have become something such as a growth chart marks for children that most parents do.

    Even though she is no longer with us, her memory and the love we had for her will always be there. Just because a dog can’t see as well as one with full vision, doesn’t mean they lose the zest for life. Play long, love strong. ((hugs))

    • Thanks for sharing about Jenny Sue. Yes, I’ve been told that blind dogs can adapt quite well. When Buffy had brief periods of blindness, she seemed a bit scared, but it didn’t stop her from walking around. I have a halo for her for when that day comes.

Leave a Comment