Diabetes in dogs and blindness

Written by kate lacey
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Diabetes in dogs and blindness
Diabetic dogs are at risk for blindness (miniature schnauzer image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

Diabetes is a serious health issue in dogs that can lead to a number of complications including blindness. Knowing the symptoms of diabetes and blindness require an attention to your dog's behaviour and a realisation of change in routine. Your dog depends upon you to recognise the signs. If you note any serious change in behaviour, eating habits or fatigue in your dog, you should contact your veterinarian.

Diabetes in Dogs

Unlike humans, the most common type of diabetes in dogs is Type 1. This means that the pancreas no longer produces insulin and it will need to be introduced via injection into the dog's system. Some diseases may also lead to pancreas interference thus causing the lack of production of insulin. Without insulin, a dog's cells cannot get much needed glucose from the blood that will cause extreme lethargy. If caught early enough, a dog's diabetes can be managed with insulin, exercise and diet. However, if left unchecked, serious health problems, like blindness, can occur.

Symptom of Diabetes and Blindness

It is often hard to notice symptoms of diabetes in your dog. Your dog may eat more and more but still lose weight, have severe fatigue, increased thirst and increased urination. Dogs are stoic when it comes to discomfort or pain so you may not immediately notice if your dog is gradually losing sight. Because dogs also use smell, touch and their tail to navigate in addition to sight, they may compensate for failing vision. If your dog suddenly becomes unwilling to move from one spot to another, moves more slowly than normal, seems confused or bumps into things, you should take it to the veterinarian.


If the diabetes is left untreated, the sugar in the dog's blood will build up and begin to damage organs, including the retina, optic nerve and other parts of the eyes. This is what causes diabetic blindness. Once this process begins, it cannot be reversed and the damage incurred cannot be repaired. Other complications include malnutrition, muscle degradation, a breakdown of fat as source of energy, dehydration and even death.

Other Causes of Blindness

Some blindness in dogs is inherited and not a result of high sugar levels. Progressive retinal atrophy is common in certain breeds and results in a gradual decay of the retina. Other diseases that may lead to blindness in dogs include Cushing's disease, cataracts, high blood pressure, glaucoma and untreated eye infections.

Treatment for Diabetic Blindness

There is no treatment to reverse diabetic blindness in dogs. Instead, an owner must adjust the living conditions for the dog to enable ease of daily routine. Block off staircases and keep the furniture where it is, thus not creating new obstacles for the dog. Keep the house free of clutter that may impede your dog. Always speak to your dog when you enter the room and when you pet or groom it. If you have other dogs, put bells on their collars so the blind dog will be aware of their presence and can follow them. Most dogs will adapt well to their new disability.

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