"Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter allows you to remember who you are. Simplicity doesn’t change who you are, it brings you back to who you are."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Blind Side

Ginny has had congenital cataracts since we adopted her 8 years ago.  What started out as a slight filmy haze has progressed over the years to a significant cloudiness in both eyes.  This past year I noticed that her left eye has developed a denser opacity that is creating a blind spot in her vision. 

Ginny has a tendency to be my shadow.  She's always there.  As a result she will sometimes run into my knee if I'm on her left side moving through the house. 

I've noticed lately that she startles a bit more easily.

We walk in the early morning when it's still dark.  She manages this surprisingly well.  Our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks so we walk in the street.  This morning I walked in another neighborhood that I usually save for the weekends since I have to cross a busy country road to get to it.  This neighborhood also has sidewalks so the dogs are fairly familiar with the sidewalk routine.  This morning I zigged and Ginny zagged and "Yipe!"  Ginny smacked the left side of her face right into a young tree trunk.

I checked her and it was more of a startled yipe than an injury yipe.  (Her eyes will now be more prone to abrasions by running into things that she can't see as we move forward.)

Years ago the Vet mentioned a specialist in the area who could extract her cloudy lenses and replace them with artificial ones.  Just like with human cataract surgery.

SM and I have decided not to pursue this surgery with Ginny.  The biggest reason is the expense.  I've researched online and costs can vary from 3-6K.

That's a LOT of money.

Yes, I'm cheap and Yes, she's a dog.  But there's a big difference between human and animal senses.  I've learned to never underestimate how well an animal can adapt to any impairment.

Our old cat Kiki had a bilateral retinal detachment before he died.  He was an outside cat and roamed his territory completely blind for about a year and still managed to come home everyday for meals.  He died when his heart gave out here at the house last winter.  SM and I petted him as he passed.  He lived a good life.

Last night I went for an evening walk with my neighbor Deb and as we're gabbing along, I noticed another neighbor walking her dog towards us.  The dogs eyes were white.  I interrupted their walk to ask them about how long the (12yo) dog has been blind (2yrs) and how life has been for them.

She told me that the dog has adapted fine to being blind and that the only thing they were told to do is to not move the furniture around.  They live in a 2 story house and she told me the dog climbs the stairs and everything.

This makes me feel much better to hear.  I think we all feel a bit guilty when we decide to leave things be in regards to our animals health.  It's really all about common sense. 

As I preach to my own patients when discussing any elective surgery option...

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."


  1. Absolutely the right decision to make in my opinion. I know many people feel differently but I still feel it's the "natural" way for animals. With the kind, loving care her two "parents" give her, she'll adapt as she has to and be fine.

  2. Our neighbor has a dog whose eyes had to be completely removed due to cataract surgery "gone wrong". She gets along just fine 99% of the time, only running into a bit of trouble when windstorms happen to knock a few large branches into the yard. She's gotten tangled up in them a couple of times, as they are unexpected roadblocks in her daily routine.

  3. I agree you made the right choice. We had a bluetick coon dog when I was a kid that lost an eye after getting hit by a car. She was actually a better hunter after the loss of the eye, than she was before. Just like humans, their other senses are heightened when one is not 100%.

  4. So, so true. I'm in agreement with your "just because you can..." thinking with most everything in life. I think lots of people take the risk of surgery for something that might be better to learn to live with. They don't think about the very real risks of any surgery. I'm convinced my step-dad significantly accelerated his Alzheimer’s with an insignificant foot surgery. His neurologist (after the surgery) agreed. I'm sure if he had it to do over he would have elected to forgo that surgery. While I don't beleive he could have prevented Alzheimer's I do beleive he would have pushed back the affects for some time. People need to really consider the risk of general anesthesia.

  5. Do keep a check for lens induced uveitis and glaucoma, which can be a problem with mature cataracts. Both can cause the animals discomfort.