Assessing blindness in pets: first things first

May 18, 2020
Ron Ofri, DVM, PhD, DECVO
Ron Ofri, DVM, PhD, DECVO

Dr. Ofri is a professor of comparative ophthalmology at the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Rehovot, Israel.

Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Ron Ofri shares a few tips to help in diagnosing blindness in your veterinary patients.

When assessing blind veterinary patients, it's important to rule out gradual and progressive blindess first, says Ron Ofri, DVM, PhD, professor of comparative ophthalmology at the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Rehovot, Israel.

"You have to make sure [the blindess] really is acute," Dr. Ofri explains, noting that blind pets often are able to navigate their familiar home environment, so an owner may not notice anything is amiss until the pet is put into an unfamiliar surroundings.

Unlike progressive forms, acute blindeness usually is caused by acquired diseases. "These may be diseases of the eye such as acute cataracts in the case of diabetes, glaucoma, and SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome). These are all acute forms of blindess due to ocular diseases."

Acute blindness can also be caused by neurological diseases, Dr. Ofri says, or can be a manisfestation of a systemic disease.

Once you've ruled out all ocular causes of acute blindness, you have to consider the possibility that the dog is blind due to a neurological or a systemic disease, "and you have a do a neurological and systemic workup in order to find the primary cause," he says.

In the video below, Dr. Ofri offers additional insight on how to diagnose acute blindness in pets.