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5 Dog Eye Exams You Can Do at Home to Check Your Dog’s Eyesight

A dog’s eyes never lie. Like human beings, these round-shaped body parts express what they feel and allow them to live fully. And as pet owners, we rely on their eyes to understand them better.

If we want them to remain the dog we've come to love, we must protect their eyesight before visual impairment strikes and makes them suffer. If their vision becomes impaired or shuts out, their behavior will change, and it will feel as if they're no longer the same pet. Thus, we have to regularly conduct dog eye exams to check their eye health and make sure they’re still in top shape.

Below are some eye tests you can do at home. We'll also give you a quick rundown on what to expect should you choose to see a vet. Finally, we’ll tell you about alternative lifelike pets and how they can help.

Conducting a dog eye exam at home

Before going to the veterinarian for your dog's eye exam, you can try to conduct tests at home. These dog eye tests should help you gauge whether they have any vision impairment and, if they do, how severe the condition is. You can then tell the vet this information once you make an appointment. 

Obstacle course

Set up a maze-like course on your lawn or backyard. A simple one is ideal. This maze will test your dog’s ability to navigate obstacles using their eyesight.

Once the maze is complete, place your dog at the starting point. Then, head to the opposite end of the maze and call their name to get them to come to you. As they do, observe their movement. If your dog seems confused or unable to navigate the maze, it may signify vision problems. 

Inability to finish the maze may also be a sign that your dog is depressed. So if you’re unsure, try other at-home eye examinations.

Menace response

Conduct this test in a well-lit room. Find a dog toy that will get their attention, and quickly swing it toward their eyes. Be careful not to touch their whiskers or hurt their eyes.

Blinking is the expected response for the menace response test. It aims to draw out the dog’s visual reflexes. If your dog has a visual impairment, they may have a delayed response or may not blink.

Light reflex test

Also known as pupillary light reflex (PLR), this DIY dog eye examination must be conducted in a dimly lit or dark room. 

The test is easy: hold out a flashlight two to three inches away from the dog’s eye, and watch if the pupils contract. If they remain dilated despite the flood of light, it's a sign that you need to get your dog to the vet for further checking. 

Dazzle reflex test

This test combines the menace response and the PLR test: you'll have to make the dog blink by suddenly shining a bright light directly into their eyes.

The dazzle reflex test will give you insight into your dog's retina condition. Its light sensitivity means the dog will blink as a protective response to too much light. If no blinking happens, your dog's eyesight may have issues.

Cotton ball test

The cotton ball test gives insight into the reactiveness of your dog's eyesight. It is also one of the easiest tests you can do to ascertain your dog's ability to see.

Do the cotton ball test in a well-lit room. Drop a cotton ball at least half a foot away from your dog's face, and watch their reaction, particularly how their eyes move to find the cotton ball. Under normal conditions, dogs will get curious at the sight of something odd; a cotton ball is an example of a harmless object that can catch their attention.

What to expect when bringing your dog to the vet

If your dog failed several tests you did at home, it's time to dig up that pet insurance and visit the trusty vet. But we understand it can be stressful for you and your dog if it is your first time bringing them for an eye exam. For example, how are you supposed to coax your dog to be calm while the vet conducts tests?

Don't worry; your vet will not force your dog. Here are things you should expect.

History taking

Your veterinary ophthalmologist will ask you questions about your dog's eyesight and when and how you discovered the visual impairment. Your observations from the at-home eye tests will come in handy here. 

The vet will also ask about any previous diagnoses and diseases. You may also tell them about your dog's diet, past and present treatments, and your dog's general health condition.

Testing

The vet will do the below examinations after you give them a good picture of your dog's health and eye condition. Note that the vet may do one or several of these tests depending on your dog's eye problem.

  • A routine test involves testing the amount of lubrication in your dog's eyes. The vet will use a tonometer after numbing your dog's eye to check for intraocular pressure. It's also a way to see if your dog has glaucoma.
  • Slit-lamp biomicroscopy evaluates your dog's cornea, lens, and eyelid health. It tells the vet if there are cloudy corneas or signs of cataracts.
  • Ophthalmoscopy looks into your dog's optic nerve and retina to determine if there's any damage beyond the eye's surface.

Diagnosis and treatment planning

Your vet will give an initial diagnosis after the test results and recommend a treatment plan for your dog. Additionally, they may require follow-up checkups and further testing depending on the diagnosis.

Perfect dogs for life

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