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Progressive Retinal Atrophy: How Can Your Helpful Changes In The Home Hurt Your Dog?

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If your beloved pooch's vet diagnoses them with progressive retinal atrophy, you do all you can to make its life easier. But sometimes the best intentions actually harm instead of help pets with vision problems. Progressive retinal atrophy damages the tissue in your pet's eyes that control how well it sees at night or in low lighting. The disease is progressive, which means that your pet's eyes won't get better with time. There are things you may do in your home that create safety hazards for your pet, such as moving around furnishings. Before you make changes to your home, here are things to know about progressive retinal atrophy, as well as what you shouldn't do and what you should do instead.

How Does Progressive Retinal Atrophy Affect Your Pet's Vision?

Progressive retinal atrophy develops in certain breeds of dogs, including labrador retrievers and miniature poodles. The condition can occur when your pet is very young, or it may develop sometime later when it's older. Progressive retinal atrophy damages the thin tissue in the back of each eye called the retina. 

The retina uses special photoreceptors or cones to receive light and other details from your pet's corneas. Your pet's retinas decipher the details before transmitting them to the brain. When progressive retinal atrophy develops, the photoreceptors inside the retinas can't receive, decipher and relay light to your pet's brain.

When your pet first develops progressive retinal atrophy, you won't notice big changes in your pet's vision until night time or when the home has poor lighting. Your dog may avoid locations in the home with poor lighting, such as a dark bedroom or hallway. However, your pet may spend more time in a room with lots of sunlight because it's easier for it to see things.

As the disease progresses, your pet begins to see fuzzy, dark images instead of clear details. Eventually, cloudy films called cataracts form over the surfaces of your pet's eyes, which reduces or takes away its vision.

What Should and Shouldn't You Do to Improve the Home at Night?

Although your pet's vision declines during progressive retinal atrophy, they still possess a keen sense of touch. Because of this, moving things around in your home confuses your beloved pet rather than improve their ability to move about. Your pet's home environment may no longer seem familiar to them.

Don't Change Your Pet's Environment

Your dog's whiskers come in handy when it comes to feeling its way around the house. Whiskers attach or connect to special sensory cells in your dog's skin that help your pet feel things in the air and on the ground. Whiskers also help your pet locate things it's very familiar and comfortable with, such as furniture in the house. 

For instance, if you move a coffee table that your dog loves to lie under at night, your pet may not know where to find the table because of its eye condition. But if you leave the coffee table in place, your dog can use its whiskers to locate the table at bedtime.

Instead of moving your furnishings and changing things in the home, create more light in the house. 

Do Install Better Lighting in the Home

Installing low lighting in the home, such as in the living room, hallways and bedrooms, improves your pet's ability to see at night. Use subtle lighting instead of bright lighting to highlight your pet's favorite eating, playing and sleeping places. Bright lights, such as fluorescent lighting, may aggravate your dog's progressive retinal atrophy because it produces glares.

In addition, the bright light may make the home appear like it's still daylight outside. You don't want to disrupt your pet's ability to tell day from night. Place small nightlights in the hallways and in your bedrooms. Your pet may want to visit you during the night and the subtle light helps it do so.

Remember, your dog can see better when sunlight filters into the home. If possible, keep the blinds and curtains open during the day and use lighting at night.

For more about this topic or if you need additional help with making your home better for your dog without changing its environment, speak to a veterinarian.