We recently started a new and unexpected phase in our dog's life… blindness. She was stricken with S.A.R.D.S (which is another post I'm working on) and our world was turned upside down. Our smart, outgoing 7 year old lab/beagle mix, in a matter of a few weeks, lost most of her sight. She became a bit withdrawn (maybe even depressed), started sleeping more, and exhibited other symptoms such as drinking a lot, peeing a lot, and excessive panting. We're slowly adjusting and it isn't easy, but we're staying positive about it all. She gets around just fine and the average person observing her wouldn't know she's blind at all.
Though our baby dog plays much less than she used to, she still occasionally likes to play. She can even still fetch, as long as she can hear the ball bounce. (Yes, that's right. Fetch for blind dogs isn't impossible.) It gets a little frustrating for her if the ball rolls and she can't pinpoint it. That led me to search for toys for blind dogs. I figured that the best toys for blind dogs would be ones that incorporate sounds or smells to stimulate their other senses. As expected, it's a rather small niche market, but there are some rather interesting toys we're going to give a try. I'm going to list them here and I'll report back on which ones we try and how our dog reacted. (Disclaimer: If you purchase through one of these links, I'll get a commission, which will go to pay off some of our mounting vet bills. Thank you. :))
Toys for Blind Dogs
I'm wondering how our girl would react to this Wiggly Giggly ball. It moves in random patterns when nudged (the “wiggly” part) and makes “hilarious giggling sounds” (the giggly part). It's inexpensive enough ($12.50) that we may give it a try. Our dog LOVES balls, especially squeaky ones, so she might just take to it.
Speaking of squeaky balls, our dog's all time favorite toy, which she still plays with is an Air Kong Squeaker Tennis Ball. She's nearly bitten through it so the squeaker's almost dead, so she's probably due for another one soon.
Another toy I've seen recommended for blind dogs is the Soft-Flex Swirl Ball. It's tough vinyl (so it should hold up to our voracious chewer) and the squeaker is built in, so there isn't anything for her to “de-squeak”.
Other recommended toys that appeal to the sense of smell incorporate treats. Since weight gain is one of the symptoms our dog has experienced, we have been careful to watch her diet and are not incorporating any treat type toys at the moment. We may, once her symptoms resolve (generally in 3-6 months). Kong Treat Dispensers are recommended, as our dog loved them long before she contracted S.A.R.D.S.
I'm still on the lookout for some good scented toys. I'll post more as I find them. If you have suggestions for blind dog toys (or would like to share your experiences with your S.A.R.D. dog), feel free to leave me a comment!
Update 4/26/11: I happened to be in Walgreens today and decided to look in the pet department. I came across the Pet Qwerks Jingle X Tire Ball Dog Toy and decided to give it a shot. It was a smash hit! Our dog LOVED it. We hadn't really seen her play with a ball since she went blind. We tried to get her to play, but she wasn't just interested. Well, that jingle bell made all the difference. She went nuts barking at it, flinging it around the room, chasing it down. We got a glimpse of her old self that we hadn't seen in months. My husband and I were laughing and smiling watching her enjoy herself. I have to admit, I almost even cried I was so happy to see her having fun again. The toy itself is made of hard plastic, so it may not last very long with her chewing propensity, but it made it a whole day so far and that's a record for plastic toys in our house. LOL. Now that I know that jingle bells are the answer, I'll be on the lookout for more!
Update 5/14/11: Well, the Pet Qwerks Jingle X Tire Ball Dog Toy is still going. She hasn't torn it to pieces. I'm amazed.
Update: Here are some more recommendations for toys for blind dogs along with reviews of some of the blind dog toys mentioned above.