How to Modify a Home for a Dog with Progressive Retinal Atrophy?

April 18, 2024

Caring for a pet dog is a huge responsibility. You must provide your beloved companion with not only food and shelter but also love and care. This responsibility becomes even more significant when your pet is diagnosed with a condition such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is a genetic disease that primarily affects the vision of dogs. However, with proper care and home modification, you can make your pet’s life comfortable and fulfilling even with this condition.

Understanding Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Before delving into the steps to modify a home for a dog with PRA, it is imperative to understand what this condition entails. PRA refers to a group of genetic diseases that causes the retina’s photoreceptor cells to deteriorate over time. This ultimately leads to progressive vision loss and, in severe cases, complete blindness.

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The onset and progression of PRA are primarily determined by the dog’s breed. Certain breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, and Schnauzers are more prone to this condition than others. Although PRA also affects cats, it is more prevalent in dogs.

Early symptoms of PRA may include night blindness, followed by a gradual loss of daytime vision. As the disease progresses, the animal’s eyes may develop a distinct reflective shine, commonly known as ‘night shine’.

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Although there is no known cure for PRA, DNA tests can identify the condition in dogs before symptoms appear. Regular eye tests will help detect the onset of the disease, allowing you to take proactive measures to help your pet adjust to its diminishing vision.

Modifying the Home: Indoor Adjustments

Modifying your home to accommodate a dog with PRA involves making changes that will help your pet navigate its surroundings safely and confidently.

One of the first aspects to consider is your home’s flooring. Carpeted floors or rugs provide better traction for dogs and can reduce the risk of slips and falls. Moreover, different floor textures can help your pet understand where they are in the house.

Another important indoor adjustment is decluttering. Keeping the home free from any unnecessary items will ensure your dog doesn’t bump into things or trip over them. Once your pet has lost its vision completely, it will rely on its memory to move around, so maintaining consistency in furniture placement is crucial.

Lighting is another aspect to consider. While dogs with PRA may eventually become blind, enhancing the lighting in the house can help them during the early stages of the disease. However, avoid direct, bright lights as they can cause discomfort.

Modifying the Home: Outdoor Adjustments

While indoor modifications are important, there are also several changes you can make outdoors to improve your dog’s quality of life.

Firstly, fencing your yard is essential. A secure fence will allow your dog to roam freely and safely without straying too far from home. Additionally, ensure that the outdoor environment is free from any harmful objects or plants that could potentially harm your pet.

Creating a safe path for your dog to follow can also be beneficial. Consider using different textured materials to help your pet distinguish between different areas. For instance, you could use grass for open areas and gravel for pathways.

Lastly, make sure that the dog’s outdoor play area is safe. Avoid using toys with sharp edges, and instead opt for soft, chewable toys.

Training and Rehabilitation

Apart from home modifications, training and rehabilitation can play a significant role in helping a dog with PRA adapt to its changing environment.

While dogs have an exceptional memory and can remember the layout of their home even after losing their sight, it can still be helpful to guide them around the house. You can do this by using specific commands or by using a leash to lead them around.

In addition to training, consider seeking the help of a professional rehabilitation therapist. These specialists can introduce your dog to new ways of coping with their condition, including using their other senses to navigate their environment.

Coping with the Emotional Impact

Finally, it’s essential to understand that PRA will not only affect your dog physically but emotionally as well. Dogs with this condition may experience anxiety, depression, or fear due to their loss of sight.

As a pet owner, it’s crucial to provide your dog with reassurance, love, and comfort during this time. Be patient with your pet, and remember that they are experiencing a significant change in their life.

Overall, while PRA is a challenging condition to manage, it does not have to decrease your pet’s quality of life. With the right modifications, training, and emotional support, you can help your dog navigate their world confidently and happily, despite their vision loss.

Remember, their love for you won’t change, even if their ability to see does.

Enhancing Other Senses: Smell and Hearing

While dogs with Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) may experience progressive vision loss, they can still rely on their other senses to navigate their world. Indeed, a dog’s sense of smell and hearing are much more heightened than humans, making these senses particularly crucial for a dog with PRA.

Smell, in particular, is an extraordinary sense for dogs. Dogs can recognize their familiar surroundings and distinguish between different areas based mainly on scents. Therefore, using scented oils or pet-friendly perfumes in different areas of the house can help your dog navigate. For example, a particular scent in the dog’s bed area would help them identify it.

Further, a dog’s auditory sense is also extremely fine-tuned. Sounds can be used as cues to help dogs with PRA. For instance, you can use a specific sound, like a bell or whistle, whenever you are about to feed them or take them out for a walk. Over time, the dog will associate that sound with the particular activity, making it easier for them to anticipate what’s coming.

An additional tool you might consider is noise-making toys. These can offer both entertainment and a way for your PRA dog to locate the toy. However, it is important to ensure that the noise is not too loud or distressing for the dog.

Regular Vet Check-ups and Genetic Testing

While home modifications, training, and rehabilitation are key to managing a dog with PRA, regular check-ups and DNA tests also hold significant importance. Early detection can make a substantial difference in managing this condition effectively.

Regular vet check-ups can help monitor the progression of the disease. The vet can assess your pet’s vision and provide guidance on any additional modifications or strategies necessary. They can also monitor for secondary complications such as cataracts.

Genetic testing, on the other hand, is vital for identifying the condition before symptoms appear. This can be especially beneficial for breeds prone to PRA such as Labrador Retrievers, Schnauzers, and Irish Setters. Knowing your dog’s genetic predisposition can help you prepare in advance and possibly delay the onset of symptoms through appropriate preventive measures.


Caring for a dog with Progressive Retinal Atrophy can undoubtedly present some challenges, but with understanding, patience, and the right modifications, your pet can continue to lead a fulfilling life.

By making indoor and outdoor adjustments, utilizing their heightened senses of smell and hearing, maintaining regular vet check-ups and genetic testing, and providing emotional support, your dog can manage their progressive vision loss effectively.

Remember, your pet’s happiness doesn’t solely depend on their ability to see. With your love and care, they can continue to lead a joyful and comfortable life. After all, their affection for you won’t diminish even if their sight does.