Frankie’s eyesight is failing, though I’m not sure to what extent. Although they’re not completely obscured, his lenses look cloudy. I’ve also noticed that Frankie is hesitant to jump off things as low as the mattress on the floor where we sleep. (Yes, when he had back problems years ago, I opted to put my bed on the floor rather than train Frankie not to jump up it. That’s for my sake as much as for his; I like waking up next to my little furry buddy).
He seems a bit more uncertain in general, a little more irritable.
This encroaching sight limitation — ok, blindness — comes as no great surprise. Frankie is about 13 and he’s had diabetes for more than four and a half years. Cataracts are a side effect of both age and diabetes; sometimes they are the first sign of the disease, in fact.
There’s a possible solution to the problem: Cataract surgery. It’s a fairly simple procedure, and I thought maybe I could have it done as the same time as I had Frankie’s teeth cleaned, because putting him under anesthesia twice didn’t seem like a great idea at his age.
But when I called the veterinary specialist to get a quote on the price for cataract surgery and to find out about the possibility of having Frankie’s teeth cleaned at the same time, I got a nix on the dual procedures. Eye surgeons don’t want bacteria from the teeth migrating up while they’re trying to create a sterile environment. Which makes sense.
And then I got the sticker shock: It would cost about $4,000 to do both eyes. Not so simple, budget-wise. I can’t afford it. I can barely afford the teeth cleaning, about $600, but I know Frankie’s health and comfort are at stake when it comes to dental work. The eyesight issue is not so clear cut.
I’m deeply conflicted. There’s a part of me — the rational one — that knows this is more about me than about Frankie, about not wanting to accept that my once bright-eyed, perky pup is getting old. I imagine that when he seems distressed and wants something from me that he can’t express that he’s upset over his eyesight, that he wants me to make it come back.
Of course he could also have early stage dementia, which cataract surgery wouldn’t improve. He would simply see where he is wandering better.
Then there’s the morbid superstition that if I were to go into debt –or I should say more debt — for eye surgery, Frankie would immediately contract a fatal disease, leaving me broke as well as bereft.
But maybe you’re wondering about Frankie’s quality of life, as opposed to the state of my mental health.
Aside from the bouts of seeming to have some indeterminate need I can’t meet — maybe an existential crisis? — he seems fine. He’s still chasing his squeaky carrot, though he doesn’t run with it as far as he used to. He finds his way outside to his favorite bathroom spots in the yard, no problem. I’m far more likely to trip over him when he gets under my feet than he is to bump into anything.
And he’s never been interested in wandering when we go on walks. He’s always happy to trot along behind me on the leash. And that’s not changed.
He also continues to stare at me to psych me out.
Still, I’m trying to clear the floor of obstacles — stray shoes in the living room and bedroom, papers and books on the floor of my office. This is not a bad thing to do under any circumstances (as I said, I’m more likely to trip over stuff than Frankie is). And I’m trying to stay rational and not let guilt blind me to the fact that I can’t control every aspect of my dog’s aging, but that I will continue to guide him and cater to his comfort as best I can.
Has anyone else dealt with vision loss in a dog or cat? Who had more trouble coping — you or your pet?