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Discussion Starter #1
Leann is a 4 1/2 yr old lab. I have been swimming her (indoor pool) year round for the past 18 months. The routine is, I throw a red bumper and she retrieves it. She has never missed it.

In the last 3-5 weeks, all that has changed. I have been throwing the bumper, she watches it land, then she turns to look at me (while she's already in the water). She seems to be looking for me to throw it, even though I already did. I point at it, she looks around and looks back at me. Eventually she spots it and retrieves the bumper. At times, she actually comes back out of the water spots it then goes back in to retrieve it. Leann is a passionate swimmer, but only swims for one purpose, she needs something to retrieve.

At first, I thought her reaction from bowel stimulation. She has in the past, stopped using her back legs, looked at me and that's my cue to take her out for a quick potty break. We come back in and it's business as usual. The past 3 weeks, she still had problems locating the bumper after going out for her potty break.

I started throwing the bumper closer to her. This past week, she also had problems (50% of the time) finding the bumper even though it landed a foot in front of her.

My second theory was that the wake in the water was too high and she couldn't see it. That theory was dispelled this week, when there was little to no wake at all.

She has no vision problems that I am aware if. She finds and retrieves tennis balls in the grass. She moves around freely at night. No hesitancy getting on and off the bed, or moving from room to room at night. She seems to be able to spot rabbits on our evening walks, but not as easily at dusk.

I will be taking her to a veterinary ophthalmologist for an exam this weekend. I also bought bumpers in new colors other than red for the next swim, though I really don't think it's a color issue. If it were, why would she have trouble finding the same bumper after 18 months of finding it with no problem.

I was wondering, Is there another possible explanation for her not being able to locate the bumper? I was trying to figure out if she was distracted by something? The only thing new is our car. She has to use a ramp now to get in and out. She also has to ride in the cargo area, instead of the back seat. I still can't imagine this being enough to interfere with her one true passion. I mean this dog refuses treats when she's fetching bumpers in water. She is very intense when it comes to her swims.

My only other theory is that seasonal allergies could be affecting her vision. I know it bothers mine sometimes.

I hope it's not early vision loss. But if it isn't, I can't imagine what would cause her to lose a bumper 12 inches from her face.

Any thoughts?
 

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It could be vision loss, but when Muggsy started to lose his vision, the first symptom was trouble recognizing people in low light. He would bark at people he knew, but when you flipped on a light, he stopped immediately. Motion he was pretty good with up until the end.

If it is vision loss, don't despair. Dogs don't depend on their sight nearly as much as we do. The rescue I got my dog from recently placed a border collie whose eyes had to be entirely removed. He's a happy thing who loves running around and playing, and he could see at one point.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks Amaryllis. If it is her vision, we'll just have to get creative with her water retrieval. Let her ears be her guide and maybe add some hot dogs in with the filling so she can find it.

I did find out today, that both of her parents were DNA tested, so PRA should not be a possibility for her, though, I'm sure there are other ocular issues to consider. I knew her parents, herself and siblings were examined, but I wasn't sure about the DNA to rule out the hereditary gene for PRA.
 

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Just like people around age 40, lots of Labs will start to have degraded vision around age 5 - 7. Unfortunately, they look funny in glasses :) When the dog is a young adult, vision is fairly clear... and my current Lab-mix was able to catch things the size of a pea. When he was about 5 -7, he couldn't catch things smaller than a quarter. At 11 yo, he has trouble with small biscuits, but ping-pong balls and tennis balls are fine.

Dogs are Red/Green colorblind, altho their grey-level distinction is very good. You might specifically try a bright yellow or blue toy, to see if that makes a difference. Motion sense is also very good, so a blinking toy might be easier to locate. Stripes on a toy may be easier to distinguish. Twelve inches may be too close (!!!), try 36 inches and see if that makes a difference.

If the bumper is the only problem, I would suggest visiting your normal Vet rather than a veterinary ophthalmologist, who will be more expensive. Also, when you talk to a specialist, they may encourage you to solve a problem that seems worse than it is. I've noticed an increase in canine cataract surgeries, which are fairly expensive. However, as Amaryllis said, degraded vision isn't as important to a dog, and I think surgery is an unneeded expense.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Need your opinions (please) - early sign of vision loss? or something else? - Update

Leann had her eye cerf this morning, (for $35.00). She had a grand old time. The opthamologist said her eyes look perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, the vet did not provide any further direction for me to look into. I asked if there were any other conditions that would normally be tested prior to being dropped, but she really didn't answer. I will probably explore seasonal allergies next with her regular vet and see what our next step should be. Is it possible seasonal allergies are affecting her sight? It's the only other thing I can think of that has occurred within the last 4 weeks.

We did have some fun yesterday with the new bumpers, (yellow, bright green, red, navy blue and royal blue). I laid them out side-by-side in the pool before she got up onto the deck. She could see them from the deck and went straight for the yellow first, red second, royal blue third and green fourth, and navy blue last. We repeated a variety of experiments, sometimes throwing 1 bumper, other times throwing 2-3, different colors, sometimes setting them in the water, other times tossing, etc. Often times she came back with 2 bumpers, after we pointed them out to her. She definitely preferred the yellow, red and royal blue.

In the end, the experiment was interesting but inconclusive. Leann still often turned around to ask if I was going to throw the bumper, (which I had already done and she had watched it land 12 inches in front of her). The person with me (watching from a side-view) thought she only spotted the movement as they splashed. So, back to square one.

The good news is that it does not appear to be serious.
 
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