Staircase Dilemmas & Eyesight Problems?

Lately I’ve become a bit scared to go up the staircases inside the big people kennel. I have to get it just right and run up as fast as I can, without stopping, otherwise I can’t go up the stairs. At first Mum wondered if I had arthritis as sometimes I just sit at the bottom of the stairs and whimper because I can’t get up them. Then she wondered if it was my eyesight instead because when she turns on the lights the stairs are easier for me to see so I can run up them again. I’ve been having this problem with the stairs occasionally for a few months but just over the last couple of weeks or so it’s become a lot worse.

The staircase I dislike the most is the one up to the top level as it’s a see-through staircase with spaces between the flat bits that I might fall through. Mum keeps reassuring me that I can’t possibly fall through the gaps but the fact that I can still see through them bothers me, especially when bright light from the rooms downstairs shines through. So Mum turns some lights off and others on, and even closes doors to change the lighting until I can be brave enough to run up those stairs. I have crashed on the stairs a few times, which is scary too. Mum says it’s because I try to run up too quickly …but I don’t know how to go up slowly as I can’t work out which paw to put first if I slow down …I MUST run!

So, because my problems with the stairs seem to get better or worse depending on the lighting conditions Mum’s been reading about eye problems in Border Collies. She found some good articles to read:

Retinal Disorders in Border Collies
Progressive Retinal Degeneration
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in the Border Collie: A new XLPRA

Mum is particularly concerned about a disease called Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which is a genetic disease of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs are nightblind, lacking the ability to adjust their vision to dim light; later their daytime vision also fails. The pattern of disease expression is highly consistent and recognizable as a function of age. As their vision deteriorates, affected dogs will adapt to their handicap as long as their environment remains constant, and they are not faced with situations requiring excellent vision. At the same time the pupils of their eyes become increasingly dilated, causing a noticeable “shine” to their eyes; and the lens of their eyes may become cloudy, or opaque, resulting in a cataract. Usually, the vision becomes affected when the dog is 6-8 years of age. There is no treatment for any form of retinal degeneration. These conditions are painless and, in most cases, loss of vision progresses slowly and pets adjust to this handicap remarkably well. Animals which are irreversibly blind can live a normal lifespan and have an excellent quality of life.

Mum thinks my pupils might be a bit more dilated than they should be, and they do look oddly “shiny” (not quite the same as they used to look) but she’s not really sure. They still look clear and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of cataracts, so that’s a good thing. I’ll be 8 years old in 10 days time. Mum will ask my vet to check my eyes next time we go there.

Then again, I can still see a dirty tennis ball in the grass at night and run straight to it so maybe my staircase problem is a learned behavioral and physical co-ordination thing and not bad eyesight. Crashing on the stairs makes me scared, so I have to be extra brave to try to run up them again. I’m confused about it all and I don’t know how to tell Mum exactly what my problem is. Although, I did seem to forget about my staircase problem the other night when the skywater was falling noisily and the loud thing was making noise and bright flashes in the sky. I had to get upstairs as quickly as I could to get closer to the sky noise and run back and forth along the upstairs hallway to bark at it. I can be brave when I have to!

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