Glaucoma threatens dogs with partial to complete blindness, just as it does for humans, making it a serious health risk. While various factors contribute to the condition's development, symptoms are similar in all cases. Canine glaucoma is not a hopeless problem, but some vision loss is inevitable.
Glaucoma and the Eye
Glaucoma describes a steady increase of pressure inside your dog's eyes. A healthy eye is constantly gaining and losing a fluid called aqueous humor, which provides nutrients to ocular cells and maintains the eyeball's shape. An eye affected by glaucoma continues to gain fluid from the body but does not shed waste fluid fast enough to maintain the delicate balance. This leads to the buildup of intraocular pressure, which limits vision and eventually causes total blindness in untreated dogs. Primary glaucoma describes the condition when it appears by itself, while secondary glaucoma occurs along with other other eye problems associated with the increase of intraocular pressure.
If your pet suffers from primary glaucoma, he inherited genetic traits from his parents that predispose him to this condition. The primary form of the disease is prevalent in certain purebred dogs, including American cocker spaniels, chow chows and arctic breeds, according to the Animal Eye Care website. Secondary glaucoma is caused by another health issue that impacts your dog's eyes, such as an infection or inflammation. A few common sources of secondary glaucoma include ocular cancer, late-state cataracts and lens displacement caused by retinal detachment or a birth defect.
Glaucoma is actually quite painful. Unfortunately, your dog cannot describe painful sensations to the vet, so this is not helpful when diagnosing the condition. Veterinarians look for several clinical symptoms to identify glaucoma in their patients, including the presence of green or yellow discharge from the eye, increased tear production and redness around the eyeball, according to Zigler Veterinary Professional Corporation. Dogs suffering from glaucoma tend to sleep a lot, act more irritable than normal and may be easily frightened. They also show an inordinate desire to hide under or behind objects.
You cannot treat or manage glaucoma on your own, so take your dog to the vet if he's having trouble seeing or if you notice any other symptoms of the condition. You can manage cases of early glaucoma with laser surgery and topical medication, according to NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. It's difficult to restore vision loss caused by glaucoma, so treatment for advanced cases focuses on pain relief to keep your pet comfortable. Talk with your vet about options for surgical treatment and pain medication for your dog. Your pet can maintain good quality of life even without the use of his eyes, so don't give up on him just because he can't see well anymore.
Since primary glaucoma is a hereditary condition that rears its head within members of certain breeds, it is a concern for professional dog breeders. Dogs who develop genetic conditions are unsuitable for show, so breeders have a vested interest in detecting glaucoma before breeding their animals. Fortunately, recently developed tests can detect the presence of early glaucoma in young dogs well before symptoms emerge, according to Iowa State University News Service. Ask your vet or local dog club chapter for advice on pursuing these tests if you plan to breed your pets.
By Quentin Coleman
Animal Eye Care LLC: Glaucoma
NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Ophthalmology - Special Services, Technology, and Information
Zigler Veterinary Professional Corporation: Glaucoma in Veterinary Patients
Newburgh Veterinar Hospital: Be Watchful for Glaucoma Symptoms in Your Dog
Iowa State University News Service: Newly Developed Early Canine Glaucoma Tests Should Help Owners of Breeding Dogs
About the Author
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.