Blindness in dogs can be a result of a genetic predisposition, a symptom of a disorder, or an accident. The following discusses some common causes of blindness, available treatments, and preventative tips.
A cataract is a progressive disease of the eye in which a clear lens turns cloudy or opaque, decreasing the ability to see. A cataract can develop in one eye or in both. It usually develops in both eyes, resulting in cataracts.
Because cataracts do not suddenly appear, they are not always easy to detect. Initially, a layer of opacity may only be visible when direct light shines into the eye. Gradually, the layer of opacity will thicken, and ultimately, the eyes can turn completely white, resulting in blindness.
Cataracts are painless, but they can affect a dog’s quality of life. Additionally, there are different types of cataracts, and they may accompany other pathologies. As such, an evaluation by a veterinarian is needed to determine the a cataract’s type.
Cataracts can develop in any dog, but they are more likely to occur in the Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Yorkshire Terrier, and Schnauzer.
Treatment is dependent on the progression of the disease. Also, since the opacity typically occludes only some of the eye, most dogs will not need surgery. Eye drops to help with inflammation may be recommended.
If surgery is recommended, general anesthesia will be required. The surgical procedure phacoemulsification involves a small probe being used to break up the cataract through ultrasonic vibration. Then the cataract particles are removed.
Once removed, an artificial lens (IOL) may be implanted to improve near vision, but only a vet can determine if a particular dog is a viable candidate. If IOL is not an option, functional vision can still be achieved.
Monitoring your dog’s eyes and overall health through yearly veterinarian examinations is a great way to catch an underlying cause, such as diabetes, and provide treatment to decrease the likelihood cataracts develop.
Diabetes causes a rise in blood glucose levels in the aqueous humor, located in the eye. Rising blood glucose levels cause several irreversible changes in the structure of lens, one of which is cataracts.
Dogs with diabetes mellitus will most likely develop cataracts within five to six months after diagnosis. Cataracts that are caused by diabetes can develop quickly and can cause complete blindness within 48 hours.
Once your dog’s diabetes is controlled and there are no additional health issue concerning the eyes’ phacoemulsification, cataract surgery may be an option.
Once diabetes has been diagnosed, insulin shots will be needed to help prevent the development of cataracts. Your veterinarian will also prescribe a special diet, daily exercise, and spaying for female dogs.
Glaucoma is an increase in pressure within one or both eyes that occurs when fluid can not drain properly. It is a painful and damages the retina and optic nerve. It is considered an ophthalmological emergency because, if left untreated, irreversible damage to the optic nerve can occur.
Some causes of glaucoma include tumors, trauma, or displaced lenses. However, it can also be genetic. Whatever the cause, immediate and long-term treatment is required to hopefully control the intraocular pressure (IOP) and the maintenance of your dog’s vision.
Several breeds are at risk for developing primary glaucoma. These breeds include the following.
– Bouvier des Flandres
– Chow Chow
– Bassett Hound
– Siberian Husky
– Cocker Spaniel
– Great Dane
If medication to relieve the pressure is not enough to control the progression of the disease, there are a variety of surgical options available, depending on the age, severity, and/or any additional medical conditions.
Surgery requires general anesthesia and may include the removal of the eye or the implementation of an artificial eye. Surgical options are reviewed on a case by case basis.
Supplements such as astaxanthin, antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins E, C, rutin, and lutein promote eye health and may be enough to prevent glaucoma. You may also want to use a harness, as neck collars might increase intraocular pressure. Also, regular eye examinations are recommended to detect intraocular pressure.
Blindness can sometimes be the result of the eye’s physical deterioration during the aging process. Older dogs are also predisposed to developing blindness associated with retinal detachment and cancer. Additionally, many causes of blindness may have a genetic basis as blindness is often breed- and age-specific.
There is no treatment or prevention for aging-related blindness. However, educating yourself regarding specific breed risks, ensuring your dog receives a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and yearly checkups can help with early detection and intervention.
Sudden acquired retinal degeneration is a disease of the eye. The cause is unknown, but it is suspected to be immune-mediated. As the name denotes, the disease comes on suddenly, within less than a month. It typically results in complete blindness.
SARD is not painful and typically occurs in middle-aged to older, healthy dogs. An electroretinogram (ERG), which is a non-painful electrophysiologic test, is needed to determine if a dog has SARD.
Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, and females a more likely to develop SARD. There is no medication or surgical option available. Since the cause of SARD is not yet known, there are no known preventive measures.
Breed specific blindness
It is clear that many causes of blindness are breed specific. In fact, eye disease tends to be more common in white-colored canines, such as Boxers. Boxers are also known for their genetic predisposition to several over diseases, including gingival hyperplasia, aortic stenosis, and epilepsy.
Breeds at increased risk for blindness due to lens luxation include Terriers, Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs, Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas. Shih Tzu’s are at increased risk for blindness that is caused by retinal detachment.
When blindness is irreversible, it is important to keep your dog safe by blocking access to stairwells and pools, covering sharp edges on furniture, and keeping pathways clear.
Make sure to keep furniture, food trays, and water bowls in the same spot. You can also use different textured mats to alert your dog to steps and other obstacles in their path.
One of the most important coping methods is to maintain a normal as possible life. Play with your dog. Take him or her on walks. Since dog’s rely on their olfactory senses, taking your dog out to play with other dogs, keeping him or her socialized, is very important.
To read more on topics like this, check out the health category.