Glaucoma is a condition in which there is increased pressure in the eyeball and this pressure slowly reduces vision. It can eventually lead to a loss of eyesight. Glaucoma occurs in humans as well as in other animals like dogs too.
In this article, we’ll see the symptoms, causes, and possible treatment for glaucoma in dogs.
What is Glaucoma in Dogs?
A healthy eye produces a certain amount of fluid to nourish the tissues present in the eye and to prevent dust and dirt from clouding the vision. This liquid is called aqueous humor and is located inside the eyes. This is not the same as tear glands. In fact, aqueous humor drains back into the bloodstream and doesn’t drain out of the eyes.
In healthy dogs, there is a good balance between the production and drainage of this aqueous humor. When this balance is affected, the liquid accumulates in the eyes and creates intense pressure.
When intense pressure is placed on the eyes, it reduces the level of fluid drainage from the eyes. It starts with mild discomfort and over time, especially when left untreated, it can cause permanent blindness. In the case of dogs, the diagnosis and treatment have to be swift as glaucoma can cause permanent blindness within the first year itself. There is no treatment for blindness.
Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to glaucoma than others, so researchers believe that there is a genetic element to its occurrence. The breeds that have the highest possible chance for glaucoma are Samoyeds, cocker spaniels, Siberians, and chow chows. Also, glaucoma is more likely in older dogs than in young pups.
What Causes Glaucoma in Dogs?
There are two main reasons for glaucoma in dogs. The first cause is problems or infections in the dog’s infiltration angles in the eyes. As a result of this infection, fluids do not drain out of the eyes completely, so this results in pressure getting built up in the eyes. This is called primary glaucoma.
The second cause is damage caused due to injuries, slipping of the lens in the eyes, tumors, blood accumulation due to injuries, and inflammation of the important tissues in the eyes. These causes are called secondary glaucoma.
In dogs, secondary glaucoma is more common than primary glaucoma.
The primary disease begins when the eyes are unable to drain out the excess liquid through the filtration angles. This primary glaucoma begins with symptoms such as:
- Frequent blinking of the eyes
- The eyeball may recede into the head
- The whites of the eyes turn red due to the presence of many enlarged blood vessels.
- There is a cloudy look in the eyes and the dogs can see only a blurred vision.
- The pupil is dilated and does not respond to light.
These symptoms are easily identified by the vet during a routine checkup. As a pet owner, you should be able to identify one or more of these symptoms too, especially the red part and the lack of response to light.
If these symptoms are not identified and treated, it can lead to more serious damage that will have the following symptoms.
- Enlargement of the eyeball
- Loss of vision, which will be impossible to miss for any dog owner
- Degeneration within the eye.
Sadly, if you get to this point, no treatment or surgery can fix the dog’s vision. It may have to live with blindness for the rest of its life. This is why you should constantly be on the lookout for any changes in the routine of your dog. Regular checkups with the vet will also help to identify these symptoms early.
Glaucoma can sometimes come due to certain eye infections, and this is called secondary glaucoma. The symptoms for the secondary glaucoma are:
- High pressure inside the eyes
- Redness in eyes, especially in the areas where the white parts are visible.
- Cloudy appearance
- Inflammation debris present inside the eyes
- Construction of the pupil and sensitivity to light
- Sometimes, the iris could stick to the cornea
- There is also a possibility for the edge of the iris to stick to the lens.
These are the most prominent symptoms that can be seen by the dog owners. Others could include
It is hard to associate these ancillary symptoms with glaucoma, so be on the lookout for the main symptoms alone.
The main thing to watch out for is changes in the eyes and possible vision problems.
You will have to constantly be on the watch out for any of these symptoms. In fact, it may not be as hard as it sounds because problems in vision are easy to spot. The dog will falter in its everyday routine or will exhibit difficulty in seeing. These are clear signs that everything is not alright with your dog and a trip to the vet is essential.
The vet will examine the dog thoroughly and will look into the past health history of the dog. You will be asked a few questions about the possible cause of injury if any or the prevalence of any other symptom.
As a dog owner, it is best you start making a note of the frequency of symptoms. Have a log book to make these notes, so you can easily answer the vet’s questions. It is important you give accurate answers to these questions to help the vet make the right diagnosis.
During the physical examination, the doctor will check the pressure in the eyes of your dog using a device called tonometer. This device is placed at the front of the eye and pressure is noted.
Sometimes, the vet may decide to refer your dog to a vet ophthalmologist, especially if there are multiple infections in the eyes or even when there is an injury.
The ophthalmologist will do a detailed examination of the eyes using a range of different instruments. Gonioscopy is a prominent instrument that will be used to measure the anterior part of the eye. Sometimes, the ophthalmologist may also do a procedure called Electroretinography to understand the possibility of getting back vision. In other words, they will check if the dog will anyway go blind, despite treatment and surgery. If that is the case, they will most likely recommend no treatment, so the dog does not have to go through more pain and recovery.
If only one eye is affected, treatment will be started right away to ensure that it doesn’t spread to both the eyes.
Once the vet identifies glaucoma in one or both the eyes, the treatment will be started right away.
First off, your vet will prescribe a set of medications to reduce pressure in the dog’s eyes. This is essential to ensure that the vision doesn’t get further damaged.
Besides reducing the pressure, there is a range of other treatments that are used to treat glaucoma. The fluid will be drained and the cells that produce fluid are altered to ensure that it either reduces or even stops producing more fluids. This therapy uses cold temperatures to kill these fluid producing cells and is called cyclocryotherapy.
If glaucoma is detected at an early stage, this treatment is done right away. In turn, this could prevent further degeneration and could even salvage the dog’s vision.
Sometimes, the infection in the eyes could be severe or the previous diagnosis could have proved wrong. In such a case, the optical never will be severely damaged and may require surgery to correct it.
- Removing the Eye
Most of the time, especially when the glaucoma is at an advanced stage, vets recommend removing the eye that has degenerated the most. This is essential to prevent the infection from spreading to the other eye. The eyeball is removed and the empty socket area is either stitched or it is filled with an orb.
Over time, the dog will adjust to seeing through one eye. However, as a pet owner, it is important you take the right measures to help your dog with this transition. You might also have to make changes to your home decor to make it easy for the dog to navigate around without vision.
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There are a few natural treatments suggested for glaucoma. Please note that these cannot be a substitute for an examination by the vet because there is only scanty scientific evidence that connects these treatments with the cure for glaucoma.
Nevertheless, there is no harm in adding these natural foods to your dog’s diet. It is a bonus if it works out well for you.
Spinach is a superfood known to add strength to the eyes. It contains carotenoids that will provide ocular strength to the eyes and can prevent further degeneration in the eye and vision. You can add raw spinach directly to your dog’s diet, at least a few times every week.
- Fennel or Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds and fennel are known to reduce pressure in the eyes. You can add fennel to the diet directly or you can also squeeze the juice from fennel to a cotton cloth and apply it on the dog’s eyes.
Carrots are the best food for eyes, as it contains high levels of beta-carotene needed to repair damaged eye cells. Research shows that beta-carotene is important for maintaining the visual pigment in the retina of the eye and in protecting the cells inside the eyes. So, grate carrots and add it to your dog’s meal.
- Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C contains high levels of antioxidants that help to protect your dog’s eyesight. Some sources of vitamin C that you can give to your dog are alfalfa, dandelion, and oranges. If you think it is difficult to add these foods to your dog’s diet, consider adding vitamin C supplements.
Herbs such as rosemary and burdock are proven to be good for glaucoma. They are rich in antioxidants and help preserve the vision for a longer time.
It is best you check with your vet before starting on any supplement.
What Can You Do?
As a dog owner, what can you do to help your dog?
First and foremost, be patient with the dog. Understand that it is going through a lot of pain and is already scared. So, if you get frustrated, it is only going to make the dog feel worse. This is the best time to show how much you love the dog and how you would like to care for it.
If your dog’s eyes are removed, then you need to be all the more patient to help the dog make this transition. There are counseling sessions offered by many vets that will prepare you to handle a blind dog. Consider attending such sessions. Alternatively, you can also talk to the vet and get some suggestions on how to improve your dog’s life.
- Use a Diary
If your dog is under treatment or if you are at the initial phase where you’re watching out for the symptoms, it is best you make notes in a diary. Though it is a little extra work, it will help you stay organized. Also, you can give accurate answers to the questions posed by your vet.
- Reduce Stress
Do everything you can to reduce the stress for your dog. Keep in mind that the immune system doesn’t work well when the dog is stressed. So, keep the dog in good spirits with a lot of love and attention.
In short, glaucoma can be a painful condition in dogs too. The intense pressure in the eyes and the headaches that come with it can affect your dog’s everyday routine. Watch out for these symptoms and do your best to keep your dog in good health.
Check out our guide on Calming Dog Treats.
- Dr. Ralph E. Hamor, Clinical Considerations with Glaucoma, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
- Dr. Martin Coster, Surgical Management of Canine Glaucoma: Show Me the Numbers, MSPCA–Angell
- Glaucoma, MU Veterinary Health Center