If a pet experiences symptoms such as red, bloodshot eyes, cloudy corneas, dilated pupils or loss of vision, these could be signs of glaucoma. However, glaucoma is an eye disease caused by increased pressure inside the eye; therefore, it is difficult to diagnose glaucoma from just mere observation. For an accurate diagnosis, pets should be taken to a veterinary opthamalogist.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by intraocular pressure inside the eye. This pressure is caused by a fluid build-up. This fluid, aqueous tumor is produced by cells in the eye, and must drain at the same rate in which it is generated. If there is a problem with the flow, or a block in drainage, the fluid increases, causing glaucoma. It usually begins in one eye but will eventually affect the other eye as well. If a pet's eye looks abnormally enlarged, or stretched, it is most likely already blind in that eye.
Effects of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is painful. The pressure caused by glaucoma results in intense migraine headaches and eye discomfort. Furthermore, this pressure is known to be greater in pets than in humans. However, it is impossible to know a pet is suffering from a headache. A few signs may be decreased appetite, irritability and less desire for activity. Another effect of glaucoma is blindness, caused by decreased blood flow to the retina and pressure damage to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma usually begins in one eye. Unfortunately, the eye it begins in is usually beyond saving by the time it's discovered in pets. Doctors can help relieve the pain in this eye by draining some of the fluid or prescribing medicine to lesson the pressure. To save the vision of the second eye, prescriptions and topical medications may be given out. This often delays the disease for months. If the eye continues to worsen, surgery is necessary to save the pet's vision. Regular visits with a veterinary opthamalogist will best determine the treatment course for each individual pet.
Canine Breeds and Glaucoma
Some dogs appear to be more susceptible to glaucoma than others. The basset hound, cocker spaniel, Chinese shih tzu, shar-pei, Jack Russell terrier, chow chow, poodle, Siberian husky and Norwegian elk hound are a few of the breeds known for carrying this genetic condition. If a dog is diagnosed with genetic glaucoma, it's important to alert the dog's breeder. Early detection and prompt medical attention should help alleviate the pain and discomfort, and hopefully save the pet's vision.
Kay Curtis began writing professionally in 1988. Specializing in advertising, her work has been published in several trade magazines including "CompUSA Direct," "Dance Teacher Now" and "Travel." Her news articles and columns have appeared in "The Battalion," "The Lakeshore Times" and "The Beacon." Curtis has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Texas A&M University.