Under Pressure: Glaucoma in Dogs

glaucoma in dogsIt is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. They are very important when it comes to day to day function in humans and in most animals. While we can survive without them, it is necessary to do our best to care for them and preserve their function.

One of the more common eye problems we diagnose at Berkeley Veterinary Center is glaucoma in dogs. Learn what this painful and potentially devastating disease looks like, so you can help your pet, should you ever encounter it.

Understanding Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside of the eye increases above the normal level. This can happen for several reasons.

Fluid (called aqueous humor)  is produced within the globe itself and drained at a similar rate. Any process that interferes with this balance can lead to the accumulation of extra fluid, and thus an increase in pressure.

In the dog, glaucoma is typically classified as primary or secondary. Primary glaucoma is an inherited condition, while secondary glaucoma results from other eye diseases, including:

  • Inflammation in the eye (uveitis)
  • Cancer of the eye
  • Advanced cataracts
  • Displacement of the lens within the eye
  • Trauma to the globe

Glaucoma can occur in any dog, but certain breeds are prone due to genetic predispositions. These include Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Chow Chows, Shar Peis, and arctic breeds including Siberian Huskies.

Recognizing Glaucoma in Dogs

As you might imagine, glaucoma in dogs is an extremely painful condition. It can come on quite suddenly, and bringing the pressure down quickly is vital to preserving eyesight.

If you suspect your pet might have glaucoma, it is essential to call us immediately so that we can get started on diagnosis and treatment right away. Even a day of increased pressure can destroy the optic nerve in the eye, leading to blindness.

Signs of trouble include:

  • Red/bloodshot eye(s)
  • Cloudy cornea (eye surface)
  • Squinting
  • Pawing or rubbing at the eye(s)
  • Signs of pain

The trouble with glaucoma in dogs is that you can’t tell what is going on just by looking. Many other issues can appear similarly, and it is very important that we obtain a pressure reading of the eye to make a diagnosis.

We are able to take on ocular pressure in our pet patients using a tonometry pen, a handheld device that gently touches the surface of the eye momentarily in order to gauge internal pressure. This process is non-painful and generally well tolerated by our animal friends.

If glaucoma is diagnosed, it is important that we bring pressure within the eye down as quickly as possible. This can often be accomplished by the use of topical ophthalmic drops. When possible, correcting the underlying cause of the glaucoma in ideal.

Pets with glaucoma may need further treatment and/or surgery at a veterinary ophthalmologist for successful management. In glaucomatous eyes that are already blind, sometimes enucleation (removal of the eye) is the best option for patient comfort.

Glaucoma in dogs is a serious condition that requires owner recognition and commitment for early diagnosis and a chance at successful treatment. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have questions or concerns. We are here to help.

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