Canine glaucoma occurs in approximately 8% of dogs in the United States. It is the leading cause of blindness in middle aged dogs. Glaucoma in dogs, as in humans, is an abnormal buildup of fluid inside of the eye. The buildup occurs when the fluid does not drain properly through a filter between the cornea and sclera of the eye. The increased amount of fluid within the eye destroys the retina and optic nerve which will quickly cause blindness.
Symptoms of glaucoma may not be obvious or a cause for concern to the dog’s family. Many of the symptoms mimic other common conditions. The symptoms of canine glaucoma in the early stages may include squinting, rubbing of the affected eye, redness, and lethargy.
There is a variety of causes of canine glaucoma. Several breeds are born with inherited eye conditions that lead to glaucoma. Other breeds may be genetically predisposed. Glaucoma may also be caused by the filter between the cornea and sclera becoming clogged by inflammatory cells or intraocular tumors.
The key to successful treatment of glaucoma is early diagnosis. A dog presenting with the symptoms of glaucoma should have the intraocular pressure of the eye checked. For proper diagnosis the intraocular pressure must be checked with a tonometer by your veterinarian or a veterinary opthamologist. If the pressure is found to be above normal limits, treatment must begin immediately to increase the chances of saving the dog’s vision in the affected eye.
Treatment for glaucoma begins with a variety of eye drops and oral medications. The initial goal is to reduce the pressure in the eye with the hope of preserving vision. Reducing the pressure will also reduce the amount of pain the dog is feeling. Glaucoma not only causes blindness but causes an extreme amount of pain if left untreated. If the pressure cannot be reduced and kept within normal limits, surgery may be necessary.
There are several different surgical procedures that are currently used. The procedure used is determined by the amount of damage done to the dog’s eye and whether or not there is still a chance of saving vision. The owner’s preference is also taken into consideration. If there is a chance of saving some of the dog’s vision, non-evasive laser or cyclocryosurgery may be used. At the other end of the spectrum the dog’s eye may be removed or enuculated and sewn shut. This procedure is used if there is no chance of saving vision. All options are presented to the dog’s family along with the risks and benefits of each.
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