Glaucoma in Dogs: Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms

While you are probably familiar with glaucoma in humans, you may not realize pets can also develop this painful eye disorder. The term glaucoma actually refers to a general group of conditions characterized by inadequate fluid drainage from the eye which results in painful and damaging pressure elevation inside the eye. Irreversible blindness can occur rapidly due to the effect of the high pressure on the optic nerve in the back of the eye.

Glaucoma can occur in any dog but certain breeds Cocker Spaniels, basset hounds, beagles, Labradors, shih tzus, Siberian huskies, shiba inus, and Dalmatians may have a genetic predisposition for this disease. (Primary glaucoma has been recognized as a problem which occurs in over 30 breeds of dogs.) In addition to causing extreme discomfort for your pet, untreated glaucoma will result in blindness. This makes it crucial that pet parents learn to recognize the early signs of the disease and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Causes and Symptoms

There are two general types of glaucoma: primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma occurs when the eye’s filtration angles, no longer allow for normal outflow of fluid from the eye. This causes a buildup of fluid and high pressure in the eye which is painful and damages the optic nerve

Secondary glaucoma,  occurs when the eye develops glaucoma due to first having another problem such as local inflammation, a tumor in the eye or a recent injury.

Symptoms of both primary and secondary glaucoma  in dogs are similar and include

  • Frequent blinking or squinting
  • Noticeable cloudiness at the front of the eye
  • Redness over the whites of the eyes.
  • Loss of vision
  • Enlargement of the eyeball

Getting a Reliable Diagnosis

Since it is more likely that treatment will be successful if the disease is caught early, it is important to take action as soon as you begin to notice symptoms. This is particularly true if your pet also shows signs of behavioral changes, such as loss of appetite or interest in play. When you visit your veterinarian, be sure to come prepared to report when your pet’s symptoms began and describe any accidents, however minor, that may have caused the condition.

Depending on the type, severity and progression of the glaucoma, your family veterinarian may need to refer your pet to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination. In milder cases, certain prescription medications can help to lower the pressure in the eye relieving the discomfort and possibly saving vision. However, more severe cases may require surgery. Even if medications lower the pressure in the eye initially, they may not be sufficient to keep your dog’s eye comfortable and visual long term. To give your dog the best chance for vision and comfort, surgery may be recommended in addition to eye drop therapy. A veterinary ophthalmologist can consult with your family doctor to review the best options for your dog.

Managing Your Pet’s Glaucoma

Glaucoma may be manageable with eye drop therapy alone. However, ongoing veterinary care for the eye is essential to maintaining your pet’s health and happiness. Make sure to schedule regular examinations in order to monitor for possible progression of the disease as well as any unwanted drug interactions. If your canine companion is suffering from glaucoma  in dogs and needs the expert care of a specialist, ask your family veterinarian about a referral to BluePearl.