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Glaucoma in Dogs: Causes & Treatment Options

Glaucoma is a painful eye condition caused by a buildup of pressure within your pet's eye that can occur due to a number of underlying conditions. Today, our Cordova vets explain some common causes of glaucoma and what your treatment options are. 

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a painful condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye that is caused by inadequate fluid drainage. Glaucoma can progress quickly and can lead to optical nerve and retinal damage in dogs. In about 40% of cases, dogs will be left blind in the eye that has been affected by glaucoma. 

There are two main types of glaucoma, primary or secondary, defined by what is causing the condition. 

What causes primary glaucoma in dogs?

Primary glaucoma occurs in dogs due to inherited abnormalities in the drainage mechanism of the pet's eye. A number of breeds show an increased risk of primary glaucoma including (but not limited to) Boston terriers, cocker spaniels, Shar-Peis, beagles, basset hounds, Siberian huskies, Labrador retrievers, Samoyeds, toy poodles, and Great Danes. Each breed has its own unique traits that make dogs of that breed more susceptible to developing glaucoma.

Primary glaucoma rarely affects both eyes equally or at the same time. The condition typically occurs in one eye months or even years before it affects the second eye.

What is the cause of secondary glaucoma in dogs?

Secondary glaucoma occurs as a result of an injury to the eye or disease. The most common causes include damage to the lens of the eye, inflammation of the interior of the eye, severe intraocular infections, anterior dislocation of the lens (blockage caused by the lens falling forward in the eye), tumors, and intraocular bleeding. 

What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma?

Dogs suffering from either primary or secondary glaucoma may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Watery discharge from the eye
  • Eye pain (eye rubbing or turning away when being pet)
  • Bulging of the eyeball (whites of the eye turn red)
  • Cloudy, bluish appearance to the eye
  • Dilated pupil – or pupil does not respond to light
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling of the eye
  • Less desire to play
  • Vision loss

Chronic glaucoma can take some time to develop and begin causing symptoms, but acute glaucoma occurs very suddenly. If your dog is showing any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet immediately or visit the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for urgent care. Early diagnosis and treatment are your dog's best bet for good treatment outcomes.

How is glaucoma in dogs diagnosed?

Your vet will measure the pressure within your dog's eye using an instrument called a tonometer. 

If your dog is experiencing blindness due to glaucoma a veterinary ophthalmologist may use electroretinography to determine whether surgery can help to restore vision to the eye.

How is glaucoma in dogs treated?

Following diagnosis, your vet will prescribe drugs to help reduce pressure within the eye as quickly as possible. Reducing the pressure quickly may help to prevent permanent blindness in some dogs.

Typically, painkillers are also prescribed in order to help your dog feel more comfortable.

Other medications may be prescribed to both promote drainage and decrease fluid production as a way of reducing intraocular pressure.

In many cases of advanced glaucoma, surgery will be required to help relieve the pressure. If your dog has permanently lost their vision your vet may recommend surgery to remove the eye in order to relieve pain.

Regular eye examinations will be an essential part of your pet's ongoing care and treatment for glaucoma. Regular appointments allow your vet to monitor symptoms and adjust treatment as necessary. 

What is a veterinary ophthalmologist?

Working alongside your primary care veterinarian, our veterinary eye specialist provides care for all ocular diseases that can impact your dog. While some conditions may require surgery, many can be managed with medications alone. If your dog has been diagnosed with chronic glaucoma or another serious eye disease ask your primary care vet for a referral to see our board-certified ophthalmologist. 

Is your dog showing signs of rapid onset glaucoma? At Memphis Veterinary Specialists, we offer 24/7 emergency services. Please contact us or bring your pup in for immediate care.  

From Happy Pet Owners

  • “They saved my dog’s life three years ago with a spinal surgery. He’s still doing great!”
    Kevin C.

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