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What Is Glaucoma, and Will My Dog Get It?

Glaucoma is not a very common disease in humans or in dogs, but for those who are affected, it can be serious, and may require medication and other medical interventions. Here's what you need to know about what glaucoma in dogs is, how to tell if your dog has it, and what you should do next.

What Is Glaucoma In Dogs?

Glaucoma in dogs is the same as when the disease affects humans: a condition that affects the optic nerve, interferes with fluid drainage, and can cause a build up of pressure in the eye. If this is not treated, it can have very serious, permanent consequences, including, potentially, blindness.

Which Dogs Get Glaucoma?

Glaucoma can affect any type of dog (and many other animals besides dogs!) but there are certain breeds that are more likely to develop this condition. These include:

  1. Cocker spaniels
  2. Samoyeds
  3. Siberian huskys
  4. Chow Chows

Dogs can develop glaucoma at any age, but it's most common among dogs in the 3 to 7.5 year age range.

Primary Versus Secondary Glaucoma

There are two kinds of glaucoma your dog might develop: primary or secondary.

In cases of primary glaucoma, the disease starts on it's own, spontaneously, without any known trigger. This may be due to a birth defect that limits the ability of the eye to drain properly.

In secondary glaucoma, dogs develop this condition after they have had a secondary infection or some form of trauma.

Secondary glaucoma is by far more common than primary glaucoma. It's also possible that your dog only has one affected eye.

Symptoms of Glaucoma in Dogs

Whether your dog has primary or secondary glaucoma, they might have some of the same symptoms. Unfortunately, these can be subtle early on, and difficult to spot. But the sooner you do spot these potential warning signs and seek advice from your veterinarian, the better your dog's chances of successful treatment:

  1. Pressure in the eye.
  2. Excessive blinking.
  3. Bloodshot or watering eyes, or a cloudy appearance on they eyeball.
  4. Changes to pupil dilation.
  5. Headaches, which may manifest as loss of appetite or change in personality.

Of course, it can be tricky to see these symptoms in your dog, and there's no way for them to tell you what's wrong, but if you notice any of these, a trip to the veterinarian is a good idea.

Diagnosing Glaucoma In Dogs

The first thing your veterinarian will do when attempting to diagnose glaucoma is to take a full history. They will ask about injuries and infections that might have triggered a problem.

Next, they might use an instrument called a tonometer to measure the pressure in the eye.

If there is any doubt, or your veterinarian needs more information, they might refer you to a veterinary opthalmologist, who might use other equipment and tests, such as a Electroretinography or x-rays to determine if your dog has glaucoma, and how extensive the problem is.

Treatment of Glaucoma in Dogs

If your dog has glaucoma, your veterinarian will want to begin treatment immediately. If the disease is only in one eye, they will probably start by taking steps to protect the healthy eye.

Next, they will probably prescribe medication that is designed to lower the pressure in the eye. This is the most important thing that can be done to attempt to save your dog's vision, so be sure to follow instructions carefully.

Surgery to drain fluid and repair the optic nerve or other areas of the nerve may be required if the disease has progressed and there is significant damage.

While early and aggressive treatment is always important, many dogs that do develop glaucoma will lose the affected eye in time. However, you should know that dogs can still live happy, healthy lives with impaired vision.

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