Glaucoma in Dogs

Like humans, dogs can develop glaucoma. It’s an ocular disease where pressure in the eye increases and, for almost all dogs affected, it results in blindness. When the fluid in your dog’s eye, called aqueous fluid, fails to drain properly, there becomes an overabundance of it in the eye itself. That’s what causes the pressure, which can damage both the retina and the optic nerve. Dogs can have two types of glaucoma: primary, where the issues are typically inherited; or secondary, where the outflow or circulation of fluid in the front of the eye is blocked, sometimes by trauma, injury, or a tumor. Secondary glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma in dogs.

What are the potential symptoms of glaucoma in dogs?

Your dog’s breed can have an effect on whether or not they get glaucoma, but in general, you should look out for these symptoms:

  • Eye pain, which can manifest as rubbing the eye, squinting, or tilting the head
  • Watery discharge from the eye
  • Cloudy or bluish cornea
  • Redness in the eye caused by enlarged and twisted blood vessels
  • Swelling of the eyeball
  • Avoiding light
  • Vision problems
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pupils of different sizes

Typically, glaucoma starts in one eye and then affects the other later.

What tests are used to confirm glaucoma in dogs?

Tests to confirm glaucoma in dogs are typically eye tests, but can include other tests if it’s secondary glaucoma.

  • Eye pressure exam. Your vet will measure the pressure in your dog’s eye with a tonometer. It blows a puff of air into the dog’s eye.
  • Pupil reflex test. The vet will check your dog’s pupils’ response to light.
  • Gonioscopy. A detailed examination of the structures inside the eye.
  • Genetic testing. To understand if the cause of the glaucoma is hereditary.
  • X-ray or ultrasound. These ancillary tests might be used determine what the primary cause of your dog’s glaucoma is, like trauma, and will only be done if necessary and in conjunction with blood work and urinalysis.

What is the treatment for glaucoma in dogs?

If glaucoma isn’t handled right away, it could result in blindness. Luckily there are some treatment options. Some medications, either topical or oral, can lower the pressure in the eye and reduce any pain it might be causing. A treatment called cyclocryotherapy can be used at the early stages of glaucoma; cold temperatures are used to kill the cells producing intraocular fluid. Sometimes, your vet may recommend removing the eye completely if your dog is in pain and fully blind in that eye.

What is the typical cost of treatment for glaucoma in dogs?

Treatment can be pretty expensive, considering the need for eye exams, vet visits, medications, and possible surgeries. Expect to spend between $2,000 and $3,000 for treatment.

Hours at the vet: As little as 6 hours without surgery, as long as 12 hours or more with surgery.

What are the recovery steps for glaucoma in dogs?

  • Return to the vet regularly for eye exams.
  • Give your dog medication for the foreseeable future.

How do I prevent glaucoma in dogs?

Primary glaucoma in dogs is not preventable; it’s a hereditary condition. However, with genetic testing available, conscientious breeders can select away from this trait. Secondary glaucoma, though, can be prevented by keeping your dog (and their eyes) out of harm’s way, and getting any eye-related issue examined as soon as it occurs.

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