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Key takeaways

The retina is located at the back of the eye, and sends visual input to the brain via nerve impulses, creating the sensation of sight. 

  • If the retina detaches from the structures underneath it, it loses function, resulting in partial or complete vision loss
  • Retinal detachment in dogs can be caused by injury, inflammation, hypertension, autoimmune disease, bleeding disorders, congenital disorders, cancer, or as a complication of eye surgery
  • Diagnosis of retinal detachment requires visualization of the retina during an eye exam and often requires specialized ophthalmic equipment
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause, and surgical repair typically offers the best chance of restoring and maintaining vision
  • Prompt treatment has the best chance of success, but restoration of vision is not guaranteed
  • Prognosis for vision depends on the underlying cause
  • In some cases, vision loss is irreversible
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A closer look: Retinal Detachment in Dogs

The retina is crucial for vision. Any sudden change in vision is a medical emergency and prompt medical care is necessary to ensure the best outcome.

The extent of vision loss observed is dependent on the severity of detachment. Sudden complete vision loss in the affected eye is observed in cases of full detachment of the retina.

Risk factors

Retinal detachment is an uncommon condition in dogs. While it generally has a good prognosis, restoration of vision in the affected eye is not always possible.

Retinal detachment has potential to cause bleeding into the eye. This can be painful and can lead to glaucoma in the affected eye.

If only a small area of the retina is detached, there may be no obvious change in vision and no obvious clinical signs.

Some breeds are predisposed to retinal detachment.

Without treatment of the underlying cause, retinal detachment has the potential to worsen with time and cause degradation of the retina.

Possible causes

Anything that causes disruption of the normal layers of the retina has potential to cause retinal detachment.

Main symptoms

The most common symptom associated with retinal detachment is a change in vision. Dogs may be observed bumping into objects, or suddenly show difficulty in tracking or catching toys and treats.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of retinal detachment begins with a patient history, and physical and ophthalmic examination. Further testing to assist with diagnosis, determine the underlying cause, or rule out other causes may include:

  • Blood pressure testing
  • Bloodwork
  • Ophthalmic examination while pupil is dilated
  • Fluorescein staining to rule out ulcers
  • Eye pressure testing to rule out glaucoma

Retinal detachment can be a very subtle condition and can be challenging to diagnose without specialized ophthalmic equipment. Additional tests include:

  • Ultrasonography
  • Electroretinography

Steps to Recovery

In some cases, treatment of the underlying cause can allow retinal detachment to heal on its own. Treatment varies depending on the suspected cause, but may include the use of anti-inflammatories, antifungals, or medication to manage blood pressure.

If detachment is complete or involves small tears or holes in the retina, referral to an ophthalmic specialist may be required, as these cases often require surgical repair.

Early diagnosis and treatment has the most favorable outcome with respect to restoration of vision, however this is not always possible. Some dogs will not regain vision due to varying factors such as severity of the detachment and underlying cause.


Dogs with contributing factors such as Collie Eye Anomaly or Retinal Dysplasia should not be bred. Otherwise there are no other known preventions for this condition. Retinal detachment is not contagious.

Is Retinal Detachment in Dogs common?

Retinal detachment is uncommon in dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Treatment of underlying cause
  • Surgical repair


DR. JEFFERY BOWERSOX, DVM, DACVO - Writing for The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists
Sara M. Thomasy , DVM, PhD, DACVO - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Ralph E. Hamor , DVM, MS, DACVO - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Audrey Yu-Speight, DVM, MS, DACOV - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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