Glaucoma is a painful eye disease characterized by a loss of the ability of the eye to drain fluid, resulting in high pressure within the eye.
People, cats, and horses get glaucoma, too, as well as many other kinds of animals. The amount of pressure in the eye varies with the type of animal that has it, with dogs suffering from a much higher amount of pressure in the eye than people who have glaucoma.
There is no cure for glaucoma but fortunately there are ways to treat it. The best treatment, as is so often true, is to get medical care as soon as possible. Glaucoma in dogs is considered a medical emergency because blindness or the loss of an eye are possible results if medical care is delayed.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by too much pressure inside the eyeball. A normal, healthy eye has a part within called the "ciliary body," which has the function of producing a fluid called "aqueous humor." The aqueous humor fills the eyeball and gives it its shape. This fluid also nourishes and carries away wastes from the lens and the back of the cornea. A normal dog's eye has a certain amount of pressure from this fluid. The pressure is measured in units known as millimeters of mercury, abbreviated "mm Hg." Normal pressure in a healthy dog's eye is under 26 mm Hg. Optimally, it will be from 10 to 20 mm Hg.
Since the ciliary body is producing fluid, there has to be a continuous outflow of the aqueous humor from the eye to make room for more. This outflow takes place through a part of the eye called the "iridocorneal (or drainage) angle." The drainage angle consists of several parts that are involved in providing a route for the liquid to leave the eye.
Glaucoma happens when the drainage is impaired and the fluid begins to build up inside the eye. In dogs, this pressure can rise to 50 mm Hg or more, resulting in pain and damage to the parts of the eye.
What causes Glaucoma in dogs?
There are two basic classes of glaucoma, called primary glaucoma and secondary glaucoma, that arise from different causes. Primary glaucoma is thought to be at least partly genetic, since it occurs more frequently in certain dog breeds. Glaucoma consists of too much fluid within the eye. Normally this fluid is able to drain, but in certain dog breeds, the angle of drainage tends to be wrong, or the tubes through which the fluid must drain tend to be too small for adequate drainage. The fluid builds up, causing pain and eventually blindness.
Border collies have previously been free of primary glaucoma, but in recent years, more and more cases are appearing. The type of primary glaucoma seen in border collies is called narrow angle glaucoma. Malamutes, cocker spaniels, chows, dalmatians, and great Danes are some other dogs that tend to be afflicted with primary narrow angle glaucoma.
There is no available genetic test to determine if a dog is carrying the chromosomes or genes for glaucoma. It is likely that the condition is caused by more than one gene, which means that there may never be a conclusive test that can be used by Border collie breeders to reduce the risk of the disease in their puppies.
Secondary glaucoma, which is more common among dogs than primary glaucoma, arises from an injury to the eye, or as a complication of some other disease, such as inflammation, tumors, or advanced cataracts in the eye. Cataracts are a common cause of secondary glaucoma, accounting for over 80% of cases. Allergies may play a role in some cases of glaucoma among dogs. Secondary glaucoma can appear in any breed of dog, especially as they get advanced in years.
What is Goniodysgenesis?
Goniodysgenesis is an inherited condition that can predispose a dog to developing glaucoma in later years. It is marked by an abnormality in the ligaments that are in the eye. This abnormality is that the ligament forms strings that resemble the teeth on a comb. These strings block the openings through which the fluid (called aqueous humor) can drain from the eye.
There is a special test that can be performed by a veterinarian or canine ophthalmologist which will determine the presence of goniodysgenesis. The test is called gonioscopy. It is done with an instrument that must be laid against the dog's eye for examination. It requires at least a topical anesthetic in the eye, and the dog must lie still. Sometimes an active dog must be sedated in order for the gonioscopy to be done.
There is another genetic eye disorder that appears in border collies, which is Collie Eye Anomaly, often called simply CEA. It is not as common in borders as it is in other collies, but it is a possibility. In CEA, the dog has a pale patch on the back of the eye that can be seen ophthalmoscopically. It can often be detected at about the age of seven weeks, but sometimes disappears later. The genetic tendency is still there, however, and can be determined through the use of a genetic test.
Breeding dogs can be either free of an abnormality like goniodysgenesis or CEA, they can be a carrier but not affected, or they can be affected with the resulting eye problems. For this reason, two dogs that do not appear to have the disorder can produce a puppy that has the problem. The parent dogs may have been carriers, but unaffected.
Routine border collie health exams may not include gonioscopy, since goniodysgenesis has not been seen in borders until recent years, but concerned owners can request that it be done.
What breeds of dog are most at risk of developing Glaucoma?
Border collies sometimes are born with an inherited condition called "lens luxation," as are terriers and Australian blue heelers. This condition, which can be a factor in the development of glaucoma later on, is characterized by the lens of the eye becoming dislocated due to a breakdown in the part of the eye that keeps the lens properly in place. When the lens falls into the dog's eye's front chamber, it can block the drainage of the eye fluid, causing the build-up of pressure known as glaucoma. Lens luxation is also called "lens dislocation."
As mentioned before, border collies have not been previously considered to be at high risk for developing glaucoma. Many other breeds have a higher risk. Basset hounds, with their droopy eyes, have a particularly high risk of primary glaucoma. Some other breeds also at high risk include the sled dog breeds, such as American samoyeds, Norwegian elkhounds, Alaskan malamutes, Akitas, and Siberian huskies. Small dogs, like toy poodles, shih tzus, and Maltese terriers are also more likely to develop glaucoma. Cocker spaniels, chows, and Shar-peis are also at risk. Primary glaucoma is becoming more common for many breeds of dog.
Secondary glaucoma can affect any breed of older dog, but is often associated with injuries in the eye. Aggressive dogs that get into fights frequently receive these kinds of injuries.
How can Glaucoma In Dogs be prevented? What Can I Do to Keep my Dog from Developing Glaucoma?
If your dog has the genetic predisposition to developing primary glaucoma, there really isn't much you can do to prevent it from happening. The best thing you can do is to be on the watch for symptoms and get the dog to the vet as soon as you think it might be developing glaucoma.
If you do not have your puppy yet, you can choose a puppy from one of the breeds that does not tend to develop glaucoma, or you can have your puppy genetically tested to see if it is at high risk due to a condition like goniodysgenesis. If you choose a breed that is prone to glaucoma, such as a Basset hound, find out if the kennel you are looking to buy from has any incidence of the disease among the breeding dogs.
Glaucoma usually develops in one eye at a time. There are eye drops and medications available that can postpone the development of the disease in the other eye when a dog has already developed the disease. On the average, with medication, the time before the second eye becomes diseased can be lengthened from 8 months to 31 months.
The best prevention for secondary glaucoma in any animal is to provide good eye care for the pet right from the beginning. Always take an animal with an injured eye to the vet without delay, and get treatment for eye infections quickly as well. Many cases of secondary glaucoma take place because an earlier eye problem was not handled correctly.
Glaucoma is one of the five most prevalent illnesses found in older dogs. The other four are kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, and thyroid disease. An annual glaucoma test should be performed for every dog over 7 years old.
By the way, if your older dog develops cataracts, you can opt to have surgery done to remove them. Do be advised, however, that cataract surgery will greatly increase the possibility of your dog developing glaucoma later on, so if you are trying to prevent glaucoma in an older dog, it is probably best to leave the cataracts alone. (In other words, while cataracts can cause secondary glaucoma, cataract surgery causes it as well. A dog that has had surgery has a 30% chance of developing glaucoma in the year and a half to come.) The dog may become blind from cataracts, but at least will be spared the pain of glaucoma. Talk with your vet to make an informed decision about cataract surgery for an older dog.
How do I know if my dog has Glaucoma? What are the signs and symptoms? How is it diagnosed?
Glaucoma in dogs, because of the high pressure inside the eye, causes a dog to have a severe headache. A dog cannot tell you that it has a headache, so you have to be on the alert for signs that the dog does not feel well. These signs include loss of appetite, irritability, and lethargy.
When glaucoma is advancing, there will be visible changes in the eye as well. One of the first signs is that the eye will look bloodshot. Over time, the eyeball will bulge and begin to look cloudy. The bad news is that by this time they eye could very well already be blind. You may not be able to tell if your dog is blind in one eye because dogs are very good at compensating for a bad eye with their remaining good eye.
A veterinarian can check your dog's eyes by performing a test called gonioscopy. This test, described above, does not determine the presence of glaucoma, but does determine the angles of the drainage tubes, which could indicate a predisposition to glaucoma. A different test will need to be done to determine if the dog has glaucoma.
One test the vet may want to do is to measure the pressure in the eye using a device called a tonometer. This is an instrument shaped something like a pen that, when touched to the surface of the dog's eye, will display the pressure inside. Another instrument the veterinarian may use is called an ophthalmoscope, which provides magnification and bright lighting for making a close visual examination of the eye. Sometimes a cat scan is needed for getting a clearer picture of the internal structure of the eye.
What are the early signs of glaucoma?
The earlier a dog owner can spot the signs of glaucoma, the better the chances for satisfactory treatment of the disorder. More specifically, an early diagnosis can save the dog's eye and its vision. For this reason it is important to be aware of the early signs. One of the most prevalent symptoms is a red, bloodshot look to the eye.
A dog's behavior will say a lot about how it feels, and can give you critical clues about the early development of glaucoma. If the dog is rubbing its eye, squinting, or keeping it closed, it could be because it is painful. If you attempt to touch it around its eye, the dog may move away, or even growl and snap at you because of the discomfort. Other signs that a dog is in pain from glaucoma are that it may lose its appetite and become listless and less active than in the past.
In addition to the bloodshot nature of the eye, an eye affected with glaucoma often becomes cloudy looking. The surface of the eye itself may have insensitive places on it. It may look shiny and take on a bluish green color, but look cloudy inside. In addition to all of this, the eye is likely to look as though it is bulged out.
What kind of vet do I see if I suspect I have Glaucoma in my dog?
Any certified veterinarian should be able to diagnose glaucoma in your dog, but for the most successful care, that vet should be one who truly loves and respects animals. Look for a veterinarian that you can communicate with, who listens to your questions and takes the time to answer them so that you understand what is going on.
A dog with glaucoma might need a veterinary specialist. One type of specialist is a veterinary ophthalmologist. These doctors are trained in all aspects of eye disorders and will know the best way to treat a dog with an eye disease like glaucoma. Veterinary ophthalmologists receive special training in addition to the standard classes required for all veterinarians.
Another specialty that might be required is a vet that has been trained and had experience in soft tissue surgery. Sometimes glaucoma requires surgery, either to try to save the eye or to remove it when it cannot be saved. A trained veterinary surgeon will be required for this operation.
Different countries have their own certifying boards that oversea the qualifications of veterinary specialists. For instance, in Australia, veterinarians and specialists are certified by the Australian Veterinary Boards Council. In the US, there is the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. In the UK, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons overseas certification. Look for board certification when choosing a vet.
What tests will the vet carry out to see if my dog has Glaucoma?
The vet will probably use an instrument called a tonometer to check the amount of pressure in the dog's eye. Numbing drops are usually used in the eye so that the test will not be uncomfortable for the dog. It is important to have the diagnosis made as soon as possible for the dog to have the best chance of retaining some vision in the affected eye. Blindness can take place very quickly when the pressure gets too high.
Your vet will probably want to take some blood for testing for possible related disorders if the glaucoma is secondary glaucoma. If primary glaucoma is suspected, your dog may need some genetic testing. Another test done for dogs to check for the possibility of primary glaucoma is gonioscopy. This test requires numbing eye drops and sometimes sedation as a contact-lens shaped instrument is placed on the dog's eye. The test determines the angles of the drainage tubes of the eyes.
A visual examination with a bright light and magnifications will help the vet determine if the dog has a related eye problem, like lens luxation, a tumor, or a cataract.
A test called an ERG, which is short for electroretinography, can help the vet assess if the dog already has irreversible loss of vision and how much. Sometimes the eye is examined by ultrasound to determine how the parts of the eye might be displaced and what could be done to correct the problem.
What is the downside for the current methods used to diagnose Glaucoma compared to genetic testing?
Genetic testing can determine if a puppy will be at risk for developing glaucoma when it gets older. It can also be used to determine if a dog will be a good one to use for breeding purposes. For dogs that are already beloved pets, using genetic testing might help a dog owner be on the lookout for early signs of glaucoma, but it cannot change the dog's likelihood of getting the disease.
In border collies, two inherited conditions can lead to glaucoma. One is primary lens luxation, called "PLL." There is a genetic test for PLL which requires the dog owner to submit cells swabbed from the inside of the dog's cheek (called the buccal surface) to the testing laboratory. The cell sample is placed on a special card which can be mailed to the lab. Results will be returned to the dog owner after testing. Puppies can be genetically tested for PLL as young as three weeks old.
The exact means of inheritance for primary narrow angle glaucoma in border collies and most other breeds is not known, so genetic testing is not yet available. Breeders should be on the lookout for the disease, and have potential breeding dogs tested for this condition. Glaucoma does not show up until a dog is in middle age, so to wait until it appears is too late to reduce the number of puppies that carry the disorder.
How curable is Glaucoma in dogs?
There is no real cure for canine glaucoma, but it is treatable. If the disease is caught in time, the dog may be able to have vision for a long time. If it is not caught in time, the result could be permanent blindness. Treatment involves eye drops and medications that have to be given multiple times per day. Sometimes the best treatment is surgery.
If the dog has vision and the glaucoma is not too advanced, an operation can be done to reestablish the tubes through which the aqueous humor can drain, relieving pressure in the eye and reversing the effects of the glaucoma. This operation is called a cycloablation procedure.
Often a dog is not diagnosed with glaucoma until the disease is rather advanced. If the eye has already gone blind, the vet will focus on reducing pain in the affected eye and trying to prolong the sight in the remaining good eye. This is when gonioscopy can be helpful because it can help the vet assess the health of the remaining eye. If the glaucoma is a case of secondary glaucoma, then the good eye might never develop the disease. This is because secondary glaucoma tends to arise as the result of an injury or an inflammation, both of which can be healed.
Will my Dog go Blind from Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, dogs do often go blind from glaucoma. If you seek treatment early, however, and comply well with the advice of the vet, there is a good chance your pet will be able to keep its vision. Secondary glaucoma, which is caused by a factor such as a tumor or cataract, does not necessarily mean the dog will develop the disease in both eyes, so there is a good chance the remaining eye can continue to function, even if the diseased eye has gone blind.
Primary glaucoma, which is genetically inherited, will probably affect both eyes, however. This means that if glaucoma develops in one eye, it is likely to develop in the other eye. Special veterinary eye drops can be quite helpful in delaying the development of the disease in the second eye. They tend to be expensive and must be used according to instructions for best results.
It is sad when a dog goes blind, but for many older dogs, blindness does not mean the end of an enjoyable life as a family pet. There is much helpful advice online for learning to live with a blind dog. The main thing is to treat the eye or even remove it so that the pain will be eliminated.
Can my Dog Die from Glaucoma?
It is not likely that your dog will die from glaucoma alone. There is always a risk when a dog is put under anesthesia, so if your dog must have surgery, there is an increased risk of death. Even healthy dogs have been known to die when put under anesthesia. It is not common, however, and your vet should be able to ascertain if there is any reason why surgery would not be safe for your dog.
Glaucoma may be a factor in other illnesses. For instance, inflammation in the eye can cause glaucoma to develop. Canine diabetes or a tumor are other diseases that can result in a dog having glaucoma. These other diseases carry more risk of death than glaucoma alone.
Even though it is not considered to be a life-threatening disease, glaucoma is still considered a medical emergency because the risk of blindness is so high. This is why early intervention is so important. In addition to the risk of blindness, glaucoma is very painful for an animal, causing severe migraine headaches. A dog with glaucoma needs immediate medical care as soon as you notice the symptoms. These include blood-shot eyes, squinting or blinking, bulging eyes, and a cloudy look in the cornea.
What are the stages if left untreated?
Glaucoma develops in a predictable pattern, although the specific symptoms and time frame are unique to each dog. In the early stage of the disease, it can be very difficult to diagnose because there are not many outward symptoms. In breeds that are often affected with glaucoma, a vet can do a routine glaucoma check at each yearly check-up, and thereby catch the illness before it has progressed very far. Normal intraocular pressure, or IOP, is between 10 and 25 (measured in millimeters of Mercury.) Dogs with glaucoma can have an IOP of 45 mg. or more.
The first symptom to show up in the next stage is redness of the whites, also known as bloodshot eyes. Soon, the affected eye will begin to look cloudy in the cornea. Some people call this stage "steamy-looking. The pupil will be dilated and will not respond to light. The eyeball may begin to look as if it is bulged out. These symptoms do not all show up in every affected eye, but they are the most common visible symptoms. What the dog will be feeling at this time is a migraine headache and pain in the eye, along with diminished vision.
In the next stage of glaucoma, the IOP begins to get high enough to damage the retina and the optic nerve of the dog's eye. The pain gets worse and any remaining vision disappears. If the glaucoma is primary (inherited) glaucoma, the other eye may very well be affected by now.
Glaucoma is painful to dogs as well as causing them to go blind. For these reasons, it is very important not to leave the condition untreated.
How quickly does the disease progress or spread?
Glaucoma does not progress at the same speed in every dog. It usually appears at between three and seven years of age for dogs with primary glaucoma, and later for those with secondary glaucoma. In its acute stage, it is considered a medical emergency. This is because the dog can go blind in the affected eye in a matter of hours.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of glaucoma sometimes progress so slowly that the pet owner does not notice them until it is too late to save the dog's eye. In the case of glaucoma, it is sometimes better if the symptoms appear sooner so that the owner will take action sooner. The whole process usually takes a year or more, with the second eye becoming affected within a year and a half of the first one.
If the glaucoma is primary glaucoma, it is virtually guaranteed that the disease will develop in the dog's remaining good eye. With secondary glaucoma, the remaining eye may not ever get the disease.
There are medications available that can prolong the health of the second eye for several years longer than if it was left untreated. These medications tend to be expensive and must be used consistently, but they do work very well.
How is Glaucoma normally treated?
The treatment for glaucoma depends first of all on how advanced the case is. In the early stages, eye drops are often prescribed for the purpose of delaying the progression of the disease. These eye drops keep the pressure regulated, which reduces any pain the dog feels. Medications also can help to open up the drainage tubes so that the fluid can drain better, which reduces the IOP. Here are a few of the types of medications your dog may be prescribed.
Hyperosomatic diuretics are medications that dehydrate the fluid in the eye and sometimes reduce the IOP from very high to normal in a short time. Mannitol is an example of this type of medication.
Prostaglandin derivatives, which include Latanoprost, travoprost, unoprostone, and others, are also called PGs and are topical drugs used to reduce IOP.
Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors, or CAIs come in both topical and internal forms, and work by reducing the secretion of the aqueous humor.
A couple of specific names are dorzolomide and brinzolamide.
Pilocarpine, and other medications in the same class, increase the outflow of the aqueous humor by contracting muscles in the eye and inducing miosis, which is a constriction of the pupil.
In later stages, the goal of treatment is first of all, to eliminate pain felt by the dog, and secondly, to save the vision in they eye. If the glaucoma has progressed too far in the first eye, attention may be turned to trying to save the vision of the second eye for as long as possible by the use of the eye drops and medications. The diseased eye will be removed or at least operated on to relieve the pressure and thus give the dog relief from its pain.
There are several types of surgery used for dogs with glaucoma. The removal of the eyeball is called enucleation. It is only done when there is no way to save the eye and reduce the pain.
When the glaucoma is not so advanced, the veterinary surgeon may use laser surgery to destroy a part of the eye called the ciliary body. This is the part of the eye that produces the aqueous humor, which is the fluid that builds up pressure in glaucoma. Destroying the ciliary body can be done through freezing (called cyclocyrocurgery) or through laser surgery. The surgeon may also be able to implant a silicone or nylon tube to help drain the fluid.
Surgical procedures are often the best long-term choice for treatment of canine glaucoma, but they are not inexpensive.
What are the side effects of the treatment?
All of the drugs used for dogs with glaucoma have the potential of causing side effects. For instance, hyperosomatics can cause headache, dehydrations, kidney failure, and worsening of pre-existing heart disease. PGs can cause topical irritation. CAIs have the common side effects of confusion, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. Pilocarpine and similar drugs can cause irritation when used topically and vomiting and diarrhea when taken internally. Some of the medicines used can worsen uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation in the eye. Steroid drugs are sometimes used to improve this induced uveitis, but steroids can cause the IOP to rise, which complicates treatment.
Surgery methods have risks associated with them as well. In a dog whose eye still has vision and may be saved, the choice of action is usually to reduce the IOP quickly and then do surgery to increase the aqueous outflow. Sometimes this type of surgery causes scarring, which in turn causes the IOP to rise, requiring the surgeon to try another type of surgery.
When a blind eye is removed, the cosmetic effect is apparent, but what often surprises owners is how much better the pet feels without the pain from the eye.
What is the the prognosis for Glaucoma once it is detected?
The prognosis for glaucoma depends entirely on how early it is detected. Successful treatment consists of several factors. First, it helps if the owner and the vet are suspicious and on the lookout for the symptoms. Second, the IOP must be measured as soon as possible and the measurement must be accurate. The third aspect of successful treatment is that it is treated aggressively with medications and surgery. It does not work to take a slow, wait-and-see approach with suspected glaucoma! The IOP must be reduced quickly, whether it takes one or several medications, or surgery.
In cases of primary glaucoma, the vet will aggressively treat the fellow eye in order to keep it healthy and functional as long as possible.
Sometimes in cases of secondary glaucoma, surgical treatment can fix the condition that is causing the glaucoma. For instance, if the cause of the glaucoma is a displaced (luxated) lens, the lens can be removed. The dog will retain some vision unless it was already blind in that eye.
When glaucoma is detected to late, the dog is likely to go blind. With treatment, the pressure can be relieved so the animal is not in pain. Many blind dogs go on to live satisfactory lives when their owners make a few adjustments to help them adjust to the change.
What alternative treatments are available?
As with human medicine, dog owners sometimes choose to try alternative treatments with their dogs. Their are a number of homeopathic and herbal remedies on the market for treatment of dog glaucoma.
Homeopathic medications are harmless and sometimes have good effects. Herbs, on the other hand, can be toxic if used improperly. In humans, natural remedies sometimes work because of the placebo effect. Placebo effect refers to the fact that the person using the remedy is expecting it to work; therefore, the placebo effect alone will not bring treatment to a dog's ailments. Even so, there are some anecdotal records of homeopathic and herbal remedies helping canine glaucoma. Here are some of the most recommended natural remedies.
Bilberry, ginkgo, rosemary, and burdock are herbs that are recommended for glaucoma in dogs. Usually it is recommended to use them in an eyewash. This is done by making the herb into a warm tea and pouring it across the dog's eye. If the dog is in pain and its eye is sensitive, it can be difficult or impossible to use such an eyewash, but there might be cases in which it could be helpful. Homeopathic medicines recommended are symphatum and helleborus. They are easily administered by mouth. Make sure the dog is getting excellent nutrition, too.
One dog owner blogged that her 9-year-old Cocker spaniel was diagnosed with irreversible blindness and advanced glaucoma in both eyes. Drops were difficult to give and yielded little improvement in IOP. Feeling unable to pay for both eyes to be surgically removed, this dog owner began giving her dog a special diet of canned organic turkey dog food, brown rice, and 1000 mg. of vitamin C daily in the dog's food. The results were dramatic, and the dog, while blind, was able to avoid surgery and the IOP was reduced to very comfortable levels. It could be that vitamin C will be found to be of use in treating canine glaucoma.
Natural treatments can assist the healing process, but if your dog has glaucoma, it needs quick, decisive medical care from a veterinarian. Don't try to treat it with herbs, nutrients, and homeopathics only.
What are the latest treatments being developed, and who is carrying out clinical trials of these new treatments?
The TRClarif-Eye is an newly developed implant used in canine glacoma, which was designed by Dr. Craig Woods. The implant is placed between the outer part of the white of the eye and the tissue underneath so that the edge of the implant just protrudes into the iris. It enables more of the fluid to drain away. Dr. Woods has made an interesting video describing this surgery for laypeople, using a grapefruit as a model of the eye.
P. J. Raffan of London has been developing a method of surgery in which tubes route the extra fluid out through the nasal cavity. Since microsurgical techniques have become more advanced, and since the developing of medicines that can reduce scarring (5-FU and Mitomycin C are two such medicines), the future of glaucoma treatment could be in finding safer ways to perform such surgeries.
Another important area of research is in mapping the genetic codes in order to determine better how to eliminate primary glaucoma and the predisposing conditions in various breeds of dogs. At the University of Missouri, Dr. Elizabeth Giuliano, DVM, is doing just that with a grant for a 2-1/2 year-long project entitled "The Mapping and Characterization of Mutations Responsible for Canine Glaucoma."
The PGs, a type of topical medicine mentioned above in treatment options, are a relatively new development in the treatment of canine glaucoma, and offer much hope for affected dogs in the future.
What do I do in the first week after being diagnosed?
A lot will depend on how far advanced your dog's glaucoma is. If there is hope of saving its vision, you will probably have to let the vet keep your dog while the IOP is reduced, and then plan on your dog getting surgery. Your dog may have to have a special canine ophthalmologist to oversee the treatment. You may have to administer eye drops or medications by mouth according to a regimented schedule.
If your dog is already blind, the vet may wish to perform surgery to remove the eye fairly soon. Relieving the pressure, and thus relieving the pain felt by your dog, will be first and foremost on everyone's list.
How do I get in touch with others who are going through the same thing?
The internet is a wonderful option when it comes to finding supportive people. There are a number of forums, online groups, and message boards that are devoted to dog owners and people whose dogs have glaucoma. Many people have blind dogs and can offer much helpful information about dealing with the struggle of a dog losing its vision. You can even find groups online that are completely dedicated to the border collie breed. Glaucoma is not that common among border collies, but it is becoming more common. Your vet might know of a support group in your area for people struggling with dog health issues.
List of Border Collies tested for Glaucoma?
Interested persons may view a Glaucoma database of border collie breeders from around the world who have tested their dogs for the genetic predisposition to canine glaucoma.
Glossary of Terminology
affected: This term is used to apply to an eye that has developed some abnormal signs, such as in the angle of the fluid drainage tubes, or that has already begun to show symptoms of glaucoma.
aqueous humor: The fluid inside the eye. Normally this fluid drains, but in glaucoma, the fluid builds up and becomes pressurized.
aqueous vein: Outflow vein where aqueous humor leaves the eye and is resorbed into the blood stream.
buphthalmia: a term used to denote the eye when it is enlarged because of the increased pressure. It usually indicates that the eye has gone blind.
choroid: That part of the uvea that nourishes the retina with blood.
ciliary body: The part of the uvea that produces the aqueous humor.
conjunctiva: The tissue lining the eyelids which is continuous with the eyeball.
cyclocryotherapy: Using very cold temperatures to kill some of the cells producing intraocular fluids, resulting in a decrease in intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye).
enucleation: An operation in which the diseased eye is removed.
glaucoma: An elevation of pressure within the eye incompatible with normal vision.
goniodysgenesis: An inherited condition in which the ligaments in the eye are deformed.
gonioscopy: A test done by the veterinary ophthalmologist to determine the angle of the drainage outlets in a dog's eye.
intraocular pressure (IOP): the amount of pressure inside the eye as measured in millimeters or mercury.
iridocorneal angle: A sieve like network present at the junction between the iris and the cornea, responsible for drainage of intraocular fluid.
lens luxation: An condition in which the lens slips out of place. Sometimes this inherited condition is abbreviated as PLL.
mydriasis: a condition in which the pupil is dilated and cannot shrink back down because of paralysis of the iris sphincter muscle. It usually means that the IOP is over 40 mm Hg. It is one of the symptoms of glaucoma.
pectinate ligament: Spans the area between the base of the iris and the sclera (white part of the eye) and form flow spaces.
tonometer: a tool used by the vet to measure the IOP.
uvea: A blood vessel rich layer consisting of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid.
uveitis: inflammation in the eye.
Links to lists of official Veterinary Eye Panelists / Veterinary Ophthalmology Specialists in Australia (Major Cities only) and Worldwide
Recognised CERF Veterinary Ophthalmologists
Dr. Douglas Slatter
Dr. Elizabeth Chambers
109 Haig Road
Toowong Queensland 4066
Phone: (07) 3371 5763
Animal Eye Services
Dr Richard I E Smith, Dr Michael E Bernays, Dr Edith C G M Hampson
Cnr. Kessels Rd & Springfield St
Macgregor Queensland. 4109
Ph (07) 3422 2010
Eye Care for Animals
Port Kennedy Veterinary Hospital
General Medicine & Surgery. Ophthalmology & Reptile Specialist.
Unit 1, 9 Fielden Way, Port Kennedy, Perth
08 9524 6644
Primary glaucoma in border collies is a disease that is on the rise. Conscientious breeders should be having their dogs checked for the disorders that are associated with glaucoma so that their future puppies will be less likely to be affected with glaucoma in their lifetimes.
Hearing that your dog has glaucoma is very sobering news. Fortunately it is not a death sentence. New surgical technologies and medications are being developed all the time bringing hope to these canine sufferers. Not only that, many dogs are able to adjust to blindness quite well when provided loving support from the humans in their life.
Having glaucoma diagnosed could be considered a good day for your dog in one way, and that is that your dog can get the treatment it needs to have the terrible pain of the disease finally relieved. Many people have hated to have their dog's eyes surgically removed or otherwise treated, but then have found their pet to be so much happier without the pain that the treatment was judged to be definitely worth the cost.
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