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What is Retinal Dysplasia?

The term retinal dysplasia really just means a malformation within the retina while dysplasia simply means that there is an abnormal or unusual development within a structure. RD can reduce the vision of your dog’s eye and is usually a genetically inherited condition. This condition does not cause your pet any pain. In a normal eye, the retina lines the rear of the eye and receives light that stimulates it to transmit information it receives about its environment to the brain where the information becomes the vision. The process of abnormal development of this process causes the vision impairment.

Although not painful nor progressive, retinal dysplasia is characterised by round clumps or folds forming within the tissue of the retina.

Symptoms of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

  • With retinal dysplasia in dogs, there are few noticeable symptoms apart from hesitancy to leap off things or seeming to be clumsy
  • Your dog may bump into objects or may not be able to find things that you would expect him to such as a ball or a toy
  • Reluctance to jump down off a ledge
  • Reluctance to maneuver the stairs 
  • Hesitancy in walking into dark rooms or hallways 
  • Difficulty in recognising people or objects 
  • Color changes within the eye 
  • Behavioral changes 

Types

 

There are three distinct types of retinal dysplasia in dogs which relate to the formation of the condition and the effect on the eye.

  • Multi-focal

     retinal dysplasia is characterised by small folds within the tissue of the retina that fade as your dog ages but may cause vision blind spots 

  • Geographic

     retinal dysplasia has irregular shaped lesions that appear instead of the fold, or alongside them in the retina tissue; they cause visual impairment or even blindness 

  • Complete

     retinal dysplasia is the most difficult form of retinal dysplasia and detachment causing blindness; this condition can cause other conditions to form such as glaucoma

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Causes of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

  • The loss of vision is caused by abnormal development of the retina which is present at birth
  • This disorder is either inherited from the parents, or your puppy may have acquired it through abnormalities within the womb such as a viral infection
  • The retina of your dog’s eye has two layers which in normal situations should form develop together
  • In the condition of RD, the two layers are deformed, which causes folds or creases between the layers
  • The deterioration of the retina causes oxidation to occur which further compromises the cells 
  • Vision is then compromised 
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Diagnosis of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

Because this is an insidious condition that slowly develops and has no outward visible signs of a problem (except in the advanced stages), diagnosis is usually made at an advanced stage of vision loss. In the advanced stages, PRA is usually followed by the growth of cataracts in both eyes of your dog.  As tissue of the retina slowly withers and dies, the release of toxic by-products is absorbed by the lens which can cause damage and promote the growth of the cataract which in turn aggravates the loss of your dog’s vision. 

Diagnosis is done via your veterinarian examination of your dog, especially if you have a young puppy. An ophthalmoscope will be used to examine the eyes at 12 -16 weeks or so of age, because the retina has matured enough to notice any imperfections. The specialist may then advise on a course of supportive anti-oxidants which are specific towards prolonging the health of your puppy or dog’s eyes. At an early stage in life, this treatment has shown promising signs in research that it can extend the healthy life of the retina and prolong the onset of vision loss.

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Treatment of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

There is no treatment for this condition. While there is ongoing research, there is nothing yet to prevent this condition from occurring. Prevention comes in the form of not breeding your dog if he has this condition as it will pass the genes on to the next generation. There is research that has found that has found that a specific antioxidant supplement may slow down the destruction of the retina, but you will need to discuss this with your veterinarian. Because this condition is not obvious at birth, by the time it does become noticeable it is usually well advanced and supportive care is the only option.

You will find that your dog adjusts well to life and will learn to live with the vision it does have. Usually they develop their other senses such as their hearing and smell that will compensate for any loss in vision. You can make your dog’s life easier if he is affected by this condition by walking him with a lease or harness, and ensuring his environment is safe for him to get around. Close any outside gates so he doesn’t wander out onto the street and get lost or injured. This applies also to swimming pool gates or protect him from the pool or a pond if there is no fence. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on his health care.

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Recovery of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

Environment management is the only option as this condition does not have a treatment or cure. If your dog’s vision is compromised, you just need to ensure that the house and yard is safe for him to live a normal life. Your dog will adapt as all dogs do, and they will compensate for their incomplete vision by developing a strong sense of smell and hearing which will help them to get around. Ensuring you monitor them where there are steps or if you are near a pond or pool as they may not see the danger and fall in and while good swimmers they may not be able to see clearly and panic. Administering a specific antioxidant supplement will help maintain the health of your dog’s eyes and may help to prolong the vision so talk to your veterinarian eye specialist about this option.

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Retinal Dysplasia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Zooey

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vision Problems

My dog was diagnosed with retinal dysplasia today. She is just turning 5. based on what I researched, it sounds like it typically doesn't get that much worse as they age, but she seems like her vision might be getting worse. The specialist also told us that Ocu-Glo might or might not help slow the advancement. What are your thoughts on that?

Sept. 14, 2018

Zooey's Owner


Now I just saw somewhere that said that it typically causes total blindness in 1-2 years. :(

Sept. 14, 2018

Zooey's Owner

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Sipsy

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Golden Retriever

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27 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vision Problems

My golden ret was diagnosed with GRD at 15 months(left).. along with distichiasis(left) & cataratas(both) In a previous Q&A genetic testing was suggested and wondered what test?? 2nd exam now included multiple bilateral uveal cyst. I have done the PRA panel, is there something else to test?

June 7, 2018

Sipsy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are other tests for retinal dysplasia like the ones linked below but this features part of a wider hereditary disease process; generally though diagnosis is made by a thorough examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope with genetic tests used to rule out hereditary conditions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.pawprintgenetics.com/products/breeds/76/

June 8, 2018

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Eddie

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Golden Retriever

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My Golden Retriever was diagnosed with geographic retinal dysplasia last year. I am confused because it's supposed to be present at birth. I had his 1st eye exam done in 2014, at 1 year of age and it was normal. 2015 he was diagnosed with a retinal fold in one eye. 2016 it was the same, retinal folds. In 2017, it changed to geographic retinal dysplasia. He is a Champion, and I do field work with him. His vision marking the bird is excellent. So, can retinal folds turn in to retinal dysplasia?

May 7, 2018

Eddie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Some studies have indicated that not all cases of geographic retinal dysplasia are congenital, some may be acquired but there are not many studies done on acquired geographic retinal dysplasia. I would recommend you consult with an Ophthalmologist as they will be able to to give you more in depth advice than myself. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 8, 2018

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Bart

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Miniature Schnauzer

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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I have a mini-schnauzer who comes from a show line in which RD is well established as a recessive trait. He was born affected with RD but with good vision. I have him examined yearly by an ophthalmologist. He is currently 4-1/2 years old, has tiny cataracts around the perimeter of both eyes, a larger cataract that has formed near the middle of the right lens, and prominent hyaloid arteries in both eyes. The ophthalmologist told me at his last exam in 2017 that the central right eye cataract may begin to affect his vision going forward - comparable to a human who develops problems reading. Cataract surgery is an option if his right eye condition worsens, but no one seems to know whether his condition will be progressive or not, or if so to what extent. Do you know of any further research (or clinical experience) in this area that offers predictive help, based on the information I have supplied?

Jan. 15, 2018

Bart's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. It sounds like you are completely on top of Bart's condition, and have great veterinary care for him. I do not know of any other research that is being conducted with RD at this time, but one resource that you might consider is reaching out to veterinary colleges, as they tend to do research like that, and each one has an ophthalmology department. Most states have a veterinary college, as do Canadian provinces. I hope that he continues to do well.

Jan. 15, 2018

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Lola

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Golden Retreiver

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Missing Food

My 10 year old Golden has retinal dysplasia. She was fixed so she couldn't have puppies. But I am noticing that she, who use to find every scrape of food, is now missing pieces of food on a plate. IE: red washed apple skin. Are things going down hill? What should I expect from here on out? Thanks,

Dec. 21, 2017

Lola's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Retinal dysplasia doesn't typically cause a decreased appetite, and most dogs can live quite normal lives without having perfect vision. You may want to follow up with your veterinarian and have some routine senior blood work done to make sure that her organ function is okay otherwise, if she is showing a decreased interest in food. I hope that she is okay.

Dec. 21, 2017

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Chance

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Labrador Retriever

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness

I have a 7 year old Lab born with retinal dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. We adopted him at a year old and he was blind in one eye and partially in the other. Our last opthamologist appointment last year, he was seen for ulcerations of the eye, it was determined that he was blind in both eyes and recommended that we had both eyes removed as once a dog develops ulcerations they almost always return. He also has cataracts which we never had removed, as he was already blind. We opted to attempt to treat ulcerations with antibiotic drops instead, as we did not want to remove his eyes, and it was successful and they have not returned. For the past week, his sclera is blood shot and behind the cataract I can see a red glow. I haven't run to the vet, as I know his vision is not in danger anymore and it does not seem to bother him. I believe he may have walked into something causing a hemmorrhage and I am waiting to see if it clears up. My question, is a retinal hemorrhage something that a dog with retinal dyplasia would be prone to, and would that be something I would be able to see with my eye if it was significant enough, or would you need to use an opthalmascope?

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