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The retina sits against the back wall of the eye. When your dog sees something, that image is focused by the cornea and the lens onto the retina, much like a projector will focus an image on a movie screen. The retina of the eye can become detached from the underlying retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) for many reasons, ranging from genetic predisposition to physical trauma. Retinal detachment can affect one or both eyes, and can involve full or partial detachment. Although partial detachment can sometimes be treated with medication or surgery, full detachment of the retina generally causes blindness in the affected eye.
A retinal detachment is a condition in which the inner lining of the eye, the retina, separates from the underlying structure. This is a serious condition.
Symptoms of retinal detachment can occur in one or both eyes. Depending on the cause of the detachment, onset could be sudden or may take several days to manifest. Symptoms can be nearly indistinguishable from the symptoms of retinal degeneration, which is the death of the cells of the retina, rather than separation.
The retinal detachment will be classified as either macula off, meaning that the macula (the pigmented center of the retina) is fully detached or macula on, meaning that it has not yet fully detached.
There are many factors that can cause a retina to detach from the RPE in your dog’s eye. They could include:
Your veterinarian will get your dog’s medical history and complete a physical examination, paying special attention to the eyes. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will be done to check for any underlying causes such as undiagnosed infections, hormonal imbalances or toxins. An x-ray may also be recommended in some circumstances. Most general practice veterinarians will refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist at this point in the diagnostic procedure.
Veterinary ophthalmologists have the proper diagnostic equipment to run further tests, and will examine the retina by direct or indirect ophthalmoscopy. Pupil dilation is usually recommended for this test, but there are rare circumstances that make dilation inadvisable. Specialized ocular ultrasounds can also give the eye specialist better information on damage to the structure of the eye or eyes. If the retina is removed from the eye due to blindness or pain a microscopic evaluation of the eye tissue samples may give additional information about the origin of the disorder.
The prognosis of visual preservation will depend somewhat on the underlying cause of the detachment as well as the severity. It is important to see the ophthalmologist as soon as possible as there are some medical and surgical treatments that become less feasible with time.
If the retina is fully detached it is rare for the patient to recover vision in the affected eye or eyes. Dogs usually adjust well to partial and even full vision loss with minimal physical or psychological distress. Your veterinarian may recommend removing the detached retina from the eye completely as leaving it in the eye causes an increased possibility of infection or glaucoma.
If the retina is only partially displaced there are some methods that can help restore vision to the eye. Retinal reattachment surgery will be indicated in cases of breed disposition, physical trauma or if a tear is present. This disorder can often be reversed by addressing the underlying cause, however. Medications to treat the eye and underlying conditions may be given orally or topically, and in some cases even injected directly into the eye. Reversal is often seen in cases such as infection or hypertension with these treatments as well as possible dietary changes.
If surgery was required, you will want to keep your pet in a calm and quiet environment. Make sure that you complete all medications given by your veterinarian, even if visible symptoms disappear. This helps ensure that no reoccurrences of the underlying conditions will follow treatment. If the retinas were detached or had to be removed your dog will be blind in the affected eyes.
Blindness in one eye usually causes a minimal impact to life quality. You will want to be aware that your dog may startle and snap more easily when approached on its blind side, especially in the first few weeks. If your dog has lost vision in both eyes they can still lead a full and satisfying life with just a few considerations, such as blocking access to potential dangers like stairs or pools and not rearranging objects in their environment without showing them the new arrangement.
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I took my long haired miniature dachshund who just turned 5 on January 1st of this year (male) to an ophthalmologist and was informed he has retinal tears and shown the ultrasound pictures. She has scheduled surgery to be done at the end of March. For my piece of mind now should his everyday routine be changed? His activity level etc. Besides not wanting him to jump up or down and not letting him play with toys he likes to shake with his headdoes he have to stop being himself? Playing, walking, running, barking normal everyday things. Or do I need to treat him like a helpless baby that can't do anything? Any advice would be extremely helpful & greatly appreciated! I'm scared to let him move without me and know he doesn't understand or why I cry when I look at him! Please help before my dog locks me outside! We initially went in to determine why he developed a cataract almost overnight and only in the right eye. He is such a happy dog I don't want to strictly limit him if I don't have to. Thank you
Feb. 23, 2018
Baby Melon(Rylee)'s Owner
It is best to reduce excessive movement which may cause a worsening of the condition, so toys which he shakes with his head etc… It is best to keep him in a calm environment and restrict movement to gentle walks with no running or jumping; the Ophthalmologist should have given you instructions at your previous appointment regarding management of the condition until he is in for surgery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Feb. 24, 2018
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Question about dog retinas. Was going to undergo cataract surgery yesterday but veterinary opthamologist declined. Here are her notes. “RE: Newton, a 14-year-old M/N Boston terrier dog , was originally examined 10/11/2017. Newton presented today for cataract surgery. DIAGNOSIS: 10/11/2017: OU immature cataract. 10/11/2017: OU calcific corneal degeneration. 10/27/2017: OU retinal detachment without dialysis, diagnosed by ultrasound. SURGERY PERFORMED: 10/27/2017: Following induction of general anesthesia, an electroretinogram was performed revealing signficantly reduced amplitudes OU (OD: 22 μV, OS, 40 μV). Ocular ultrasonography revealed flat partial retinal detachments OU. This resulted in a decision not to pursue cataract surgery. RECOMMENDED RE-EXAMINATION: 4 months. PROGNOSIS FOR VISION: Poor OU” Is there anything that can be done (in terms of medication surgery) about the flat flat partial retinal detachments revealed in the ultrasound? I would like to repair retinas and have cataract surgery if this is remotely in the realm of possibility.
Oct. 28, 2017
Determining whether to commence surgery is always at the discretion of the Surgeon as they need to be sure and confident of the desired end result and if waiting for another occasion may help produce a more desirable outcome without risk patient life (i.e. non-critical cases) then surgery should be postponed. Surgery is the treatment of choice for retinal detachment and the notes give only a vague idea of what is going on; you should discuss with the Ophthalmologist about Newton’s eye and what can be done as he is under their duty of care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Oct. 28, 2017
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