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Glaucoma affects both dogs and humans, so pet parents that suffer from this condition may be able to sympathize with their canine counterparts. The eye contains aqueous humor, a fluid which provides intraocular pressure. Fluid from the eye is adjusted by the body as necessary to maintain the appropriate pressure to support delicate eye tissues. Glaucoma occurs when the intraocular pressure becomes abnormally high. This pressure can displace or damage eye structures and nerves. If damage is severe enough, blindness can result. When glaucoma begins to manifest in a dog, urgent medical treatment is required as soon as possible to counteract pressure build up and save eye structures to preserve vision.
Symptoms of glaucoma include:
Pain in the eye may be indicated by your dog rubbing their eye or squinting and behavioral changes such as lethargy, lack of appetite, aggression or agitation
Cloudiness in the cornea
Increase in blood vessel size in the eye
Eye may be red, swollen or protrude
Visual impairment and disorientation
Usually, glaucoma affects only one eye at first, but both eyes may be affected as the condition progresses.
If you notice symptoms of glaucoma, immediate veterinarian attention to reduce pressure in the eye is required. Your veterinarian can provide medications to reduce pressure and surgery to control the condition long term. If treatment is not received, permanent blindness can result. Early detection of the condition, and intervention can prevent the condition from progressing. In addition, there are several steps pet parents can take to reduce the incidence of glaucoma in their dog.
Causes and Prevention of Glaucoma in Dogs
Glaucoma is most frequently the result of the aqueous humor failing to drain from the eyeball, which results in the buildup of intraocular pressure.
There are two types of glaucoma, primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is due to genetic structural anomalies, such as a poor drainage system for aqueous humor, that results in a buildup of fluid and pressure in the eye. Secondary glaucoma occurs when pressure build up in the eye due to another cause, such as an infection or injury, that causes inflammation or blockage from scar tissue or ocular discharge, resulting in the build up of aqueous humor pressure in the eye.
Some breeds are more prone to this condition than others. Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Springer spaniels, Basset hounds, beagles, Chows, Shar-Peis, terriers, Norwegian elkhounds, huskies, malamutes, Akitas, Samoyeds, Bouvier des Flandres, Maltese, Shih-Tzus, and poodles are more likely to experience primary glaucoma from structural anomalies, or secondary glaucoma, as a condition affecting the eye has a more substantial effect on the fluid pressure system in their eyes due to structural weakness.
Primary glaucoma is hard to prevent. Dogs born with poor drainage systems for aqueous humor may be prone to the disorder occurring regardless of circumstances. Selecting a reputable breeder that screens for all medical conditions including glaucoma in their animals is recommended. Spaying or neutering a dog that exhibits primary glaucoma so that the trait is not passed on is also recommended.
Secondary glaucoma can be caused by:
Inflammation in the eye
Displacement of the eye lens that block drainage opening
Scarring within the eye structures
Damage to the drainage structures in the eye
Bleeding or other discharge clogging the drainage system in the eye
Scarring from injury or degeneration of eye structures
Bacterial infection can result in degeneration of structures resulting in impaired drainage
Neoplasia can block the drainage system in the eye
Risk Factors and Prevention
Age may be a factor in the degeneration of eye structures, resulting in blockage of the fluid drainage system in your dog's eye.
If your dog belongs to a high-risk group, for example they have littermates that have developed glaucoma, or have developed eye conditions such as infection, or injury, that may cause an increased chance of degeneration and disorder in the eye, there are several steps you can take to prevent the development of glaucoma in your dog.
Providing supplemental antioxidants, vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, lutein, astaxanthin, and rutin that promote eye health and reduce damage to cells in the eye may be helpful in preventing glaucoma.
Avoid the use of tight collars on the neck that can increase intraocular pressure. A harness around the torso, not the neck, will reduce pressure to your dog's neck, head and facial area and reduce pressure in the optical system.
Take your dog for regular eye examinations with your veterinarian to monitor eye health and check your dog's eyes regularly, so that any increase in intraocular pressure or eye disorder is determined and addressed quickly.
Importance of Preventing Glaucoma
Since unaddressed glaucoma can result in blindness and pain, preventing the disorder if possible will improve quality of life and result in a healthier, happier dog. Also, medication, and especially surgical intervention to treat glaucoma, can be expensive, and preventing the condition will be more cost effective in the long run. Prevention will require careful monitoring on the part of pet parents. Monitoring your dog's health on a regular basis will not only prevent glaucoma, but many other conditions that could develop into serious medical problems for your dog.
Common Sense Precautions
Glaucoma, the buildup of fluid pressure in your dog's eye, is similar to what humans experience, and for many of the same reasons. It can be a traumatic, painful and ultimately an irreversible condition if left untreated, and damage to eye structures result in blindness. Treatment can be invasive and expensive. Glaucoma can result from genetic anomalies in your dog's eyes which prevent drainage, or can be caused by medical conditions such as infection, injury or degeneration of eye tissues that result in pressure build up in your dog's eye. Avoiding dogs with genetic predispositions to this condition and careful monitoring of your dog's eye health to address signs of pressure build up with medication at an early stage are the best ways of preventing a serious glaucoma condition. Reducing intraocular pressure by avoiding tight collars or harnesses around the neck and providing supplements that promote eye health may also be useful in preventing glaucoma from developing. Glaucoma is not something either human or dog wants to experience, as it is painful and can be debilitating. Prevention is well worth the effort for you and your dog.