Glaucoma in Dogs, Signs, Symptoms and Treatments 

Glaucoma in Dogs

Though you may know of glaucoma in humans, did you know that our canine friends are at risk to this eye disease as well? This eye condition can make its way into our furry friend’s life and result in great discomfort.

So how can you know if your dog has glaucoma?

In this article we will dive into the details of glaucoma in dogs and help you better understand the condition going forward.

What Is Glaucoma In Dogs?

Glaucoma is a painful eye condition that involves an increase of pressure within the eye. This space within the eye is called the intraocular space, and the intraocular pressure is the measurement that is checked during an eye examination. Whenever the intraocular pressure is above 25 mmHg, this warrants a concern of glaucoma.

In a healthy dog, the fluid within the eye is able to drain freely, which causes the intraocular pressure to remain under control. In a dog with glaucoma, however, the fluid within the eye is not able to properly drain. This results in an increase in eye pressure, and a list of concerning symptoms that come along with elevated eye pressure. 

What Causes Glaucoma In Dogs?

When it comes to glaucoma in dogs, you will likely hear your veterinarian list your dog’s condition as either primary or secondary glaucoma.

Primary glaucoma refers to the presence of glaucoma in an otherwise healthy dog. This could refer to a dog that is among the breeds that are prone to the disease, or a sudden onset of the disease without any relation to illness or injury. 

Secondary glaucoma refers to the diagnosis of high eye pressure due to another cause. Glaucoma can be brought on due to inflammation within the eye, as well as other conditions that impact the eye. Some of the most common causes of secondary glaucoma include:

  • Injury to the eye that results in chronic inflammation
  • Tumors within or behind the eye
  • Eye infections such as uveitis or other intraocular infections
  • Cancer within the eye
  • Advanced cataracts
  • Retinal detachment
  • Damage to the lens of the eye

Though these are the most common causes of secondary glaucoma in dogs, virtually any damage to the eye can result in increased intraocular pressure. If your dog ever experiences an eye injury, it’s best to contact your vet immediately for further care. 

Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma in Dogs

So what does glaucoma look like in dogs? Glaucoma is a serious condition of the eye in dogs, making it so important to know what to look for in our canine companions. Some of the most common signs of glaucoma in dogs include:

  • Signs of eye pain such as pawing at their eyes, rubbing their eyes on the floor, squirting, and more
  • Redness of the sclera (the white portion of the eye)
  • Cloudy appearance to the eye
  • Avoidance of light or squinting in the sunlight
  • Different sized pupils
  • Swelling or bulging around the eye
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Signs of vision changes such as bumping into objects, stumbling, etc. 

Though an eye condition may not seem like a serious emergency, it’s important to realize that glaucoma can result in blindness if it’s not treated correctly and quickly. If you see any of the above behavior in your dog, it’s best to contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Diagnosing Glaucoma In Dogs

In order for your veterinarian to diagnose glaucoma in your dog, they will need to perform a thorough eye exam. This eye exam will involve looking into the eye with an ophthalmoscope, measuring your dog’s intraocular pressure with a tonometer, and potentially staining the eye to check for injury. Since these diagnostics can be painful for dogs, they always administer a numbing eye drop first. 

In order for your veterinarian to have the best shot at treating your dog’s glaucoma successfully, it’s essential to realize that time is the essence. The longer your dog’s intraocular pressure is elevated, the higher their likelihood of blindness. Not only is there a great threat of eventual blindness, but it’s also extremely painful for your furry friend. Humans with glaucoma refer to this pain as a piercing headache, which you would never want your dog to experience. 

Complications Of Glaucoma In Dogs

Like we mentioned above, glaucoma in dogs can lead to severe pain and blindness when left untreated. Not only is there a chance of blindness, but your dog also runs the risk of needing the eye removed if the pressure within their eye becomes too high. Though our dog’s can still live a full life in either of these cases, it’s not the reality we want for our beloved pups. 

The best way to prevent severe complications is by taking your dog to the vet from the moment you see the first sign of change within their eye. 

Treatment Options For Glaucoma

So what are the options for the dogs that have been diagnosed with glaucoma? Treatment options vary based on how severe the case is, but let’s dive into the options below. 

Treating the underlying cause:

If your dog has secondary glaucoma as a result of another eye condition, one of the most important steps will be to address the underlying issue. While the increased eye pressure needs to be addressed, the issue will never resolve unless they target the initial cause as well. 

Eye medications:

If your dog’s glaucoma is not too severe, it may be able to be managed with the use of daily eye drops. These eye drops will help to not only decrease the pressure within the eye, but also provide pain relief for the eye as well. These eye drops are often given twice a day, if not more. 

Specialty surgery:

There are a couple different approaches to surgical management when it comes to glaucoma in dogs. Each of these procedures will need to be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist, as they are considered specialty surgeries. These surgeries either involve placing a shunt within the eye that helps the fluid drain, or reducing eye pressure through the use of laser therapy. Your veterinarian can refer you to their recommended ophthalmologist

Eye removal (enucleation):

If your dog has already lost vision or is experiencing severe pain from their glaucoma, there is always an option of eye removal. Enucleation can be the best solution to relieve your dog of chronic pain, and prevent having to use daily eye drops. Sometimes this is a more cost effective option for those unable to maintain monthly eye drops or specialty eye surgery. 

How To Prevent Glaucoma In Dogs

Since glaucoma is such a serious eye condition in dogs, it’s best to prevent this disease whenever possible.

Some of the best ways to prevent glaucoma in your dog include:

  • Only purchase dogs from responsible breeders that offer medical paperwork clearing both parents of any hereditary disease
  • Trying your best to avoid pressure to your dogs neck such as making sure their collars are not too tight, as well as using appropriate leashes
  • Reducing stress in your dog’s life
  • Watch your dog’s eyes closely for any changes, especially as they age
  • Make sure your veterinarian performs an eye exam at each yearly physical

As you can see, glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can cause your dog great discomfort. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can help your dog avoid glaucoma going forward.

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