We think of Glaucoma as a people disease (if we think about it at all), but pets can get it too. Here's what your dog needs you to know about glaucoma.
1. Dogs Get Glaucoma Too
Perhaps you've heard glaucoma usually strikes older people, or that it tends to run in families. All this is true, and it's true for dogs as well. Glaucoma is a surprisingly common illness for dogs. Left untreated it usually results in complete blindness, often in both eyes.
2. Some Breeds are More Prone to Glaucoma
This illness can strike any breed, but it's more common in some than others. Commonly hit breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Chow Chows, Shar Peis, Jack Russel Terriers, Shih Tzus and many of the Arctic breeds. If your pet is one of these breeds you'll want to take care to check her eye health regularly.
One of our dogs is a Cocker Spaniel. He has had glaucoma for a few years now, and lost his second eye to the disease this year at the age of 10. He is now completely blind.
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3. Glaucoma = Pressure in the Eye (Ouch!)
At the end of the day, having glaucoma means having too much fluid in the eye. The pressure builds up, causing pain and headaches. If not relieved, the pressure damages the optic nerve and results in blindness.
If you've ever known a person with glaucoma you'll hear them talk about a narrowed field of vision, headaches, and blurry vision. It's critical to relieve the pressure as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage.
4. The Symptoms are Easy to Miss
Dogs are pretty stoic creatures. Owners usually don't realize their animal is in pain from glaucoma. They may rub their eye a bit, but not usually. Perhaps she isn't as interested in eating, or doesn't want to play as much, but some dogs won't even show that much. It's pretty common for the first eye not to be caught until the damage to the optic nerve is already done.
If your dog tends towards bloodshot or cloudy eyes, you will want to have her eyes checked. (And if she is one of the breeds I listed earlier it's a good idea to have her eyes checked anyway.) If an eye begins to bulge from the pressure it is likely too late to save that eye – your main focus will be to stop the pain and protect her other eye.
5. Where One Eye Goes the Other Usually Follows
If your dog has primary glaucoma in one eye, her other eye will usually get it too. On average, the second eye is attacked between 8 and 31 months after the first. Yes, your beloved four-footed friend may very well go blind.
You can use this time to prepare yourself and your home for life with a blind dog. The good news is dogs handle blindness surprisingly well – much better than people do in fact. You can learn more about what to expect from this article on blindness in dogs.
This Sheep Dog is Completely Blind
Still enjoying life!
6. Life After Glaucoma Can Still be Pretty Great
We have owned two blind dogs in our lifetime and I can attest to their ability to adapt and thrive. Our Cocker Spaniel still goes for walks with us and plays chase the ball. (Of course, that ball has a soundmaker in it, but he loves to chase it!) Trust that you and your pet will still enjoy life together and that you'll be able to find the right pet toys to keep life fun.
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