Glaucoma in Dogs

Overview of Canine Glaucoma

Glaucoma is abnormally high pressure in the eye of the dog. Inside the normal eye there is constant production and drainage of a watery fluid called aqueous humor. When there is a problem with the drainage of the fluid, the pressure within the eye can increase. High pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, which, in turn, causes vision loss. Causes of glaucoma can be primary or secondary.

Primary Glaucoma

Primary glaucoma indicates a problem in the area where fluid leaves the eye. The problem can be structural or one that involves the function of the drainage area of the eye. This form of glaucoma has a tendency to be inherited and is very common in the dog. The age of onset can vary among dog breeds.

Secondary Glaucoma

Secondary glaucoma develops as a side effect of some other disorder within the eye. Many different eye diseases can interrupt the usual flow of aqueous humor within the eye or disrupt the drainage of this fluid from the eye.

Causes of Glaucoma in Dogs

The exact precipitating cause of primary glaucoma is unknown. The disease appears to occur spontaneously, often without any warning. Even though the drainage area of the eye may be abnormal since birth, it is not understood why acute glaucoma appears at a particular time, later in life.

Secondary glaucoma is also an important form of glaucoma in the dog and has numerous causes, including the following:

What to Watch For

Glaucoma generally only affects one eye initially. Depending on the underlying cause, the other eye may be at risk for developing glaucoma in the future.

Diagnosis of Glaucoma in Dogs

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize glaucoma and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

Treatment for Dogs with Glaucoma

The primary goals of the treatment of glaucoma are to treat or correct any underlying causes, to decrease the pressure within the eye, and to save vision if possible. Treatment of glaucoma in dogs may be medical or surgical.

Medical Therapy

Surgical Therapy

Home Care for Dogs with Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a very difficult problem to treat. Medications must be administered at consistent times and must often be continued indefinitely. It is important to administer glaucoma medications exactly as your veterinarian prescribes them. Medications should not be stopped just because the appearance of the eye has improved. In the event that vision cannot be saved, understand that such vision loss is not life threatening and the vast majority of dogs adjust very well to impaired vision or blindness in one or both eyes.

Information In-depth for Glaucoma in Dogs

Glaucoma is an elevation of the pressure within the eye that is incompatible with normal function of the eye. It is a disorder of the outflow of fluid (aqueous humor) from the eye and not a disease of overproduction of fluid within the eye. Sudden, high elevations of pressure within the eye are common in the dog and can occur without warning over several hours. These acute elevations in pressure can cause devastating and irreparable damage to the retina (which acts like the film a the camera) and the optic nerve (which sends information from the eye to the brain).

The causes of glaucoma are both primary (spontaneous, probably inherited) and secondary (arise in association with other diseases within the eye).

Primary Glaucoma in Dogs

Secondary Glaucoma in Dogs

What to Watch For with Canine Glaucoma

Veterinary care should include diagnostic care and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth for Glaucoma in Dogs

Other tests may include:

Treatment In-depth of Glaucoma in Dogs

Treatment for glaucoma can be broken down into medical and surgical care. Depending on the cause determined for glaucoma, different options are more or less appropriate.

Medical Options

Surgical Options

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Glaucoma

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical and may involve the following:

Administer prescribed medication(s) as directed and be certain to alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet. Repeated trips to your veterinarian are important in order to monitor the pressure within the eye and to make adjustments in medications. Do not stop glaucoma medications once they are started unless your veterinarian gives you instructions to do so.

Understand the medications that your dog is taking and what each one is used for. Ask your veterinarian about potential side effects to the drugs and how to monitor for those side effects. Also, ask your veterinarian about alternate plans should side effects be experienced by your dog.

Be aware that glaucoma may require long-term therapy and monitoring. Also be aware that all dogs that have experienced primary glaucoma in one eye are prone to the disease in the other eye. Ask your veterinarian about starting preventative therapy for the other eye.

Because glaucoma can be so rapidly devastating to an eye, it is important to have the dog evaluated immediately. An examination should not be delayed until the following day, or wait for the end of a weekend or holiday. Help should be sought immediately for any dog that has already been blinded by glaucoma in one eye, and who is exhibiting suspicious symptoms in the opposite (good) eye.