Optic Neuritis in Dogs

Overview of Optic Neuritis in Dogs

Optic neuritis is the inflammation of the nerve that leads from the retina of the eye to the brain. Inflammation of this nerve interferes with normal function of the eye by preventing retinal information from reaching the brain. There is one optic nerve for each eye, and optic neuritis may involve one or both of the nerves. If both nerves are affected, then the animal is usually blind. The onset of blindness is usually sudden with optic neuritis.

In dogs, inflammation of the optic nerves may be associated with inflammation of the retina, inflammation of the brain, or may involve only the nerves themselves. Causes of optic neuritis in the dog include viral infections (canine distemper), protozoal infections (toxoplasmosis, neosporosis), fungal infections (blastomycosis, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis), and tick borne infections (Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever).

Immune diseases, head trauma, tumors, some forms of meningitis, and certain systemic diseases may also cause optic neuritis. In some cases of optic neuritis, the cause is never discovered and these are called “idiopathic” forms.

The optic nerve may be inflamed along its entire length from the retina to the brain, or only a portion of the nerve may be affected. When the beginning of the nerve is inflamed, this inflammation is visible by examining the retina. When the nerve behind the eye is inflamed, the retina may appear normal.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Optic Neuritis in Dogs

Optic neuritis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Tests may include the following:

Treatment of Optic Neuritis in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention

When treating optic neuritis, be sure to follow precisely the medication instructions provided by your veterinarian. Repeated follow-up examinations are important to monitor response to therapy and to detect any worsening of the disease. Some dogs respond well to treatment and regain their vision, while others remain blind. Optic neuritis is considered a serious condition and may sometimes be life-threatening to the dog.

There are no preventative measures available for optic neuritis. Early intervention and treatment may prevent other neurologic signs from developing.