5 Leading Causes of Pet Vision Loss

      Jul 19, 2021 7:15:00 AM

      5 Leading Causes of Pet Vision Loss

      Caring for a pet with vision loss and sudden blindness is scary. For both you and your best friend. The most important thing your can do is educate yourself on the underlying causes of your pet's changing vision, help them adapt to a life with limited eyesight, and learn how to help your dog life a life without sight. 

      Signs of Pet Blindness

      Halo for blind dogsDepending on what caused your dog's vision loss, they may have lost their vision overnight or had their vision diminish slowly over time. Understanding the signs of pet blindness can help you to notice the clinical signs much earlier. The most common signs your dog's eyesight is changing include:

      • Bumping into furniture, hitting their head on the wall, or struggling to navigate the house
      • Reluctance to jump off furniture 
      • Hesitancy to go down the stairs, especially when the lights are off
      • Unable to find a toy or ball when it's thrown, or being completely unaware when you throw a toy
      • Startled in bright light
      • Excessive thirst or more frequent urination
      • Cloudy eyes

      Any pet experiencing one or more of these symptoms should be examined by their veterinarian immediately. The earlier that your pet's vision loss is detected, the more treatable it can be and the better you can help them adapt. 

      5 Causes of Vision Loss in Dogs & Cats

      Change in your pet's vision can be caused by many different eye conditions. How your pet's vision loss is treated depends on their eye condition. The most common causes of sudden vision loss in pets includes:

      1. SARDS or Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration

      Blind dog safely moves around with haloSARDS is a degenerative eye condition that comes on quickly. Most pets with SARDS will be completely blind within 24 hours to a month of diagnosis. 

      SARDS Symptoms

      • Sudden blindness
      • Eye irritation or infrequent blinking
      • Pupil dilation
      • Little to no response to light
      • Increased thirst and appetite (with noticeable weight gain)

      Dog Breeds at Risk for SARDS

      Most often occurring in female dogs, most dogs diagnosed with SARDS are between the ages of 6 to 14 years old. Breeds most commonly affected by SARDS are:

      • Beagle
      • Dachshund
      • Schnauzer
      • Pug
      • Brittany Spaniel
      • Maltese

      2. Glaucoma

      This painful eye condition generally occurs in one eye first. Glaucoma is a painful build-up of eye pressure which kills and damages retinal cells and optic nerve. Eventually the pressure will lead to canine vision loss.

      Glaucoma Symptoms in Dogs

      • Swollen eyes, eyes may appear to bulge outwards
      • Signs of eye pain, including rubbing or digging at eyes
      • Pet avoids having head touched
      • Cloudy eyes
      • Lethargy

      When caught early it is possible for a dog to recover, however most pet parents miss the clinical signs of glaucoma until it's too late to relieve the eye pressure. Only 50% of dogs who receive medical care will regain their eyesight

      Dog Breeds Prone to Glaucoma

      • Boston Terrier
      • Basset Hound
      • Shar-pei
      • Cocker Spaniel
      • Siberian Husky
      • Labrador Retriever

      3. Progressive Retinal Atrophy or PRA

      An inherited condition, PRA causes retina deterioration and blindness in dogs. PRA is not a painful eye condition, however it does impact both eyes.  Most dog's with progressive retinal atrophy will lose their eyesight slowly, usually over he course of months or years. This progressive condition is irreversible and there is no cure for PRA, however medication can slow down the loss of vision.  

      Signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy

      • Difficulty navigating in dim lighting
      • Dilated pupils and slow response to light
      • Reluctance to go outside at night and loss of night vision
      • Eye cloudiness
      • Bumping into walls, doors, and furniture

      Dog Breeds Impacted by PRA

      • Miniature and toy Poodles
      • Cocker Spaniel
      • Labrador Retriever
      • Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel
      • Miniature Schnauzer

      4. Canine Cataracts

      When you think of a blind dog, most likely you think of cloudy eyes. Cataracts are characterized by eye cloudiness that occurs behind the dog's eye lens. As the lens clouds over it blocks light from reaching a dog's retina and preventing them from seeing.  A dog may have cataracts in one or both eyes, and a cataract can seem to appear over night. Labrador blinded by glaucoma

      Clinical Signs of Cataracts in Dogs

      • Cloudy eye 
      • Changes in eye color or shape of pupil
      • A haze over one of both eyes

      Dog Breeds with Cataracts

      • Boston Terrier
      • Cocker Spaniel
      • Labrador Retriever
      • Poodle
      • Husky
      • French Bulldog

      It's important to note that dogs with diabetes are at a high risk for cataract regardless of breed. Most diabetic dogs will have cataracts within a year of becoming a diabetic. Not only are dogs with diabetes likely to have cataracts, they will develop very quickly. 

      5. Retinal Detachment

      Sudden retinal detachment is the leading cause of blindness in cats, but can also occur in dogs. Retinal detachment most often occurs from trauma, but can also occur when a pet has high blood pressure.  Partial reattachment may be possible if the pet's blood pressure is quickly controlled by medication and brought back to normal levels. 

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