Blindness in Dogs – Glaucoma

Did you know that dogs get glaucoma? Not only do they get glaucoma, it is a leading cause of blindness in dogs. Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which fluid builds up within the eye causing pressure inside the eye. The pressure damages the structures of the eye causing pain and ultimately blindness. There are two forms, primary and secondary.

The primary type is hereditary, breed specific, and is not caused by other diseases. There are many breeds that are prone to primary glaucoma, however the most common are the Cocker Spaniel, Bassett Hound, Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Miniature Poodles, Boston Terriers, Dalmations, and the various Heeler breeds. It usually starts in one eye, but ultimately both eyes are affected. It occurs 3 times more frequently in female dogs and most commonly between the ages of 5 and 10 years.

Early detection is the key to controlling this painful disease. Although there is no cure at this time for glaucoma, it can often be managed if detected before blindness sets in. Once blindness occurs it is not reversible. Testing for this disease is simple, painless, and can be performed during your pet’s annual examination. In fact, veterinary ophthalmologists recommend testing all high-risk breeds annually from puppy-hood on up. The cost of the test varies from $15 to $35. Glaucoma is treated medically or surgically depending on the type of glaucoma and the severity of damage once diagnosed.

Secondary glaucoma occurs in conjunction with other diseases that cause inflammation in the eye. Tumors and lens dislocation can also cause glaucoma. The prognosis for this type of glaucoma varies depending on the severity and underlying cause.

The best thing you can do is to be aware of the early signs of glaucoma. The early symptoms are similar to conjunctivitis and include a “red eye”, increased tearing, and squinting in light. As the disease progresses, the eye becomes cloudy, and the pupil remains large and does not respond to light. Blindness is inevitable, but the disease process can often be controlled and slowed down if caught in its early stages.

For more information, contact Steven Wolchinsky, D.V.M. of Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital at

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