Last year I took my dog to the vet because she was having problems with her right eye. I had come home and found her looking quite miserable. The eye was half closed, it looked cloudy and it was weeping some green looking gunk. She wasn’t a pretty site.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my dog had glaucoma – a serious eye condition that unfortunately is quite common in a number of dog breeds. It usually comes on suddenly…literally overnight and can wreak havoc on their eyes with often the final result being total blindness.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that causes increased pressure in the eye. Normally the eye should drain the fluid but with glaucoma this stops happening. Without medication or surgery, the fluid will keep increasing, causing pressure in the eye until it damages the eye permanently, resulting in permanent blindness.
There are two types of glaucoma:
1. Primary Glaucoma – This type of glaucoma is inherited and many breeds of dogs are prone to getting this disease including the cocker spaniel, basset hound, Siberian husky, elkhound, chow chow, shar pei, jack russell terrier and shih tzu breeds.
2. Secondary Glaucoma – This type of glaucoma occurs as a result of another eye disease like cataracts or eye cancer.
How do I know my dog has glaucoma?
You won’t really know if your pet has glaucoma until your vet measures the pressure of the eye. However, some signs you might look for are:
- the eye looks milky, cloudy or blue
- the eye looks enlarged
- the white of the eye is red or bloodshot
- your dog looks miserable (they will probably be in a lot of pain)
Do I need to take my dog to the vet for glaucoma?
Yes, definitely. Glaucoma in dogs is considered a medical emergency. Waiting even an hour can result in permanent blindness. Plus your dog will be in a lot of pain without medication. The quicker you get your dog to a vet the better.
Is My Dog in Pain?
Most likely yes. Glaucoma is a painful disease in dogs, more so than in humans. The pain is similar to a migraine headache and your dog may have that pain 24/7 without treatment. Even with treatment your dog is likely to have bouts of pain depending on the level of pressure in the eye. You will know if your dog is in pain if it closes the effected eye, squints, holds it’s head down, paws at the eye and head, rub it’s head along the floor, is off it’s food, doesn’t want to play or walks around listlessly.
What do all those pressure readings mean?
When your dog has glaucoma your vet will take readings of the eye to determine the pressure level. Your vet may refer to it as the IOP (intraocular pressure) reading. The lower the pressure reading the better. In both humans and dogs a healthy pressure reading would be somewhere between 10 and 20. If your dog has consistent pressure readings above that and they aren’t relieved by medications then usually it means that the eye will need to be removed.
Will my dog get glaucoma in both eyes?
If your dog has primary glaucoma (ie inherited), then it is highly likely both eyes will be effected eventually. The average time for the second eye to become affected is around 6 to 18 months but can be longer.
Will my dog eventually go blind?
The likelihood of your dog maintaining its sight with glaucoma is not good. The drugs listed below help to reduce the pressure but with each pressure spike your dog experiences more vision loss. For my dog, the first eye was affected in October 2011 and the second eye in May 2012. Total vision loss occurred in July 2012.
Medications for Glaucoma
There are a variety of medications that your vet can prescribe for glaucoma in your dog but the most common are the following:
- Latanoprost (Xalatan) – This is a human drug and is prescribed to patients to reduce the pressure in the eye. These eye drops have been approved for use in animals in both the US and Australia. (It may be approved in other countries however these are the only two countries I am currently aware of).
- Dorzolmaide (Cosopt/Trusopt) – Another human drug used to reduce the pressure in the eye however vets are allowed to prescribe these eye drops for use in animals in the US and Australia.
- Prednisolene Eye Drops (Predneferin Forte) – A human drug that can be prescribed for dogs for eye inflammation.
- Mannitol – This drug is given intravenously by your vet. It draws fluid out of the anterior chamber into the circulatory system. In other words, it reduces the pressure in the eye.
Home Remedies for Glaucoma
Although I am all for home remedies and use many of them on myself, this is not the time to go down this route with your dog. Glaucoma is serious and the medications supplied by your vet can get get the pressure down quite quickly and help to reduce the pain.
The only natural remedies I can recommend are the following but they should be used in conjunction with your vet as some medications the vet prescribes may contradict with what I am about to tell you.
1. Oral Glycerin – When I took my dog to an eye specialist he told me that when Lucy had a pressure spike to give her 10mls of oral glycerin. That amount was for my dog which weighs 15kgs/33lbs. Note that it is to be taken internally. DO NOT put it in your dog’s eye. Glycerin is amazing stuff. It will get the pressure down within an hour or so. However oral glycerin is really only to be used for emergencies and is not a long term solution. You should be able to get this over the counter at your chemist/pharmacist.
2. Vitamin C – There have been many studies on vitamin C and glaucoma. I started giving my dog vitamin C and I am sure it helped. However, you need to ensure you give the right type as some forms of vitamin C can be a little harsh on a dogs stomach. The best type is the Ester form of vitamin C. For my 15kg/33lbs dog I give one tablet in the morning and one tablet at night. Each tablet is 625mg.
3. Natural Vision Supplement – You could also try a natural vision supplement specifically for dogs. The following was developed by veterinary ophthalmologists – Ocu-Glo Rx.