In late October 2011, I did what most dog owners do and took my dogs to get their yearly vaccinations. It was a very hot summers day and Bronnie (my sighted dog) somehow came off her leash and made a mad dash up the road chasing something or other. By the time we got her back and in the car, (which by the way you could have baked a roast in, it was that hot), both dogs arrived at the vet hot and bothered and were declared to be too overheated to be given their vaccinations. So after spending an hour or so at the vet that included a wash down in nice cold water…which they loved by the way (I’m being sarcastic here), they had their vaccinations and we took them home.
The next day when I came home from work, I was greeted at the door by Lucy looking extremely unhappy. She is usually a bright and happy dog so I knew straight away she wasn’t well and her right eye was closed and oozing some yucky stuff out of it. I immediately thought she must have had a reaction to the vaccinations so took her straight back to the vet to get her checked out. The young vet wasn’t quite sure what it was, perhaps uveitis and/or conjunctivitis, but he didn’t think it had anything to do with the vaccinations. He wanted the head vet to take a look but he wouldn’t be in until the next morning. I was prescribed Amazin (an eye ointment) to put in her eye and told to come back in the morning.
The next morning I take her in first thing and the head vet looks her over and tells me that it looks like glaucoma. In hindsight if she had been diagnosed straight away the eye might have been saved but there’s no point looking to the past and in reality the eye would probably have gone eventually anyway. But for the moment I don’t know any of this so I take her home and start her on Xalatan and Trusopt drops.
Over the next six weeks she had regular weekly tests to check the pressure in her eye. At the time, I didn’t know what was a good pressure reading and what wasn’t but now when I look back I realize that they weren’t good…averaging around 40. They should ideally be in the teens and lower. I also didn’t know that she would have been in pain with all of this. She didn’t look like she was in pain so I can only hope that it wasn’t severe but there would have been some sort of pain and probably pretty much constant for six weeks.
During this time, the head vet had been overseas and when he returned and checked the eye he pretty much came to the same conclusion that I had reached by that point, and that was that the eye had to come out. She had no sight in it and the drops weren’t making much difference to the pressure. As devastating as it was for me, I knew she would cope so we scheduled to have her eye out the next Tuesday…only a week or so before Christmas.
On the day that I took her in I was pretty calm about it all. It was only when I put her in the cage at the vet’s office that it suddenly hit me and as I left I got a bit teary. During the day I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t worried about the eye being removed at that point, but more worried about her getting through the operation okay. I couldn’t wait for the phone call from the vet and when it finally came and they said that she had come out of the operation okay and could be picked up, I was very much relieved.
When I went to pick her up I was expecting her to be groggy and out of sorts, but on the contrary. She was bright and happy and very excited to see me. I must admit, she did look a bit odd to me at first. It does take a bit of getting used. Whenever I take her out, people can’t help but look and you can see the look on their faces…it takes them a second or two to actually realize that her eye has been removed.
My only other concern at that point, was that the vet had mentioned that glaucoma is hereditary in cocker spaniels so it was most likely that the other eye would go the same way. This hit me harder than everything that had happened so far because I realized then that she would be permanently blind. I’ll be honest and say that my first reaction was that I would have to put her down. That was my ignorance showing at that point. I just assumed that blind dogs couldn’t function without their sight. I laugh at that now because I know that the opposite is the case. Blind dogs cope quite well with blindness, probably much better than humans.
Fortunately just reading a few blind dog stories on the net changed my attitude completely. I was still concerned about her eventually losing her sight but I knew that if other people lived happily with their blind dogs then I could as well.
After the operation, all went well. Lucy could still see with her other eye so nothing much had really changed. I started feeding both her and my other dog Bronnie, a proper diet with no commercially manufactured foods…raw meats, raw bones, some vegetables thrown in here and there and good supplement. I thought this might keep the glaucoma at bay but unfortunately this wasn’t to be the case.
In May 2012, about a week after I returned from overseas we woke up to find that Lucy was blind in her other eye. Fortunately this time, I realized what was going on and after a quick trip to the vet, and some Xalatan drops, the pressure dropped and her sight returned.
The Xalatan drops seemed to do the trick and held the pressure back for a couple of months. I was also giving her vitamin C as I had read about others success with it. However, it didn’t last long and in July 2012 she lost her sight again and this time it was obvious that no amount of drops were going to do the trick. The pain for her would have been unbearable – she was miserable and I could tell she was in a lot of pain.
The eye vet had suggested laser surgery and after one more severe spike I decided to try it to see if her sight could be saved. So we set out with only a half hours notice on a four hour trip to the eye specialist in Sydney. It was a real relief to finally get her there because I knew they would work at getting the pressure down. She had a terrible couple of days with the pain and I didn’t want to see her suffer any longer.
They managed to get her pressure down overnight and operated the next day. Unfortunately it wasn’t as successful as we all would have liked. Lucy went through two laser surgeries, had various injections in her eye and spent over a week at the eye clinic. Eventually, they had done as much as they could do with the eye and told me that only time will tell now. She has been home for over a week and still no sight but the trauma to the eye was pretty intense and it will take time for things to quieten down. I would like to see her get some sort of sight back to her eye even if it is only shadows but I know that even if she stays permanently blind she will cope and so will I.