Glaucoma is an eye affliction which causes damage to the optic nerve. With this condition, fluid inside the eye is not able to properly drain, which thereby causes pressure to build up within the eye itself. Glaucoma produces no early symptoms or pain as a result of the increased pressure, and therefore, it is extremely difficult to screen for or prevent the disease in canines. With most dogs, the condition will appear to come on suddenly and cause blindness within mere hours. Dogs most prone to this condition are Basset Hounds, American Cocker Spaniels, Siberian Huskies, and Chow Chows.
One of the first signs of glaucoma in your dog is what is referred to as an elevated third eyelid. All dogs have a third eyelid, called a nictitating membrane. It is typically not visible, but becomes elevated when your dog’s eyeball is irritated. The pressure of the glaucoma will cause the third eyelid to appear as if it is rolling up and out. Your dog’s eye may also bulge forward and become enlarged. If your dog begins to paw at their eye, it is another sure sign that something is amiss.
Unfortunately, it your dog develops glaucoma in one eye, they will usually develop it in the other eye as well. Your vet can prescribe an eye drop that can delay onset in a healthy eye for up to two additional years. The preferred method of treating glaucoma is to remove the eye completely. For older dogs who are not good candidates for surgery, a vet can inject an antibiotic into the eye which will kill the cells producing the extra fluid.
Dogs are very resilient and most adjust quickly to vision loss. You can help your pet by making sure to keep stairwells, swimming pools, and other hazards blocked off. Also, please keep in mind that dogs will memorize items like the layout of your house and your daily walking route, so keeping their routines the same will help them gain confidence more quickly.