Diagnosing Glaucoma in Dogs

Glaucoma in dogs is a condition where the internal eye pressure increases to a point where, if the pressure remains elevated, the dog can potentially lose his vision or experience a total loss of his eye. Essentially the fluids build up inside the eye because the ducts that allow the fluids levels to change are blocked, preventing the pressure from decreasing. While glaucoma is treatable with surgery and/or eye drops, it is important to realize that it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment from a veterinary ophthalmologist quickly, as glaucoma can progress to destroying vision in a matter of hours.

Diagnosing Glaucoma in Dogs

Early symptoms of glaucoma include mild redness of the eye, sensitivity to light and may include a loss of appetite as the pressure causes significant pain and nausea. As the disease progresses, the redness increases and the eyeball enlarges. By the time the eye has progressed to this stage, it is often too late to save your dog’s vision. Early detection is critical in glaucoma.

A veterinary ophthalmologist is an important part of the diagnosis and treatment of canine glaucoma. Diagnosis requires specialized equipment that the general practitioner rarely has and treatment often requires surgery that a veterinary ophthalmologist has been specifically trained in. Diagnosing glaucoma requires several steps in the process.

  • Complete examination of the dog’s condition often includes bloodwork. This can help the veterinary ophtlamologist determine if there may be an underlying cause for the glaucoma.
  • The veterinary ophthalmologist will conduct tests of the internal eye pressure. This test is called tonometry and involves a machine that touches the surface of the dog’s eye. Some dogs require sedation for this procedure.
  • If the internal eye pressures are elevated, the veterinary ophthalmologist will also conduct additional tests to determine the extent of damage to the optic nerve and retina of each eye. This will determine the amount of vision loss your dog has experienced.
  • Gonioscopy is an examination of the drainage system for the eye. This requires specialized equipment to determine the condition of the pathway and if the pathway is blocked.
  • If the eye is too opaque for visual examination, an ultrasound may be conducted in order to determine if problems exist. These problems may include damage to the optic nerve, tumors, lenses out of place and other issues that may impact vision.

Once the various tests and examinations are conducted, the veterinary ophthalmologist can provide you with a diagnosis and recommend a path for treatment. He may also provide you with an estimate on your dog’s return to sight or how much vision may return after the pressures are brought under control or after the surgical procedure is completed.

Glaucoma typically requires lifelong administration of eye drops in order to keep the internal eye pressures under control. Glaucoma may also require surgery in order to preserve your dog’s vision. Either prescribed treatment will require your dog to receive daily eye drops for the balance of his life. By maintaining good eye pressure, you not only prevent the pain that is associated with the elevated pressures, but you are helping your dog by preserving the level of vision he currently has. Remember, glaucoma is a time-critical condition. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the more vision you can preserve for your dog.