Glaucoma Treatment Options for Dogs

There are several glaucoma treatment options for dogs. The key to finding the most successful treatment options depends on the type of glaucoma the dog has. Glaucoma in dogs which is detected in its early stages can potentially help to prevent irreversible blindness, so it is important that dog owners both understand glaucoma and the treatment options that are available.

Glaucoma in Dogs Defined

The eye is a unique organ which requires an appropriate amount of pressure to function properly. In dogs, there is a clear liquid within the eyeball that helps to maintain shape and sustain the internal structures of the eye. This fluid is known as aqueous humor. A continuous process of production and drainage of aqueous humor allows the dog’s eye to obtain optimal, appropriate levels of pressure. When this process is interrupted and an excessive amount of pressure builds up within the eye, it is recognized as glaucoma.

Types of Glaucoma

In dogs, there are two types of glaucoma: primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma in dogs occurs as the result of a genetic condition or genetic abnormality. This particular type of glaucoma in dogs appears to occur more commonly in Bassett Hounds, Shar Peis, Siberian Huskies, and Cocker Spaniels. With primary glaucoma, the dog usually presents with only affected eye initially, but the condition quickly progresses to encompass both eyes.

Secondary glaucoma in dogs develops when a primary eye condition affects the amount of aqueous humor drained within the eye.

This type of glaucoma can result from:

  • cataracts
  • retinal detachment
  • eye cancer
  • lens displacement

All of these eye conditions impair the method of fluid drainage within the eye, eventually leading to excessive pressure when not properly treated.

Secondary glaucoma is by far the most common type of glaucoma in dogs, but primary glaucoma tends to result in blindness more often than secondary glaucoma.

Glaucoma Treatment Options

In order to find the most effective treatment option, the type of glaucoma the dog has needs to be identified. Cases of primary and secondary glaucoma do not necessarily respond to the same types of treatment, so the original cause of glaucoma must be identified before treatment can begin.

When glaucoma in dogs is detected in its early stages, the dog is typically placed on a regimen of eye drops and prescription pills. Dorzolamide HCL is an ophthalmic solution that reduces the amount of aqueous humor produced, essentially aiming to reduce intraocular pressure through reduced fluid production. Other medications like dexamethasone and prednisone are anti-inflammatory ophthalmic medications that reduce inflammation and pain within the eye. Prescription medications do not have very high success rates for long-term glaucoma control, so they are best used in conjunction with surgery.

The most effective method for preventing blindness due to glaucoma in dogs is surgery, which is done with a procedure known as endolaser cyclophotocoagulation. This procedure uses a laser beam to actually destroy the cells of the eye which produce aqueous humor, thereby eliminating pressure buildup in the eye. Because this is an extremely complicated surgical procedure, it is only allowed on dogs that still have visual potential. In cases where surgery is not an option, dog owners can elect to have routine pharmacological injections into the eye to reduce the production of aqueous humor.