Macular Degeneration in Dogs

Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision impairment in canines. This condition is more common in senior dogs, but younger dogs may also experience this condition. The causes of the condition are believed to be genetic, but there are also certain factors such as exposure to sunlight that can facilitate the occurrence of macular degeneration.

The Macula in Dogs

The macula is a component of the retina, being located at its center. The macula is essential for distinguishing details and colors. When the macula is affected, the dog’s vision will be impaired; he may have difficulties both with the near and the distance vision.

Causes of Macular Degeneration

The precise causes of macular degeneration are unknown. However, vets opine that aging and genetics are linked to the occurrence of this condition. There may also be additional factors that can trigger the occurrence of the condition including:

  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Obesity
  • Certain prescription medications

Female dogs are more frequently affected by macular degeneration.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

If a dog is affected by macular degeneration, he will have impaired central vision. The dog will not be able to distinguish details and colors, so he will display various symptoms such as:

  • Inability to climb stairs, as the dog will not be able to see the edge of the stairs
  • Inability to find his food bowl or see small treats
  • The dog won’t distinguish facial treats and will recognize people only judging by smell
  • He may have a hard time judging distances, so accidents and injuries may happen
  • Light sensitivity – the dog will not react well when you turn on powerful light sources and will hide under the bed or in a closet

The dog will also have various problems when looking at objects. For instance he may see a straight line as a curvy one; however, these symptoms can only be detected through specialized tests.

The dog may compensate for his impaired central vision with his peripheral vision, which is not affected.

Diagnosing Macular Degeneration in Canines

Macular degeneration in dogs can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. The eye specialist will examine the dog’s retina and see if the dog’s vision is affected in any way. The dog may have to go through a set of specialized tests, as the specialist will not be able to determine the severity of his condition otherwise.

Treatment Options for Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition that cannot be treated. The vet may recommend surgery, but this may be very risky. There are some natural remedies that can be applied in dogs that have impaired vision. An increased intake of antioxidants and zinc can also improve the dog’s vision.

In some cases, macular degeneration can lead to loss of vision. Dogs can adapt to living without being able to see, but you can make some home adjustments (e.g. put some pads on furniture) to make him more comfortable and avoid accidents.