Vision may not be a dog’s strongest sense, but it still plays an important role in daily life. A dog’s eye health can deteriorate because of aging or disease, so dog owners should be aware of the various eye issues that can occur.
Dr. Lucien Vallone, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, specializes in ophthalmology and regularly treats eye conditions in dogs.
Vallone said there are three main categories of canine eye problems: diseases of the ocular surface, diseases that cause inflammation within the eye, and glaucoma.
Diseases of the eye’s surface impact the conjunctiva—the mucous membrane over the eye—and the cornea—the clear, protective outer layer of the eye. Vallone said these diseases include inflammation of the cornea, dry eye, and eyelid abnormalities.
The second category is diseases that cause inflammation within the eye, collectively called uveitis.
“Uveitis is often linked to diseases that affect the dog’s body systemically, like certain tumors or infections,” Vallone said.
Lastly, glaucoma occurs when there is increased pressure inside the eye, resulting in loss of vision. He said this is one of the most common causes of pain and blindness in dogs.
A dog experiencing any of these eye conditions will usually have red, squinty eyes that leak discharge. If the dog has reduced vision, it may also have altered behavior, such as a reluctance to climb stairs or go outside.
“These signs might occur more frequently at nighttime, rather than daytime,” Vallone said. “These subtleties may help a veterinarian discern one cause of vision loss from another.”
If a dog is diagnosed with any of these eye conditions, its veterinarian may recommend medical, surgical, or even supplemental therapies. Common supplements are believed to provide beneficial antioxidant effects to the lens and retina within the eye.
“These effects may help to delay or prevent several progressive and degenerative diseases of the eye,” Vallone said, though he added that more research is needed before these effects can be proven.
He said many causes of eye discomfort or vision impairment are correctable, especially if treated early. If you suspect your dog has any eye conditions or if you notice any indications of vision loss, see a veterinarian for a diagnosis.
Fortunately, if a dog does become blind, either from aging or an eye condition, it is not as serious as some may believe. Dogs are excellent at using their noses and ears to navigate and are great at re-learning how to do things after losing their sight.