A High Pressure Situation: Recognizing Glaucoma in Pets 

Animals often aren’t very obvious when something is wrong with them. In fact, many times they go to great lengths to hide any sign of weakness as their survival instincts kick in.

As a pet owner, it’s important to be vigilant about picking up on subtle signs of trouble. The pet professionals at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates are also essential to help spot signs of trouble in your furry family members.

Eye problems are one category of trouble that can be difficult to spot and have the potential to be particularly devastating. Understanding the causes and symptoms of problems like glaucoma in pets can be key in recognizing and treating the disease before serious consequences arise. 

A Little Bit About Glaucoma in Pets

Glaucoma is the medical term that refers to increased pressure within the eyeball itself. Normally ocular pressure is maintained in a pretty tight range, managed by the production and drainage of a fluid called aqueous humor.

When the production or drainage of the fluid is pushed out of balance, fluid can build up, increasing intraocular pressure. 

Glaucoma in pets can be primary, inherited, or can be secondary to other processes. Some of the more common reasons that glaucoma in pets occurs include:

  • Uveitis (inflammation in the eye due to other disease processes)
  • Cancer affecting the eye
  • Mature cataracts
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Lens luxation (a condition in which the lens within the eye slips out of place)

We can diagnose glaucoma in any breed or age of dog (and less commonly cats). There are certain breeds, however, that have some genetic predisposition to developing glaucoma. Cocker Spaniels, Shar Peis, Chow Chows, Basset Hounds, and the arctic breeds are all known to be at increased risk for developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma in pets is at best uncomfortable and at worst very painful. Untreated it almost inevitably leads to loss of vision in the affected eye(s).

Recognizing Signs of Trouble

When the pressure inside the eye rises, there is a limited window of time in which we have to bring the pressure down before enough pressure is exerted on the optic nerve to permanently destroy vision. 

If you think that there might be something wrong with your pet’s eye, it is important to call us for an appointment immediately so that one of our doctors can start assessing the situation right away. 

Signs that your pet may have glaucoma can include:

  • Squinting
  • Increased redness in the whites of the eyes
  • Cloudiness of the surface of the eye
  • Pawing at or rubbing the eye
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

Many ocular issues can appear very similarly, so it’s important that your pet have an ocular examination to determine the actual diagnosis. 

For a pet who may have glaucoma, an ocular pressure will be obtained by using a tonometry pen. You may be familiar with this handheld device from your own visits to the eye doctor. The tonometry pen is used to gently touch a probe to the surface of the eye for a split second, reading the internal pressure of the globe.

If your pet is diagnosed with glaucoma, often topical ophthalmic drops will be prescribed to help bring the eye pressures down as quickly as possible. In an ideal world we would also identify the underlying cause of the problem and remove it.

Many pets with glaucoma, however, will need lifelong management. Sometimes referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist may be indicated for successful treatment. Other times, a diseased and blind eye may be best removed (enucleated).

Glaucoma in pets often goes undetected by owners in its early stages. Knowing the signs to look out for can be very beneficial in helping you get your pet to us before vision is permanently affected. We are proud to be your partner in your pet’s proactive care.