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Glaucoma in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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    What is Glaucoma in Dogs?

    Glaucoma is a painful eye illness in which a rising pressure behind the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP), damages the optic nerve. The increase in pressure then causes damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma must be treated early to prevent blindness.

    What Causes Glaucoma in Dogs?

    Primary glaucoma in dogs is caused causes a rise in intraocular pressure as the result of genetic defects in the eye’s drainage system.

    Secondary glaucoma develops as a result of another eye problem. Bleeding, edema and inflammation may ensue, scar tissue may develop, and fluid outflow may be hampered, if not completely stopped. Secondary glaucoma is more frequent in dogs than primary glaucoma. The following conditions may cause secondary glaucoma:

    • Lens anterior dislocation: This is a dislocation in which the displaced lens slips forward and physically blocks the drainage angle or pupil, trapping fluid behind it.
    • Uveitis: Uveitis or severe intra-ocular infections can cause debris and scar tissue to obstruct the drainage angle.
    • Bleeding inside the eye: If there is bleeding in the eye, a blood clot might block the aqueous fluid from draining.
    • Damaged Lens: Lens proteins that leak into the eye as a result of a damaged lens might produce an inflammatory reaction that results in edema and obstruction of the drainage angle.
    • Tumors: Tumors can physically restrict the iridocorneal angle.

    Who’s at Risk of Developing Glaucoma?

    Dogs who are at high risk for developing glaucoma are those who have genetic predisposition for glaucoma. The risk is the highest in certain dog breeds which include:

    • Cocker Spaniels
    • Beagle
    • Chow Chow
    • Poodle
    • Most Terriers
    • Samoyed
    • Dalmatian
    • Great Dane
    • Chihuahua
    • Siberian Husky
    • Basset Hounds

    But this doesn’t mean that other breeds can’t have primary glaucoma.

    What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

    Glaucoma causes more acute discomfort in dogs than in humans. Since dogs do not display pain in the same capacity that humans do, it may be difficult to tell whether they are in pain. Clinical symptoms to watch for include:

    • Rubbing up against the floor or another object, or with the paw, might cause eye discomfort.
    • Eye irritability
    • Corneal cloudiness
    • Squinting
    • Tearing
    • Light avoidance
    • Inadequate blink response
    • Eyelid fluttering
    • The size of the pupils appears to vary.
    • Manifestation of vessels in the white of the eye
    • Swollen, bulging eye
    • Vision issues such as bumping into items, having difficulties finding things, and walking cautiously

    How Can Glaucoma in Dogs Be Prevented?

    The prevention for glaucoma in dogs differ for primary and secondary glaucoma.

    Primary glaucoma is not preventable due to it being hereditary but the signs should be looked out for as to stop the progression of the disease and prevent blindless or eye loss.There are things you can do to try and slow the degernatation of your dog’s eyes and reduce the chances of glaucoma:

    • A tight collar or harness can cause strain on a dog’s neck and increase the inter-cerebral or intraocular pressure so keep an eye on the tightness and loosen as needed.
    • Reduce stresses in your pet’s surroundings can aid in the management of oxidative damage throughout the body, including the eyes.
    • Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and nutraceuticals can all be used to lessen the amount of damage to the eye’s cells.
    • Make sure your vet does testing for ocular pressure during your dog’s wellness visits. This is especially important for senior dogs and those at higher risk.
    • Catching the signs of glaucoma early can help prevent further progression and a permanent condition.

    When it comes to secondary glaucoma, the best ways to prevent glaucoma are to avoid injuries to the eyes, staying on top of any health issues and recieving treatment for any eye conditions immediately.

    How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

    When it comes to treating glaucoma, time is of the essence in terms of diagnosing and then treating. Dogs should be taken to the vet if they are showing signs of glaucoma. Your veterinarian will conduct an opthalmogic exam and possibly refer you and your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist.

    To measure the IOP, one type of tonometer shoots a puff of air into the eye. Another version measures pressure by pressing a tiny plastic disk against the eyeball. To keep the dog comfortable throughout the test, a drop of anesthesia is frequently administered prior.

    When there is an eye abscess, injury, or tumor, an X-ray or ultrasound may be performed to provide a better understanding of the region around the eye. The pupil responds slowly to light, the blink reflex is weak or nonexistent, the cornea is swollen or clouded, the eye is red, irritated, tearing, and the dog may squint.

    What is the Treatment for Glaucoma?

    There isn’t a cure for glaucoma but it can be managed in different ways depending on the severity.


    When it comes to medication for glaucoma, they are usually given with the goal of reducing pressure and returning the eye to normal quickly to try and keep the dog’s eyesight. Analgesics may also be prescribed to help reduce pain and keep the dog comfortable. In cases of extreme glaucoma, dogs may be held at the hospital so they can recieve injectable medication to decrease the pressure more quickly.


    Surgery for glaucoma invovles removing the eye which can often be the only solution for cases in which the pressure can’t be reduced and the condition keeps progressing to the point of the damage being beyond treating. The condition is painful and often times, removing the eye is the most humane option.

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    How to Prevent Common Conditions that Cause Eye Pain in Dogs

    hand putting eye drops into the eye of a shit zu with glaucoma
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      There are several conditions that can cause eye pain in dogs. Left untreated, eye pain can worsen and lead to more serious issues. Read below to learn about a few common conditions that cause eye pain in dogs and what you can do to take preventative measures: 


      hand putting eye drops into the eye of a shit zu with glaucoma
      Photo Credit:

      What is Glaucoma? 

      Glaucoma is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye. This imbalance causes a buildup of fluid that increases eye pressure to abnormal and unhealthy levels. This increased pressure may lead to the destruction of the retina and optic disk. The optic disk is the portion of the eye where the optic nerve enters which carries visual information from the eye to the brain.

      How Can You Prevent Glaucoma in Dogs? 

      Age is one of the largest factors when it comes to the degeneration of the eye structure. As your dog gets older, the fluid drainage system in the eye becomes weaker. 

      Providing supplemental antioxidants, vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, lutein, astaxanthin, and rutin that promote eye health and reduce damage to cells in the eye may help prevent glaucoma. Avoid the use of tight collars on the neck that can increase intraocular pressure. Instead, use harnesses that focus on the torso.

      Signs of Glaucoma in Dogs: 

      • Watery discharge from the eye 
      • Rubbing or pawing at the eye 
      • Bulging of the eyeball; whites of the eye may turn red 
      • Cloudy, bluish appearance to the eye 
      • Dilated pupil; or pupil does not respond to light 

      Lens Luxation 

      graphic of lens luxation in dogs
      Photo Credit: VCA Hospitals

      What is Lens Luxation?

      Lens luxation is a condition in dogs caused by a weakness in the threads holding the lens of the eye in place. Sometimes, this weakness may even lead to breaking causing the lens to dislocate from its position completely. The lens can fall backward into the eye which is referred to as a posterior luxation. However, the lens can also fall forward into the eye, referred to as an anterior luxation. When an anterior luxation occurs, the drainage of the fluid is blocked. Posterior luxation of the eye tends to not cause too much discomfort, while anterior luxation can be extremely painful and may even lead to permanent blindness. 

      How Can You Prevent Lens Luxation in Dogs?

      Lens luxation is hereditary in some dogs and is most commonly observed in terrier breeds, Shar Peis, and Border Collies. If you own one of these breeds, be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort or change in the appearance of the eye. Especially in these breeds,  your dog should be taken to regular eye examinations with your veterinarian to monitor eye health. Your veterinarian can check your dog’s eyes regularly so that any increase in intraocular pressure or eye disorder is diagnosed and treated quickly and correctly. 

      Signs of Lens Luxation in Dogs: 

      • Sudden change in the appearance of the eye; the eye may appear white 
      • Keeping their eyes closed more than usual 
      • Increased tears 
      • Inflammation of the eyes, showing cloudiness and possibly redness 
      • Reluctance to exercise 
      • Depression or lethargy 


      gloved hand on the face of rotweiler with conjunctivitis
      Photo Credit: Better Pet

      What is Conjunctivitis? 

      Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane in the eye, called the conjunctiva tissue. The conjunctiva covers the eyeball and lines the eyelids. Dogs have a third eyelid, referred to as a nictitating membrane, in the corner of their eye, which is also covered by the conjunctiva. There are a number of items that cause conjunctivitis in dogs including, viral infections, immune-system-related disorders, tumors of the eyelid and conjunctiva, dry eye, and trauma to the eye or irritation from foreign bodies entering the eye.  Other disorders of the eye may lead to conjunctivitis as well, such as glaucoma

      How Can You Prevent Conjunctivitis in Dogs? 

      Conjunctivitis in dogs is fairly common. Some causes of Conjunctivitis are virtually impossible to prevent. However, other causes may be prevented. Avoid letting your dog put their head out of your moving car’s window. The wind can irritate a dog’s eyes and debris can lead to irritation and Conjunctivitis or other issues in the eye. In addition, keeping up to date with vaccines, such as distemper, prevents viral infections which can lead to Conjunctivitis. 

      Signs of Conjunctivitis in Dogs: 

      • Pawing at the eye or excessive blinking/squinting 
      • Eyelids and surrounding area of the eye are swollen and red 
      • Green discharge from the eye 
      • Redness in the white of the eye 
      • Lethargy 

      It’s important to be aware of your dog’s eyes’ normal appearance to be able to closely monitor any changes. If you think your dog may be experiencing eye pain, consult a veterinarian. Visit our Specialist Directory to locate an Ophthalmology Specialist.