A watercolor painting of a veterinarian examining a dog with glaucoma.

Glaucoma in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is it?

Glaucoma in dogs is a condition characterized by increased pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve and retina. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, eye injury, or inflammation. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss and even blindness.

How is it Treated?

American Cocker Spaniel Basset Hound Chow Chow Dalmatian Jack Russell Terrier Siberian Husky Shih Tzu Welsh Springer Spaniel Shar Pei Boston Terrier

Breed Predispositions


For Bella, her spirited Labrador Retriever, Max, had always been the perfect companion. She cherished their daily walks and playtime in the park. But one day, she noticed that Max was bumping into objects and seemed disoriented. Concerned about her beloved pet’s sudden change in behavior, Bella took Max to the veterinarian for a comprehensive examination. The vet diagnosed Max with glaucoma, a serious eye condition that can affect dogs.

Glaucoma is an eye disease in dogs that can significantly threaten their vision. It arises when an imbalance in the production and drainage of aqueous humor – the clear fluid nourishing and maintaining the eye’s shape – increases intraocular pressure (IOP), the pressure inside the pet’s eye. An estimated 40 percent of dogs may develop glaucoma in either one or both eyes. The escalating pressure can potentially harm the optic nerve, which conveys visual data from the eye to the brain. If left unaddressed, glaucoma could cause vision impairment, even blindness in dogs.

Glaucoma in dogs presents as an acute eye condition marked by a rise in the eye’s internal pressure, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This heightened pressure can damage the optic nerve, jeopardizing the transmission of visual signals from the eye to the brain and may result in vision loss or even total blindness if not promptly treated. Glaucoma can affect one or both of a dog’s eyes and is typically classified as primary or secondary based on the root cause. This condition can progress rapidly, making it imperative for pet owners to observe their pets’ eye health and seek immediate veterinary care if they notice any abnormalities, such as corneal edema.

Types of Glaucoma in Dogs

Glaucoma is a condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye, which can lead to damage to the optic nerve and potential vision loss. In dogs, there are two main types of glaucoma: primary and secondary glaucoma.

  1. Primary Glaucoma: Primary glaucoma refers to glaucoma that occurs spontaneously without any identifiable underlying cause. It is believed to have a genetic component and is more commonly seen in certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Siberian Huskies. Primary glaucoma can be further classified into open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma.
  • Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common form of primary glaucoma in dogs. It occurs when there is a problem with fluid drainage from the eye, leading to a gradual increase in intraocular pressure over time. It typically affects both eyes and progresses slowly.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma: This is a less common form of primary glaucoma and occurs when the eye’s drainage angle becomes blocked suddenly. It can cause a rapid increase in intraocular pressure and is often a more severe and painful condition.
  1. Secondary Glaucoma: Secondary glaucoma occurs due to an underlying eye condition or disease, such as uveitis (inflammation of the eye), lens luxation (dislocation of the lens), or trauma. The increased pressure in the eye is a consequence of the primary condition. Secondary glaucoma can affect one or both eyes, depending on the underlying cause.

It’s important to note that both primary and secondary glaucoma require prompt veterinary attention. Early detection and appropriate management are crucial to help preserve vision and alleviate pain and discomfort in affected dogs. In addition, regular eye examinations and intraocular pressure monitoring are essential for at-risk breeds or dogs with predisposing factors for glaucoma.

Causes of Glaucoma in Dogs

Glaucoma in dogs can result from various underlying factors that lead to increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Therefore, identifying the specific cause is essential for effective treatment and management of the condition. Some common causes of glaucoma in dogs include:

causes of glaucoma in dogs
  1. Primary Glaucoma: This form of glaucoma is typically inherited and occurs when the genetic predisposition affects the eye’s drainage system. As a result, fluid accumulates within the eye, leading to increased pressure. Certain breeds, such as American Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles, are more prone to primary glaucoma.
  2. Secondary Glaucoma: Secondary glaucoma develops due to another eye-related condition or disease. Secondary glaucoma causes inflammation, infection, trauma, tumors, or lens dislocation. These conditions can obstruct the normal drainage of fluid from the eye, resulting in elevated IOP.
  3. Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle between the cornea and iris becomes too narrow, impeding fluid outflow from the eye. The blockage can lead to a sudden, dramatic increase in IOP, causing a painful and potentially sight-threatening emergency.
  4. Uveitis: Inflammation of the uveal tract, which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid, can lead to glaucoma. The inflammation can obstruct fluid drainage and cause increased IOP.
  5. Lens Luxation: Dislocation of the lens within the eye can block the fluid flow, resulting in secondary glaucoma.

Understanding the possible causes of glaucoma in dogs can help pet owners and veterinarians take appropriate preventive and treatment measures to maintain the dog’s eye health and vision.

Symptoms of Glaucoma in Dogs

The symptoms and clinical signs of glaucoma in dogs can vary depending on the severity and progression of the condition. Here is a list of common symptoms to watch for:

  • Redness or bloodshot eyes
  • Cloudiness or a bluish tinge to the cornea
  • Eye pain, which may be indicated by squinting, rubbing, or pawing at the eye
  • Swelling or enlargement of the affected eye (buphthalmos)
  • Tearing or discharge from the eye
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Vision loss or difficulty seeing, particularly in dimly lit environments
  • Changes in the appearance of the pupil, such as unequal size or irregular shape
  • Behavioral changes, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, which could indicate discomfort
diagnosing glaucoma in dogs

Diagnosing Glaucoma in Dogs

Diagnosing glaucoma in dogs requires a thorough examination and various tests performed by a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist. Early detection is critical for effective treatment and preservation of vision. Here are some steps and tests commonly used to diagnose glaucoma in dogs:

  • Medical history and physical examination: The veterinarian will start by reviewing the dog’s medical history, breed predispositions, and any signs or symptoms observed by the owner. A general physical examination helps rule out other health issues that may cause similar symptoms.
  • Tonometry: This is a crucial test for diagnosing glaucoma. It involves measuring the intraocular pressure (IOP) using a specialized instrument called a tonometer. Elevated IOP readings can indicate glaucoma, while regular readings can help rule it out.
  • Ophthalmic examination: The veterinarian will closely examine the dog’s eyes, checking for redness, swelling, cloudiness, or changes in the size or shape of the eyeball. They will also assess the dog’s pupil size, response to light, and ocular reflexes.
  • Gonioscopy: This procedure is performed to evaluate the drainage angle within the eye. A unique Gonio lens is placed on the eye’s surface to visualize the area where fluid drains from the eye. If the drainage angle is abnormally narrow or closed, it could be a sign of angle-closure glaucoma.
  • Ophthalmoscopy: The veterinarian will examine the back of the eye, including the retina and optic nerve head, using an ophthalmoscope. This allows the veterinarian to check for signs of damage, such as cupping of the optic nerve head, which can occur in glaucoma.
  • Ultrasound and imaging studies: In some cases, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI may be used to evaluate the eye’s internal structures and look for underlying causes of secondary glaucoma, such as tumors or lens luxation.

Combining these diagnostic tests and examinations allows the veterinarian to accurately diagnose glaucoma in dogs and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment for Glaucoma in Dogs

Under veterinary ophthalmology, treatment for glaucoma in dogs primarily aims to mitigate intraocular pressure (IOP), alleviate discomfort, and maintain visual ability. The precise treatment plan is contingent upon the severity of the glaucoma, the root cause, and the dog’s overall health. Various treatment options exist for managing glaucoma in dogs, including:

  • Prescribed Medications: Eyedrops, and oral medication, often form part of the glaucoma medication used to control the condition. These treatments reduce the aqueous humor production or enhance its outflow, thereby decreasing IOP. Typically prescribed medications encompass prostaglandin analogs, beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and alpha agonists. In addition, in certain instances, oral corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed as a treatment option to minimize inflammation.
  • Laser Treatment: Laser therapy, such as laser trabeculoplasty or cyclophotocoagulation, might be suggested to lower IOP. This procedure utilizes a concentrated beam of light to alter the iridocorneal angle or to obliterate the ciliary body – the eye section responsible for producing aqueous humor.
  • Surgical Intervention: The surgical removal of the eye, known as enucleation, may become necessary in extreme cases where the dog’s vision is lost and pain is unmanageable. Other surgical options, when medications and laser therapy fail to regulate IOP, include implanting a drainage device such as a shunt, valve, or gonioimplantation.
  • Management of Underlying Issues: If the glaucoma is secondary to another ocular condition like uveitis or lens luxation, addressing the primary issue is vital for the effective treatment of glaucoma.
  • Ongoing Supervision: Regular visits to the veterinarian and continuous IOP monitoring are vital for managing glaucoma and modifying the treatment plan as necessary. Prophylactic treatment also forms part of ongoing management in certain cases.

The practice of veterinary medicine, specifically when it involves medical or surgical treatment for conditions like glaucoma, requires a comprehensive and considerate approach for the best outcome.

How to Prevent Dogs From Having Glaucoma

Mitigating the risk of glaucoma in dogs can pose a challenge, primarily due to factors like genetics that remain beyond our control. Nevertheless, several proactive measures can be implemented to either prevent glaucoma or facilitate its early detection, thereby helping to preserve your dog’s sight and comfort:

  • Routine Veterinary Appointments: Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can facilitate the early identification of any eye irregularities, including symptoms of glaucoma. An early diagnosis and commencement of treatment can drastically enhance the prognosis.
  • Understanding Breed-Specific Risks: Certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Basset Hounds, and Siberian Huskies, are more predisposed to glaucoma. If your dog belongs to one of these breeds, be vigilant in observing their eye health, and do not hesitate to seek veterinary advice should you detect any changes.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: Ensuring your dog enjoys a balanced diet, routine exercise, and a healthy weight can prevent the onset of underlying health issues that could potentially lead to the development of glaucoma. In addition, remember that your dog will need consistent care throughout different seasons, integrating elements of seasonal pet care into their routine.
  • Regular Eye Examinations: Request that your veterinarian conducts a comprehensive eye examination, including intraocular pressure (IOP) measurement, at least annually or more frequently if your dog is susceptible to glaucoma.
  • Immediate Treatment of Eye Injuries: Any trauma to the eye could potentially result in secondary glaucoma. If your dog suffers an eye injury, ensure that they receive immediate veterinary care to minimize the risk of complications.
  • Regular Monitoring for Eye Infections and Inflammation: Infections can also trigger secondary glaucoma. Inspect your dog’s eyes for signs of redness, discharge, or discomfort, and consult your veterinarian at the first sign of any issues.
  • Medication Caution: Some medications can heighten the risk of glaucoma. Always adhere to your veterinarian’s advice concerning medication usage and dosage.

While entirely preventing glaucoma, especially in genetically predisposed dogs, may not be feasible, the above steps can aid in reducing the risk. More importantly, they can ensure early detection and treatment, which is vital in managing the condition and preserving your dog’s vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Glaucoma in dogs can be a severe condition if not treated promptly and adequately. While it is not usually fatal in the early stages, if left untreated or if the treatment is ineffective, it can lead to irreversible damage to the eye and eventually blindness. In some cases, glaucoma can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that can be life-threatening if not addressed. Therefore, it is essential to seek veterinary care if you suspect your dog may have glaucoma.

The progression of glaucoma in dogs can vary depending on the underlying cause, the age and breed of the dog, and the severity of the condition. Some dogs may experience a rapid onset of symptoms and a quick progression of the disease, while others may have a slower progression. In general, untreated glaucoma can lead to irreversible damage to the optic nerve and, ultimately, blindness, so early detection and treatment are essential to slow the progression of the disease and preserve vision as much as possible.

The cost of removing a dog’s eyeball (enucleation) can vary depending on the location, the veterinarian, and the underlying condition. Generally, the cost can range from $500 to $3,000. Therefore, it is best to consult a veterinarian to estimate your dog’s situation accurately.

Glaucoma in dogs can sometimes come on suddenly, but it can also develop gradually over time. The sudden onset of glaucoma is typically associated with acute glaucoma, a medical emergency requiring immediate attention. However, gradual onset glaucoma, or chronic glaucoma, may not show noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly. This is why regular eye exams for dogs, especially those at high risk for glaucoma, are essential in catching the disease early and starting treatment to prevent vision loss.

Yes, glaucoma in dogs can be genetic. For example, certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Siberian Huskies, are more prone to developing glaucoma. Also, hereditary forms of glaucoma can be passed down through breeding. However, it’s important to note that not all cases of glaucoma in dogs are genetic and can also be caused by other factors such as injury or underlying medical conditions.

In the early stages of glaucoma, a dog may not show any signs of vision loss or may experience minor visual impairment. However, vision loss is inevitable as the disease progresses, and a dog with advanced glaucoma may become blind.

Yes, Glaucoma in dogs can be painful. The increase in intraocular pressure caused by fluid accumulation in the eye can cause discomfort, pain, and even blindness if left untreated. Therefore, it is essential to seek veterinary attention if you suspect your dog has Glaucoma to manage the condition and alleviate any pain or discomfort your dog may be experiencing.

Glaucoma in dogs can be life-threatening if left untreated or uncontrolled. The condition can cause pain and discomfort to the dog, and if the pressure inside the eye is not relieved, it can lead to optic nerve damage and blindness. Additionally, glaucoma can be a secondary symptom of other underlying conditions that may require immediate medical attention. Therefore, seeking veterinary care as soon as possible is crucial if you suspect your dog may have glaucoma.

Yes, glaucoma in dogs can cause discharge from the affected eye. The discharge can be watery, pus-like or blood-tinged and can be accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, swelling, and discomfort. It is essential to seek veterinary care if you notice any unusual discharge from your dog’s eye, as it could be a sign of a severe eye condition such as glaucoma.

Unfortunately, Glaucoma in dogs is not reversible. It can only be managed through medication or surgery to slow down the progression of the disease and prevent further damage to the eye. However, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to improve the chances of successful management of Glaucoma in dogs.

In the early stages, glaucoma in dogs may not show any visible symptoms or changes in the eye. However, the affected vision may become red, swollen, and cloudy as the disease progresses. The cornea may appear hazy or bluish, and the pupil may appear dilated and non-reactive to light. In some cases, the affected eye may also appear to be enlarged or bulging due to increased pressure within the eye. It is essential to seek veterinary care if any changes or abnormalities are noticed in a dog’s eyes.

Yes, Glaucoma in dogs is considered a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the eye and lead to blindness. Therefore, if you suspect your dog may have Glaucoma, it is essential to seek immediate veterinary attention.

No, glaucoma in dogs is not contagious. It is a medical condition that affects the eyes of individual dogs and is not caused by a virus, bacteria, or other infectious agent.

Yes, certain breeds of dogs are more prone to developing Glaucoma. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Chow Chows, Siberian Huskies, Beagles, and Dalmatians. Additionally, certain types of Glaucoma are more common in certain breeds. For example, primary closed-angle Glaucoma is more common in Cocker Spaniels, while primary open-angle Glaucoma is more common in Siberian Huskies. However, any dog breed can develop Glaucoma, and it is not limited to specific breeds.

No, there is currently no vaccine available for Glaucoma in dogs. Glaucoma is a medical condition that affects the eyes of dogs and is caused by an increase in intraocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness if left untreated. Treatment typically involves managing the stress and preventing further damage, often with medication or surgery, depending on the severity of the case.

Intraocular pressure (IOP) refers to the pressure within the eyeball. In dogs, IOP is maintained by a balance between the production and drainage of fluid within the eye. The fluid, called aqueous humor, is produced by the ciliary body and flows through the pupil into the eye’s anterior chamber. The aqueous humor is drained through the trabecular meshwork, located at the angle between the iris and the cornea, and into the bloodstream. This drainage system helps to regulate the pressure within the eye. However, if there is a problem with the drainage system, the fluid can accumulate and lead to an increase in IOP, which can eventually lead to glaucoma.

An increase in intraocular pressure is a problem because it can cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, and when it is damaged, it can result in permanent vision loss. Additionally, high intraocular pressure can also cause damage to the structures of the eye, such as the cornea and lens, and can lead to further vision problems. Therefore, it is essential to monitor and manage intraocular pressure to prevent damage to the eye and maintain good vision.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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