How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Vision Problem?

by Scott Morgan
    Symptoms of canine vision troubles are obvious if you look close.

    Symptoms of canine vision troubles are obvious if you look close.

    Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    When dogs have trouble with their eyes, it's typically because there is something in them -- a stray hair or some dust from snooping around. Other times, eye problems stem from injuries, such as a run-in with the cat. But there are eye diseases that could lead to long-term health issues or blindness if not treated. Keeping an eye on your dog's eyes will help catch most vision troubles.

    Cataract

    A cataract is an opaque spot on a dog's eye lens. Small cataracts might be tough to notice and shouldn't affect your dog's vision much. Larger cataracts, however, can lead to permanent blindness if untreated. If his eyes look cloudy or have a bluish-gray cast, take him to the vet right away. All breeds are susceptible to cataracts, and the disease can stem from old age, injury or trauma. Cocker spaniels, poodles, miniature schnauzers, terriers and golden retrievers are especially prone, as are dogs with diabetes.

    Glaucoma

    Glaucoma occurs when the eye cannot drain fluid. Pressure builds in the eye and can cause severe nerve damage if not relieved within a day or two. As with cataracts, glaucoma triggers cloudy eyes in dogs. Other signs of glaucoma include the eyeball receding back into the head, reddened blood vessels in the whites of the eyes and dilated pupils that may not respond to light. In more advanced cases, your dog's eye may get sticky and vision loss will become obvious.

    Progressive Retinal Atrophy

    Progressive retinal atrophy is an inherited eye disease that slowly deteriorates a dog's retinas. The fact that progressive retinal atrophy is painless can make it difficult for many people to spot, but outward signs of the disease begin with a glowing shininess in a dog's eyes. This translates into night blindness and, ultimately full blindness. Though any breed can develop progressive retinal atrophy, English mastiffs and bull mastiffs, as well as male Siberian huskies and Samoyeds are especially prone.

    Other Vision Problems

    Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is common in dogs and can cause inflamed, sticky or itchy eyes that are sensitive to light. Keratitis, which mostly affects German shepherds, causes pigmentation and superficial blood vessels on the eye and can reduce your dog’s vision if left untreated. Corneal ulcers sometimes occur when your dog gets something in her eye. These ulcers can become infected and usually cause a dog’s eye to water excessively.

    Signs of Eye Trouble

    Outside of diseases, vision problems in dogs usually stem from an injury or illness that, while painful or maybe just annoying, often are easily treated. If you see excessive tearing or redness, prolonged droopy or closed eyes or discharge, your dog may be suffering eye problems that may lead to vision issues if left untreated. The best way to notice your dog's eye health is to check his eyes routinely. If something looks amiss, it's best to call your vet.

    Photo Credits

    • Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Scott Morgan is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered central New Jersey since 2001. He has worked with the Princeton Packet Newsgroup, US 1 Publishing, "Unique Homes Magazine" and Community News Service. Morgan also serves as a professional speaker and teacher. He holds a bachelor's degree in humanities from Thomas Edison State College.

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