Originally from the Himalayan mountains of Tibet, Tibetan spaniels are highly affectionate companion dogs. Although generally healthy dogs, Tibetan spaniels can suffer from inherited diseases, including those of the eyes. Eye problems such as cherry eye, entropion, progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia are common in Tibetan spaniels.
Cherry eye is immediately noticeable by the red lump in the corner of the eye. Cherry eye, is also known as nictitans gland prolapse. The gland, which produces tears, is the third eyelid located in the corner of each eye, but is invisible to the human eye. When a dog experiences cherry eye, the gland comes out of its normal hiding position, exposing it to the elements and commonly causing redness, swelling, irritation and mucous discharge. Weakness of the tissue that attaches the gland to the surrounding structure of the eye is a common cause of cherry eye. Treatment for cherry eye involves a quick and easy surgical procedure performed by a licensed veterinarian.
Eyelid entropion is when the eyelid rolls inward and causes the hair located on the surface of the eyelid to affect the eye, by rubbing against the lower part of the eyeball or the cornea. The constant irritation to the cornea can cause corneal erosion, corneal ulcers and at times corneal scaring, which can affect vision. While Tibetan spaniels may not show signs of discomfort, others will hold the eye closed and produce an abundance of tears. Treatment requires surgical correction, but the prognosis is generally good.
Progressive retinal atrophy affects the surface of the back wall of the inside eye, also known as the retina. This genetically inherited disease interferes with the ability to see dim and bright lights, and affects both eyes at the same time. First the ability to see dim light is affected. Eventually the ability to see bright light deteriorates. As the disease persists, eventually blindness will occur. The disease and symptoms cause no pain and usually develop in Tibetan spaniels between 18 months and 4 years. Currently, there is not a cure available for progressive retinal atrophy. Tibetan spaniels are known to adjust quickly to blindness and get around by using their other senses.
Retinal dysplasia is an abnormally developed retina and is genetically inherited. There are three forms of the abnormality ranging from mild to severe. The mildest form is the folding of the retina. The second is thinning, folding and disorganization of the retina and the third, most severe form is the detachment of the retina. The second and third forms can interfere with vision or cause blindness. Currently there is no treatment available.
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