When our German Shepherd came down with what appeared to be an eye infection out of the blue one weekend morning, we weren't overly concerned. Since she seemed to be particularly prone to sickness, we agreed that we would take her to the vet on Monday morning and get antibiotics for her eye and go on about our lives. She'd never had eye issues of any sort before, so it didn't seem to be anything to worry about. Unfortunately, by the following day when we got her to the vet, our dog was nearly completely blind, and her eye was roughly one and a half times its normal size.
Canine glaucoma can strike without warning or, seemingly, cause. And, as we found out, it can often happen quickly. In our case, by the time we sought medical attention, there was already permanent damage. Therefore, it's important to know the risk factors and the symptoms of this disease so that it can be addressed quickly with your veterinarian should the issue arise.
Glaucoma can be inherited or can occur due to autoimmune disorder. It can also occur due to lack of proper drainage to the eye, and a host of other causes. The disease causes the pressure in the eye to increase quickly and rapidly, causing damage to the optic nerve and retina, which is often irreversible.
The first thing your vet will do when you arrive at his or her office with a dog who has a swollen, red, or painful eye is take the pressure on the eye with a small device called a tonometer. Local anesthetic drops are put in the dog's eye, and hten the tonometer is tapped against the eyeball. A pressure will be obtained, and anything over 25mm Hg is considered to be an indication of glaucoma.
The good news is that, in some cases if caught early and treated aggressively, glaucoma can be managed for at least a time with medication. An eye drop called Timolol Maleate which reduces eye pressure will be prescribed for your dog, as well as possibly a steroid drop called Prednisone to further treat and maintain the eye. If there is a secondary issue like infection or cateract, an antibiotic ointment might also be necessary. Make sure that your dog's eye gets the full force of each drop you put in his or her eye by depositing it in the middle of the eyeball and watching it disperse if you can. You'll have to hold the dog's eyelid open with one hand and give the drop with the other, which will be awkward at first but will soon become second nature.
It's vitally important that your dog gets his or her eye drops as many times a day as the vet prescribes. Failure to give the eye drop even a few times can lead to a dangerous surge in pressure which can result in more blindness or even surgery. Often, when the eye pressure reaches a certain point, the eye will swell and bulge and once again turn bright red. If the eye reaches a particularly large size, it's possible that the eyelid will no longer close and secondary issues like infection, cateract, etc, will develop. At this point, your vet will probably suggest that the eye be removed.
Even on medication, it's best to prepare for the fact that the time might come when your dog is no longer comfortable with his or her eye intact. Having the eye removed is actually not as painful or traumatic for the animal as one might imagine. Because they rely so heavily on scent and hearing, losing some of all of their sight is not the issue for a dog as it might be for a human. Even with glaucoma, your dog can still lead a happy and fulfilling life.