Next month (January) is Glaucoma Awareness Month and because of that, we want you to become aware of how serious this disease could be to your dog or to your cat. Most people are not aware this is an emergency and should be treated as one.
But what is glaucoma?
It is a condition in which there is increased pressure within the eye. The cells inside the eye produce a clear liquid called aqueous humor. This liquid is responsible for providing nutrients to the tissues inside the eye and for maintaining its shape. The aqueous humor drains out of the eye into the bloodstream through a kind of sieve. A normal pressure in the eye is given by the balance between the production of aqueous humor and the drainage. If too much liquid is produced or if it doesn’t drain properly, it accumulates in the eye causing an increased pressure. This is glaucoma.
If the increased pressure is untreated, it can cause the eye to enlarge, to lose its shape and in cases of severe acute glaucoma, it will cause irreversible blindness within hours. In some cases, there is so much pain that the only option is to remove the eye in order to eliminate the source of the pain.
This is why you should treat glaucoma as an emergency.
There are two types of glaucoma: primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is an inherited condition but it is also a disposition some dog breeds have; like Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Schnauzers, Greyhounds, Samoyeds, Poodles, Chow Chows and most of the Artic breeds. Primary glaucoma is rare in cats. Secondary glaucoma occurs when other eye diseases cause decreased drainage of fluid from inside the eye; like advanced cataracts, eye cancer, luxation of the eye or uveitis (inflammation inside the eye).
What symptoms should you watch for?
Pain is the main symptom but it’s not so easy to recognize when a dog or cat is hurting. So pay attention if there is less desire to play, decreased activity, loss of appetite or irritability. Some animals squint, hold their eyes closed or rub them against something. You may also notice vision loss, a dilated pupil in the affected eye, cloudiness, red eyes or one eye may seem larger or different than the other.
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog or cat to the vet IMMEDIATELY. The pressure in the eye can crush the cells of the retina and optic nerves and in a matter of hours, the vision in the eye can be completely lost.
The treatment will depend on the type of glaucoma and how fast it was discovered. It can be a very frustrating disease because it requires different therapies, constant monitoring and a lot of expenses. In many cases it can still result in permanent vision loss.
It is important that you know that dogs and cats can adjust well to being blind as long as their eyes are not hurting – that’s why in many cases the ultimate solution is to remove the eye. If your dog or cat are not in pain, they can still live a full life without their vision. If you take care of the discomfort you can still give them the best quality of life. For them, the most important thing will be having your support and your love unconditionally.