Glaucoma in pets

You've probably heard of Glaucoma in humans and you might have even had a test for it last time you went to the opticians. Did you know it can also affect our pets?

Read on to find out more about the signs and symptoms of glaucoma as well as how it can be treated.


What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can cause your pet to lose part or all of their sight if you don't get it treated by a vet.

Your pet's eye is filled with fluid. sometimes, this fluid doesn't drain properly and pressure can build up. If this isn't treated, your pet's eye will get larger, change shape, and they could lost their sight.

Glaucoma is usually caused by a problem with the way your pet's eye has grown and developed. These problems might have been passed on from their mum and dad, so it's more common in some breeds, such as:

  • Siamese, Persian, and Burmese cats.
  • Bassett Hound, Shar Pei, Cocker Spaniel, Chow Chow and Siberian dogs.

Sometimes, Glaucoma is a sign your pet has another eye condition, like an infection or swelling of the eye.


What are the signs and symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma can come on suddenly or develop over a longer period of time. It's important to know the symptoms so you can spot them if our pet develops the condition.

Glaucoma can cause a lot of pain for your pet, similar to a very bad headache or migraine. Because of this, most of the first symptoms you'll notice will be signs of the pain they're feeling. These might include:

  • Rubbing their face on the floor or pawing at their face.
  • Not wanting to eat or sleeping more due to the pain.
  • A change in your pet's behaviour.

You might also notice some changes in their eyes, such as:

  • Their pupils are different sizes.
  • Blood vessels are showing in the white of their eye.
  • Lots of tears.
  • Squinting or lots of blinking.
  • Their eye might start to look milky or cloudy


What to do if you think your pet could have Glaucoma

If you spot any of the symptoms above it's important to speak to your vet right away. The sooner you get your pet treated, the more chance your vet will have of saving their sight.

Your vet will need to do some tests. This might include an x-ray to rule out another cause of the problem, like a tumour or an injury to the eye. They might also do a special test called 'tonometry' where your vet blows a puff of air into your pet's eye to measure the fluid pressure in their eyeball.


What treatment is available?

Once it’s been diagnosed by your vet, glaucoma can usually be managed with medicine and regular check-ups. The first thing your vet will want to do is to lower the pressure in your pet’s eye. They will also want to provide pain relief to make your pet more comfortable. This will most likely be with eye drops or ointments.

If your pet’s glaucoma is more serious they might need an operation to relive the pressure and drain some of the fluid in their eye. In the worst cases, they may need to have their eye removed. Most pets adjust really well to losing sight in one eye and can live very happy and full lives if they lose their sight entirely. Find out more about what you can do to help your pet adjust to their new sight.

Sadly, if your pet has glaucoma in one eye they will often go on to develop it in their other eye, too. Even if your pet loses their sight in one eye, your vet will work hard to help keep their other eye healthy for as long as possible.


How to prevent Glaucoma

Some pets are more likely to get glaucoma and, sadly, there’s not much you can do to stop it happening apart from looking after their general health and regularly checking their eyes for any changes.

If your pet is one of the breeds more likely to get glaucoma, make sure their eyes are checked by the vet during their annual check-up. It’s a good idea to get your pet used to having the area around their eyes touched while they’re young so they are calm during these examinations.

If your pet has any eye infections or injuries, get them treated by a vet. These can go on to cause glaucoma, so it’s important to get them treated early. You can find more information about treating common eye infections here.

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