Glaucoma in dogs

Glaucoma is a very painful condition that often causes blindness. There are different types of glaucoma. The inherited type can commonly affect Beagles, Basset Hounds, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and Shar-pei, but other breeds can be affected too. 

Dogs with glaucoma have high pressure inside the eye. Contact your vet immediately if your dog has symptoms of glaucoma or a painful eye.



What is glaucoma in dogs?

  • Fluid flows in and out of the eyes to keep them the right size, shape, pressure and to deliver nutrients.
  • Glaucoma develops when something stops that fluid from flowing out, causing a build-up of pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure).
  • The increased pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, which normally sends vision messages from the eye to the brain.
  • If treated early, blindness can be prevented or delayed, but ongoing treatment is required. If identified too late, blindness may be permanent.
  • There are three types of glaucoma in dogs: primary, secondary and congenital.

Types of glaucoma


The most common cause of glaucoma in dogs.

It results from disease or an injury to the eye. Causes include:

  • Uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye) or severe infections inside of the eye. These result in debris and scar tissue blocking the drainage.
  • Dislocation of the lens. The lens falls forward and physically blocks drainage.
  • Cataracts can cause a blockage. This can be seen in severe cases, such as in diabetes mellitus.
  • Bleeding inside of the eye. A blood clot can block drainage.
  • Tumours. The mass can cause physical blockage.


An increased intraocular pressure in a healthy eye, due to an inherited abnormality in the drainage angle.

Eventually affects both eyes in middle to older aged dogs.

  • Closed-angle glaucoma: a sudden drainage blockage that can also be called Goniodysgenesis-related glaucoma (GDRG).
  • Open-angle glaucoma: tends to develop slowly over many years.


Puppyhood glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) is the least common form of glaucoma, and its cause is unknown.



What are the clinical signs of glaucoma in dogs?

  • Cloudy or blue eye
  • Red eye
  • Squinting
  • Sudden blindness
  • Sleeping more
  • Being head shy
  • Tilting the head



Do some dogs have a higher risk of glaucoma than others?

Breeds known to be affected by closed-angle type of glaucoma:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Basset Hound
  • Border Collie
  • Dandie Dinmont
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English/ Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Flatcoated retriever
  • Golden retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Japanese Shiba Inu
  • Leonberger
  • Siberian Husky
  • Spanish Water dog
  • Welsh Terrier

Breeds known to be affected by open-angle glaucoma type:

  • Basset Hound
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
  • Shar Pei



How is glaucoma diagnosed in dogs?

Your vet will examine your dog’s eyes and use a light source.

If they identify any signs of glaucoma, they will confirm it using an instrument called a tonometer.

  • A tonometer measures the pressure inside the eyes.
  • Normal pressure inside an eye is around 10-25mmHg.

Your dog may also need further tests to find the cause of glaucoma, at which point they may need to visit an eye specialist.


Vet treatment

What is the treatment for glaucoma in dogs?

Your vet will aim to bring down the pressure inside your dog’s eyes as quickly as possible.

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser treatments, or surgery. The best treatment will depend on a variety of factors.

  • Medical: anti-glaucoma eye drops. This includes painkillers and medication to reduce the pressure in the eye.
  • Surgical: shunt placement or laser surgery. This type of surgery is usually performed by an eye specialist.
  • If treatment is delayed or fails, the eye can become permanently blind and painful. Surgical removal of the eye, called enucleation, may be recommended in such cases.

Acute glaucoma is an emergency. Sometimes an immediate referral to an eye specialist is necessary.

Can glaucoma in dogs be cured?

Unless the glaucoma has developed due to another cause, it cannot be cured and requires long-term management.

Secondary glaucoma

  • The outlook will depend on what’s causing the glaucoma and how well your dog responds to the treatment.

Primary glaucoma

  • Dogs are likely to respond well to medication at the start. However, usually, after a few months to years, they may stop responding. In this case, surgical treatment will need to be considered.

Dogs can live with glaucoma without pain if it’s well-controlled.

Many dogs with primary glaucoma end up losing sight in both of their eyes. It’s important to discuss the long-term outcome and treatment costs with your vet.


Home treatment

What to do at home if your dog becomes blind

Dogs that lose their vision gradually can adapt really well with the correct care.

Unfortunately, sudden blindness can happen.

There are many things you can do to help your dog if they have reduced vision or have gone blind:

  • Avoid moving furniture or any of your dog’s belongings, such as their food dish, water bowl or bed.
  • It’s important to pay special attention to hazards such as stairs, pools, and on the street.
  • Whenever your dog meets a new human or animal, they should be handled with extra care.
  • Avoid any sudden and loud noises that may scare them.
  • Place textured mats at the room entrances. Your dog will be able to differentiate the room they are in by the texture on their paws.
  • Using a halo harness can be helpful for a blind dog.
  • Play is very important. Use toys that make a noise. This will help build their confidence and provide mental stimulation.



What can you do to prevent glaucoma in dogs?

Glaucoma is a complex disease that cannot be prevented by a single factor.

Breeders can reduce the risk of producing affected puppies by testing them (such as gonioscopy testing) and breeding from dogs with low or no known risks.


When to worry

When to worry about your dogs eyes

If your dog shows any of the following signs call your vet:

  • Sudden inability to see
  • Swollen eye
  • Squinting
  • Redness of the eye
  • Reluctant to open the affected eye or pawing at the face

Call us at Joii if:

  • You have a blind dog and need help adjusting to their environment
  • If you need help applying or giving medication
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