Ask the Vet
Q: ‘Lady’, my sweet little Pug, was just diagnosed with glaucoma. I don’t know much about glaucoma except that my grandmother has it. But my dog is only 6 years old. I just don’t understand. Can you help me? P.W., Farragut
A: I’m sorry to hear about Lady. Glaucoma is disease of the eye in which the pressure inside the eye gets too high. Glaucoma affects many species of animals, including dogs, cats, horses and cattle. Untreated, it eventually leads to blindness.
The pressure increases, then the normal fluid (called aqueous humor) inside the eye does not drain properly. This can occur for several reasons, such as obstruction or clogging near the drainage area or structural changes that prevent normal function. In these cases, the disease typically occurs in both eyes eventually. Other eye diseases, cancer or trauma can also lead to secondary glaucoma.
As you mentioned, glaucoma is not just a disease of elderly dogs. We have unfortunately seen glaucoma in patients younger than Lady. Although glaucoma may occur in any breed, certain breeds are predisposed, including pugs, cocker spaniels, basset hounds and beagles.
Glaucoma is diagnosed with a small handheld instrument called a tonometer. The eye is temporarily numbed for the exam, and the process is not painful. Treatment consists of lifelong medications. Surgery may be an option, depending on the exact cause of the glaucoma.
Pets with early glaucoma may appear normal to owners, and since pets can not verbalize their feelings, the disease can go undetected for a while. Some dogs present with advanced disease, with a red, bulging, painful eye. Unfortunately, some of these patients have permanently lost their vision. Sadly, surgical removal of the eye (called enucleation) is a last resort for cases when the medication is not controlling the pressure, the eye is terrible painful or there is a tumor present.
Hopefully, Lady will respond well to her new medications. Glaucoma is a serious condition, so please follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment and follow up visits.
If you have a question about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org