How to Diagnose Glaucoma in Poodles
Glaucoma is a serious condition of the eye that can cause blindness. Glaucoma can be caused by anatomical problems in the eye or by disease or inflammation inside the eye that prevents fluid from draining away. In general, regular-sized poodles are no more prone to glaucoma than any other breed. However, the miniature poodle is more prone to glaucoma. They can have a narrow drainage angle inside the eye, between the iris and the cornea, which impedes the draining of fluid within the eye. It is important for any dog owner, especially the owner of a miniature poodle, to be aware of the signs of glaucoma, since this disease can occur at any age and rapid action is required in order to save the dog's vision.
Looking For the Signs of Glaucoma
1. Pay attention to signs of pain near the eyes.
Your poodle may be rubbing its eyes excessively with a paw or rubbing its face along the ground. It may also be keeping its eyes partially shut or completely shut. Another sign of eye discomfort is if the dog is unhappy if you try to touch its face near its eyes.
- The signs of discomfort can be very subtle and hard to read. They mostly show up in changes in temperament and activity.
2. Look for eye enlargement.
The eye with glaucoma will be physically larger than normal. This is because it is stretched by the additional pressure inside. If in doubt, compare one eye with the other to see if one of the eyes is enlarged.
3. Inspect the actual eye.
Be on the look out for inflamed white of the eyes. The white part of the eye may become red and have inflamed blood vessels tracking across it. There may also be cloudiness of the cornea. The surface of the eye is normal transparent but when it is stretched it takes on a cloudy or milky appearance.
4. Look at the dog's pupils for unusual dilation.
Check one eye against the other to determine if one pupil is larger. The dilated pupil is the abnormal side.
- You can also keep an eye out for fixed or sluggish pupils. Glaucoma can affect how the pupils react to light in a variety of ways.
5. Test your dog for blindness.
If only one eye has glaucoma, then the dog may mask the lack of vision by compensating with the good eye. Try waving a finger close to the eye you are concerned about and see if the dog blinks or not.
- Be careful not to touch the dog's whiskers in the process, as this may make it blink even if it has lost vision in the eye.
Getting a Medical Diagnosis
1. Take your dog in for an exam.
The vet will first perform a physical exam of the dog, including checking the appearance of the eyes and making sure that both eyes are the same size. The vet may also gently feel the size of each eyeball through the eyelids, comparing one side with the other to see if there is a difference. The dog's response to this test may also tell the vet if one eye is painful or uncomfortable when compared with the other.
- The vet will also shine a bright light at the retina to see if the pupil contracts. This will help the clinician determine if the dog is blind or not. The vet may move a fingertip close to the eye to check if the dog sees the threat or not.
- The vet then examines the internal structure of the eye using an ophthalmoscope. The vet looks for signs of inflammation in the iris, which could provide an explanation for the development of glaucoma. He or she will also look at the drainage angle between the iris and the cornea to see if it is narrow, which is a predisposing factor in the miniature poodle.
2. Get a clear diagnosis from your veterinarian.
To give a definitive diagnosis of glaucoma the vet uses a tonometer. This is a device that measures the pressure within the eye. This test is uncomfortable for some dogs and so the vet may put a few drops of local anesthetic into the eye ahead of the test.
- Eye pressure in the dog ranges from 12 - 16 mmHg. It is generally considered valid to diagnose glaucoma if the pressure rises above 24 mmHg.
3. Follow your veterinarian's suggestions for treatment.
Treatment of glaucoma is difficult. Caught early, glaucoma can be controlled using drops which decrease the amount of aqueous humor produced. In addition, there are specialist surgical procedures that aid the drainage of fluid from the eye. Your veterinarian will suggest the best treatment based on the progression of the illness and how pain and vision loss can be managed.
- In late stage glaucoma the eyesight may be too damaged to restore. However, drops can help decrease the pressure and keep the eye comfortable.
- Alternatively, removing an eye that doesn't have vision anymore can improve the dog's quality of life.
- Unfortunately, most dogs diagnosed with glaucoma will eventually go blind, even if surgery or medicine lengthen the amount of time they have sight.
1. Learn about eye pressure and glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a rise in the pressure within the eye (the intraocular pressure), which causes damage to the retina and can lead to blindness. A normal eye is round and the tough shell of the eye is maintained in a circle because it contains fluid under pressure. This fluid is called the aqueous humor. The aqueous humor is not a static volume of fluid, but is being constantly produced and drained away. In glaucoma the aqueous humor is impeded from draining away. Because it is still being produced but has nowhere to go, this leads to a buildup of pressure within the eye.
- If the pressure becomes high enough, it compresses the retina, damages the delicate cells, and the dog becomes blind.
2. Understand the different ways glaucoma can advance.
There are two different ways that glaucoma can come on: fast or slow. Glaucoma that advances quickly can have eye pressure that spikes over a few hours or days and causes severe sudden illness. The other way glaucoma can progress is slowly, over weeks and months. This type of progression is harder it diagnose, as the signs of the illness come on very gradually.
3. Look in to the different causes of glaucoma.
Glaucoma can come on due to disease, trauma to the eye, or due to genetic abnormalities. The most common causes in dogs include disease and trauma to the eye. Diseases causing glaucoma include internal inflammation, dislocation of the lens, tumors, and internal bleeding.
- In miniature poodles there is a slight genetic tendency towards 'closed angle' glaucoma. This term describes the fact that the angle between the iris and the back of the cornea is too tight. This is the area where the aqueous humor drains away and if the angle is too tight it forms a poor drain, leading to a buildup of fluid and thus glaucoma.
- Glaucoma is also a painful condition, so even if the dog has gone blind, it might be necessary for the vet to remove the eye so as to remove a constant source of pain for the dog.