7 Dog Breeds Prone to Eye Conditions and Vision Problems

Vision loss and eye conditions in dogs explained

Dogs rely on all five of their senses to experience the world around them. So what happens when one of those senses is compromised. Inherited eye conditions can lead to blindness, vision loss, and life-long struggles with eye problems. Here are seven breeds with poor eyesight.

American Cocker Spaniel Vision Loss

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in Cocker Spaniels, although many breeds are prone to cataracts forming. Other dog breeds at risk include Labradors, French Poodle, and Boston Terrier. Also, there is a direct link between canine diabetes and cataracts in dogs. A dog with cataracts can experience partial or full vision loss. If less than 30% of the lens is affected a dog will still be able to see although vision may be limited. 

Labrador and Golden Retrievers

Blind Labrador retriever with glaucoma
In addition to PRA Labradors are prone to cataracts and glaucoma.

Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are genetically predisposed to progressive retinal atrophy or PRA. This inherited condition is a group of degenerative conditions that affect the two main photoreceptors, the cones and rods in the retina. As the cells deteriorate the dog’s vision worsens until they are completely blind.

There are two forms of PRA, early onset retinal dysplasia which is diagnosed when a puppy is only a few months old and late onset PRA which usually occurs between the ages of three and nine years old. Vision loss from PRA occurs slowly over time, with most experiencing complete loss of vision within 2 years of diagnosis. 

Since progressive retinal atrophy is an inherited condition, dogs with the affected gene should not be bred. 

Siberian Husky Eye Conditions

Several eye conditions impact the husky breed. Contrary to popular belief it’s not just the blue-eyed huskies with vision problems, eye color has nothing to do with a dog’s risk of vision problems. Due to recessive genes the Siberian Husky is at risk for: cataract development, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy. 

Corneal dystrophy is a less commonly known canine eye problem that is easily mistaken for cataracts. Dogs with corneal dystrophy have a fatty film that builds up on the cornea which makes the eye turn a hazy blue. Although the change in the eye is a visible one the eye condition rarely impacts a dog’s vision. Female huskies are at a greater risk than males for corneal dystrophy. 

Poodles and Vision Loss

The long hair of poodles can cause eye irritation and eye infections. Poodles aren’t the only long-haired breed whose hair gets in their eyes, Sheepdogs and Maltese both suffer similar risks of eye irritation. Optic nerve hypoplasia is another eye condition that poodles can develop. Dogs with OHA and optic nerves that don’t properly develop. OHA can occur in one eye or both eyes. In a healthy eye the optic nerves are the connection between a dog’s brain and the eye. Dogs with optic nerve hypoplasia experience a disconnect between the eye and the brain which leads to eyesight difficulties. Vision loss from OHA varies from a reduced vision to total blindness. There is no treatment available for OHA.

Eyesight Struggles in Collie Breeds

An eye condition known as collie eye anomaly, or CEA, is a collie eye defect that impacts how a collie’s eyes develop. This genetic condition causes underdevelopment in the blood vessels inside the eye which can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. Signs of CEA include abnormally small eyeballs, eyeballs that appear to be sunken in, and behavioral changes like frequently bumping into walls. Collie eye anomaly is not contagious, but it is an inherited condition and dogs with the genetic markers for CEA should not be bred. All Collie breeds are at risk for the condition including Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Australian Shepherds. 

Eye Problems in Boston Terriers

cherry eye in dogs
Cherry eye is a distinctive red bulge visible in the inside corner of a dog’s eye.

Due to their protruding eyes, Boston Terriers are at risk for developing a host of eye conditions  including cataracts and glaucoma. Additionally because their eyes protrude outwards they are also more vulnerable to eye trauma, scrapes and other eye conditions. 

Another eye problem that Boston Terriers are prone to is an eye condition called cherry eye. Cherry eye is a very visible eye condition in the inside corner of a dog’s eye, which is caused by a prolapsed third eyelid. Characterized by a pink bulge in the corner of the eye that can make it difficult for a dog to close their eye. The reddish pink bulge isn’t painful, but it’s usually pretty apparent. Dogs with cherry eye may also experience dry eye, cornea inflammation, and eye irritation. 

Entropion and Great Danes

Great Danes are prone to an eye condition called entropion. Entropion is an eye disease that many dog owners are unaware of until their dogs are symptomatic and the eye damage has already been done. Entropion is a hereditary disorder that causes a Great Dane’s eyelids to roll inwards. Which may sound minor, but overtime the tiny hairs along the edge of the eyelid scrape and drag across the surface of the eye. Not only does the eye become irritated, it often leads to painful inflammation and the formation of scar tissue. Signs of entropion include: squinting, excessive tears, and bloodshot eyes. The buildup of scar tissue on the cornea and risk of corneal ulcers can lead to vision loss and expensive surgery to correct. 

Blind Dogs Can Live Happy Lives

Dogs with changes in vision or dealing with blindness can live relatively normal lives. Simple changes can help a blind dog feel safer at home. By sticking to a normal routine and keeping the home free of obstacles most dogs adjust readily to being unable to see. Blind dogs that bump into walls or struggle with spatial awareness benefit greatly from a halo. A blind dog halo is an assistive device that acts as a bumper between your dog and unseen objects. Wearing a halo prevents injury and warns vison-impaired of nearby obstacles to direct them away from them.

Conclusion

Now that you have a better understanding of the eye problems that dogs are prone to, you are better prepared to give your dog the care they need. Avoidance of some canine eye conditions can be achieved through genetic testing and adopting from reputable breeders. Most breeders will review genetic testing with you upon request. As your dog matures, regular wellness exams are key to catching the early signs of vision loss. With early treatment and lots of care your dog can live a long and happy life.

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