cat with glaucoma

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if that sentiment applies to humans, it most certainly applies to our pets. After all, who can look into those soulful puppy dog eyes and not feel something? 

It is very important to take good care of our pet’s peepers. They are so important to our animals and to the bond that we share with them.

Dogs and cats can be affected by many of the same ocular conditions that people are. Glaucoma in pets is a problem that we often diagnose at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital and one that tends to respond better if it is diagnosed early. Knowing how to recognize signs of trouble is one of the most important ways that you can help care for your pet’s eyes.

Glaucoma in Pets

Glaucoma is simply a medical term that refers to increased pressure within the eye itself. Our pets’ eyes (and our eyes) are filled with a fluid called aqueous humor. This fluid is produced within the globe itself and is drained at a similar rate, keeping the pressure inside fairly consistent.

When something affects the production or drainage of the aqueous fluid, this balance is disrupted. Think of the eye as a water balloon. If the balloon becomes overfilled, nothing good is to come of it. 

Glaucoma in pets occurs for several reasons and can happen to any breed or any age animal. Some glaucoma is related to primary causes such as a genetic abnormality within the eye. Most glaucoma is secondary, or the result of something else. Commonly diagnosed secondary causes of glaucoma in pets include:

  • Abnormal position of the lens inside of the eye
  • Cancer of the eye
  • Cataracts, especially mature ones
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the eye, often resulting from other systemic disease)

Signs of Trouble

Thinking back to our water balloon analogy, it is easy to imagine how uncomfortable a glaucomatous eye can be. Glaucoma can be a very painful condition and prolonged increase in eye pressure can result in permanent blindness. As a pet owner, recognizing eye problems sooner is always better.

Signs of eye problems in pets can include:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Cloudy eye
  • Squinting
  • Increased tearing of the eye
  • Pawing at or rubbing the eye
  • Bumping into things
  • Changes in the shape of the eye
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

Pet eye problems can appear similarly and it is not always easy to differentiate glaucoma from other problems. If you think your pet may be having any of these symptoms, contact us as soon as possible so that we can diagnose the issue properly. In fact, eye problems in pets are viewed as a pet emergency

Next Steps

A pet who is having eye trouble needs to have an ophthalmologic work up performed. During an eye care appointment we will often perform additional testing such as tear production testing and evaluation for scratches and ulcers. 

Glaucoma is diagnosed based on abnormal results to eye pressure readings, performed with a tonometry pen. This instrument gently touches the surface of the eyeball to gauge the pressure inside of the globe. It is quick and painless and important to achieve our diagnosis. 

Once glaucoma is diagnosed, we try to find an underlying cause. Sometimes we can fix the cause of a uveitis or surgically address a mature cataract that is causing problems, effectively removing the cause for the glaucoma. 

Other times, we cannot fix the cause and must medically manage the glaucoma. This is often achieved with eye drops. Sometimes referral to a veterinary eye specialist is advisable. For some pets whose glaucoma cannot be successfully managed, the best option is to remove (enucleate) the painful, diseased eye.

We cannot always fix glaucoma in pets, but by recognizing signs of trouble early you can put your pet in the best position to have a good outcome and prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort. Our pets eyes are important, and you play an essential role in their care.