Eye problems

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs

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Progressive retinal atrophy in dogs is a disease common to many breeds. It is a hereditary disease, and affected dogs don't tend to start to show symptoms until they are adults. However, on occasions, symptoms of this type of retinal atrophy can appear when dogs are very young.

This disease is degenerative and has no cure. This is why it is very important to be aware of the early signs so that the vet can prolong the time until total blindness occurs. In this AnimalWised article you will find out the most relevant information on progressive retinal atrophy in dogs, as well the symptoms and treatment.

You may also be interested in: Blood In My Dog's Eye
  1. What is the retina?
  2. What is retinal atrophy?
  3. Symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs
  4. How is PRA in dogs diagnosed?
  5. Palliative treatments of progressive retina atrophy.
  6. Preventing PRA in dogs
  7. What dog breeds are most affected by PRA?

What is the retina?

The retina is a structure in the eye - the inner layer - responsible for capturing and sending images, captured by the optic nerve, to the brain. The brain decodes them and gives them an intelligible meaning for us. In the retina there are photoreceptors, cells whose function is to capture light, colors and shapes.

There are two types of photoreceptors in a dog's retina:

  • Cones are the cells responsible for daytime vision. They need lots of light. They distinguish between colors and are responsible for defined vision.
  • Rods require very little light because they are very sensitive. They are responsible for night vision.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs - What is the retina?

What is retinal atrophy?

Progressive retinal atrophy in dogs is a degenerative illness that can affect animals, including dogs and cats. Depending on the photoreceptors that are affected, you can consider:

  • Nyctalopia: This type of retinal atrophy affects the rods, and the dog loses night vision.
  • Hemeralopia: This type of retinal atrophy affects the cones, and the dog loses day vision.

If both types of photoreceptors are affected at the same time, the dog loses their vision without affecting the brightness. Some breeds tend to feel retinal atrophy in one type of photoreceptor or another; the age of the dog when the first symptoms occur is also an important factor.

Symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs

The most common symptoms of PRA in dogs are:

  • Vision loss. The rods are often the first affected photoreceptors, causing nyctalopia or night blindness. After, that hemeralopia or day blindness appears. Dysfunction of one or the other photoreceptors varies depending on the breed and the form of atrophy. A typical symptom is difficulty in seeing moving objects.

    Complete blindness can not be predicted; but the younger the dog has symptoms, the faster the disease will progress.

  • Dilated pupils that do not respond well to light. The dog's eyes may show reflections in green, yellow and orange caused by retinal hyperreflexia - a glossier surface than normal - and mydriasis - dilation of the pupil.

  • Cataracts are encouraged by retinal degeneration. They are a secondary consequence of eye damage. Cataracts are produced by the secretion of substances produced by the damaged retina.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs - Symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs

How is PRA in dogs diagnosed?

The diagnosis of the disease must be certified by a vet. The best thing to do is to make annual eye appointments for breeds prone to the disease, which include the English Springer Spaniel, the Labrador Retriever and many others. The techniques used for diagnosis are:

  • Ophthalmoscopy. Looking at the base of the eye.

  • Electroretinography. The photoreceptor response to different types of light is measured using electrodes. It is the most efficient method for diagnosing PRA in dogs.

Palliative treatments of progressive retina atrophy.

PRA does not have an effective treatment. It can be slowed down with a regular intake of antioxidants and vitamins. However, as it is a degenerative disease, blindness is inevitable in the end. If cataracts appear, occasionally you can intervene surgically, although you cannot prevent PRA progressing.

In some occasions, surgical intervention is necessary. they include:

  • Dislocated lens
  • Crystalline dependent uveitis
  • Crystalline dependent glaucoma
  • Cataracts cause side effects
  • Other causes
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs - Palliative treatments of progressive retina atrophy.

Preventing PRA in dogs

The best prevention against PRA is making sure that the puppy does not have the disease. This is achieved by adopting dogs with an eye certificate proving they are free from ocular diseases from their parents, including proof that the parental lines are free from PRA.

Some breeds require this certificate when bred by professionals. People that wish to obtain this certificate must submit their dog into the following tests:

  • Electroretinography (ERG)
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Ocular echography

At the same time, mixed-breed dogs, or dogs without a known parental line, should visit a vet every 6-12 months minimum to prevent this problem and detect it as soon as possible.

What dog breeds are most affected by PRA?

The dog breeds more likely to suffer from PRA are:

  • Akita
  • Alaska Malamute
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Border Collie
  • Border Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Bull Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • German Spitz
  • Poodle
  • Rough Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Pug
  • Doberman
  • Fox Terrier
  • Great Dane
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Golden Retriever
  • Siberian Husky
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Maltese
  • Malinois
  • German Shepherd
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Pekingese
  • English Pointer
  • Pomeranian
  • Papillon
  • Rottweiler
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Irish Setter
  • English Setter
  • Gordon Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Dachshund

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Eye problems category.

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Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs