Eye Screening, Prevent Blindness

Dr. Woody Dudley, DVM

Did you know blindness can be prevented or delayed by eye screening tests?

Blindness in our pets occurs from Glaucoma, Dry Eyes (causes pigment on the surface of the eye), Cataracts, scarring from Corneal (eye surface) Damage and Uveitis (inflammation inside the eye). Blindness and pain from these conditions can be prevented or delayed by early detection. Simple, quick, inexpensive tests are available to detect these conditions early. Early detection leads to early treatment and better outcomes.

Glaucoma occurs in certain breeds more commonly than others, although it can occur in any breed. Screening in higher risk breeds such as Beagles, Bassets, Spaniels, Retrievers, Chows, Huskies, Terriers, Shih Tzus, Bouviers is done with a test called Intraocular Pressure.  We recommend screening for early detection starting at 3-7 years of age.

Dry Eyes (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) occurs in certain breeds more commonly than others. Breeds such as the flat-faced dog breeds with eyes that protrude and breeds such as English Cocker Spaniel, West Highland Terrier, King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Shih-Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, English Bulldog, Pekingese, Pug, and Lhaso Apso. We recommend screening with a test called the Schirmer (paper) Tear Test for early detection starting at 6 years of age.

Cataracts occur with higher frequency in certain breeds and those breeds should be screened with a slit lamp exam and fundic exam for early detection. Early detection is needed to prevent lens-induced uveitis which can lead to glaucoma. Also, early detection of Cataracts can allow planning for cataract surgery with the best outcome possible. Breeds at higher risk for Cataracts include Smooth Fox Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Havanese, Bichon Frise, Silky Terriers, Miniature, and Standard Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Boston Terriers. Dogs with diabetes are also especially prone to cataracts.

Does your pet have bloodshot or red eyes?

Bloodshot eyes can be a sign of serious eye disease. Look at the white portion of the eyes. Bloodshot eyes indicate eye discomfort and eye pain. Squinting or rubbing the eyes may also be seen when the eyes are painful. If the white portion (sclera) is redder than usual or the white portion has visible blood vessels, an eye exam is recommended.

An eye exam by your Veterinarian will be performed in a dark room. A dark room allows the pupils to naturally dilate for better visualization of the retina or back layer of the eye. A dark room will have less distractions and calm your pet. For better visualization of the back layer of the eye, sometimes an eye drop will need to be given to open the pupil even more for better visualization. If the eye is painful, a drop of local anesthetic can be applied to relieve the pain.

Visualization of the back layer of the eye with a special magnifying instrument is referred to as the fundic exam. In this exam, part of the optic nerve and blood vessels can be seen. Inflammation, signs of hypertension, and retinal detachment can be observed.

Visualization of the front portion of the eye includes the cornea (the clear outer surface), the anterior chamber (the fluid space and structures between the cornea and lens), the iris (pupil) and the lens (the clear middle flexible substance that focuses light transmission). In this exam with a slit lamp, we look for conditions such as pigment on the surface of the cornea, corneal ulcers, signs of inflammation, and cataracts.

Testing will be used to complete the diagnosis of the eye condition, in addition to the visual eye exam above. Schirmer (paper) Tear Test will determine if enough tears are being made to protect the eye. Intraocular Pressure with a special instrument called a Tonometer will determine if fluid pressure inside the eye is too high (Glaucoma) or too low (often seen with Uveitis or inflammation inside the eye). Eye staining and slit lamp instrument are used to detect defects in the corneal outer layer such as corneal ulcers. Ultrasound images of the eye are useful for detecting abnormalities inside and behind the eye.

Improve your pets quality of life with eye screening and prevent blindness!

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