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Glaucoma in dogs

Q: Betty, my 8-year-old beagle-basset hound, was diagnosed with glaucoma in one eye. She takes medication to prevent the disease in her other eye. Should my veterinarian measure her intraocular pressure periodically, as my eye doctor does for me?

A: Glaucoma, or increased pressure within the eye, develops in mid-life and often leads to blindness. Many breeds are predisposed, including beagles, bassets, spaniels, terriers and others.

The disease develops rapidly in dogs but slowly in people. Human eye doctors measure intraocular pressure during the annual eye exam to detect gradually increasing pressures before they get high enough to damage vision.

In dogs, however, annual measurement of intraocular pressure isn’t helpful because eye pressures rise quickly in dogs that develop glaucoma.

Instead, you should watch for the clinical signs of glaucoma. As pressure within the eye increases, the white of Betty’s eye may turn red, and the clear cornea may become foggy or develop a bluish hue. Betty’s pupil may dilate, and she may squint because glaucoma is painful.

If any of these signs occur, see a veterinarian immediately. Glaucoma is an emergency in dogs because permanent vision loss can occur quickly. In the meantime, make an appointment with a veterinary ophthalmologist to discuss ways to help Betty maintain her vision.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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