Top 5 undiagnosed eye conditions in cats and dogs
5th February 2021
James Histed, Specialist in Veterinary Ophthalmology, shares what he believes to be the 5 most commonly undiagnosed eye conditions in cats and dogs.
There are several ‘common misconceptions’ vets can make in diagnosing and evaluating clinical signs and response to therapy. These can be critical to the patient and involve all aspects of ophthalmology from conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, and blindness.
Here are my ‘Top Five’. Each is illustrated using an actual referral that I have received, with links to the Highcroft Referrals website for more discussion should you wish. Please do not hesitate to contact me via email directly (firstname.lastname@example.org), or call Highcroft Referrals and ask to speak to me if you would like to talk about the management of your ophthalmology cases.
Number five – Indolent ulcers in young dogs
A referral for surgery to correct a suspected indolent ulcer in a 3 year old Poodle, Fifi.
In fact, three year old dogs do not get indolent ulcers. This is a disease process that effects a median age of 8-9 year old dogs and older. If the ulcer is axial, it is most likely due to a decrease in tear production. If it is in the superior 1/3rd of the cornea, you can start looking for the ectopic cilia. This is common in the Poodle, Shih Tzu, and in Golden Retrievers, less than a year of age.
Number four – Allergies and conjunctivitis
Referral for a deep ulcer following conjunctivitis, from suspected allergies in a 4 year old Shih Tzu, Gizmo.
In my opinion dogs do not have allergies that cause only conjunctivitis. However, many breeds have a predisposition to keratconjunctiviits sicca (KCS) resulting in recurring conjunctivitis that may vary based on circumstances i.e. outside more in summer and spring.
Mild affected cases (STT greater than 10mm/min) will improve with almost any topical solution or ointment that supplies moisture to the cornea. Central corneal ulcers are caused by KCS and/or lagophthalmos.
In addition, all these one eyed pugs didn’t get poked in the eye. The pug is a great example of KCS with an associated lagophthalmos. As a side note, Pugs and many other brachycephalics are predisposed to so-called brachycelphalic ocular syndrome, for which many preventative measures are available. Finally, note that the Schirmer tear test is one of the must underutilized diagnostic tests when assessing canine ophthalmic concerns.
Number three – Treatment of cataracts in diabetic dogs
Referral to discuss the benefits of starting treatment for cataracts whilst diabetes is unstable vs waiting for it to be under control first, particularly with development of clinical symptoms.
Every diabetic dog deserves a thorough ocular examination immediately or at least at the first sign of cataracts. All diabetic cataracts result in some degree of phacolytic uveitis. Untreated, this develops into a severe anterior uveitis and secondary glaucoma.
The glaucoma is usually refractory to medication and require enucleation, just to make the patient comfortable. In many diabetics, relatively urgent cataract surgery, even on an emergency basis in some cases, is often recommended in order to prevent the development of glaucoma and enucleation.
Number two – Cyst or tumour?
Referral for possible enucleation in a 5 year old Golden Retriever, Shannon, with suspected ocular tumour.
Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Boston terriers have a high incidence of iris and ciliary body cysts. These appear as free floating translucent pigmented spheres in the anterior chamber or pupil margin, and could be mistaken for tumours. These cysts rupture and pigment may be deposited in the iris, lens, or cornea. The diagnosis is based on knowing the breed incidence and being able to trans-illuminate the pigmented cyst.
Number one – Preventative treatment for glaucoma
Referral of an 8 year old Cocker Spaniel, Betsy, with suspected blindness from glaucoma in remaining eye, other eye enucleated one year previously.
The list of dog breeds with primary glaucoma grows yearly. The cocker spaniel is probably the number one in incidence. I recommend any dog with primary glaucoma in one eye should be under the care of an ophthalmologist and on prophylactic treatment in the ‘normal’ eye. Enucleating the blind, painful first eye is correct, but it is just as important to perform histopathology on the enucleated eye and concentrate all efforts on trying to preserve the remaining one.
Blind dogs that are comfortable do great! If vision can’t be returned in the second eye (poor prognosis by this time), it too should be enucleated or an intraocular prosthesis placed. An intravitreal gentocin injection is also an option to discuss the pros and cons of. Veterinarian and clients do not relate the inactivity in uncontrolled glaucoma dogs to the chronic pain they suffer. After over 11 years, I am still impressed with how well blind dogs function.Back to news & events