Treatment of Glaucoma in Pets
by Ron Kurtus (revised 2 February 2014)
If a pet is diagnosed to have glaucoma, immediate treatment is necessary to prevent the animal from going blind. Usually medication is given to the pet in the form of drops and/or pills. In some cases, special surgical procedures can reduce the fluid pressure in the eye.
In cases of severe or chronic glaucoma, the eye can become permanently blinded and also can be quite painful to the animal. In such cases, surgery is recommended to relieve the pain.
Questions you may have include:
- What sort of medication is used to treat glaucoma in animals?
- What types of surgery can reduce glaucoma?
- What types of surgery can relieve the pain of a blind eye?
This lesson will answer those questions. Animal Health Disclaimer
The medication used in animals such as dogs and cats that suffer from glaucoma is the same as prescribed for human glaucoma patients. Unfortunately, that also makes the medication more costly, as compared with medications specifically for animals.
Pills and drops
Examples of such medications include such eye drops as Timolol, as well as Methazolamide pills. There are a number of other, similar medications that a veterinarian may prescribe, depending on the animal and condition.
Although medical therapy for humans can be very effective for long-term control of glaucoma, it seems that it is only a short term solution from animals. Estimates are about a maximum of three years before the medication becomes ineffective.
The short length of effectiveness of medical treatment of glaucoma in animals is one argument for medication management, where the smallest dosage possible is used to control the condition. In this way, the patient does not become "immune" to the medication as fast. Such management may not be practical or possible with a pet, but it is a concept worth considering.
Surgery to reduce pressure
Laser surgery and cryosurgery are two methods to try to reduce the fluid pressure from glaucoma, if medication therapy is becoming ineffective.
Laser treatment of the eye can be performed to reduce fluid production within the eye. The laser burns through the white area of the eye to kill small areas of the cliliary body to reduce fluid production in the eye. Sometimes the procedure must be repeated, if not enough of the ciliary body has been damaged.
Another method involves freezing the ciliary body with a a small probe placed on the outside of the eye. After the surgery, there is considerable swelling to the eye, which actually may cause blindness. Cryosurgery may be more of a last resort to save the animal's vision than the recommended method.
Surgery for blind eye
When medications or other treatments no longer control the glaucoma, and if the glaucomatous eye is blind and painful, then surgery should be performed to treat the glaucoma and prevent further pain to your pet.
Surgical options for the treatment of a blind and painful glaucoma eye are removal of the eye, prosthesis surgery, and chemical injection.
Symptoms of pain
Some symptoms of pain are that your pet rubs its eye, squints or tears excessively, or cries out if the eye is bumped. The pet may act depressed and exhibit personality changes, such as sleeping than usual or acting continually sluggish. Often people may simply think that these personality changes are due to their pet "getting older."
Vets claim that they observe a marked improvement in a pet's attitude when its glaucoma is eliminated.
Removal of the eye
Removal of a painful blind eye is the best assurance that the pet will be comfortable after surgery and will no longer need treatment in the affected eye.
Some people object to such surgery, because it changes the appearance of the pet. A silicone implant can be placed in the empty eye socket at the time of surgery, making the result slightly more cosmetic.
It is preferable to have the surgery done by a veterinarian specializing in eye problems and familiar with the procedure. If necessary, a general vet may be able to effectively perform the operation.
For people who are concerned about the animal's appearance and do not want the affected eye removed, then intraocular prosthesis surgery can be performed. The structures within the eye are removed and a silicone prosthesis or implant is then placed inside the eye. The implant is permanent and never needs to be removed for cleaning.
After several months the eye will look somewhat normal, although the final cosmetic appearance of the eye is variable. Animals that have dry eye, severe corneal disease, or eye tumors are not candidates for intraocular prosthesis surgery.
Chemical injection of the eye is the most economical procedure and is also preferable for patients that cannot safely undergo prolonged anesthesia. With this procedure, an antibiotic is injected in the eye that will markedly reduce or stop fluid production within the eye. This procedure usually results in gradual shrinking of the affected eye over a period of several months.
Injection of the eye is not recommended for cats.
A pet with glaucoma should have immediate treatment is to prevent blindness. Usually treatment consists of drops and/or pills, but it is only a short-term cure. In some cases, special surgical procedures can reduce the fluid pressure in the eye. In cases where the animal is blind and the eye is painful surgery is recommended to relieve the pain.
Positive thoughts can comfort your pet
Resources and references
Navigation for a Blind Dog - Helping blind dog navigate house
Lecture Notes: Update on Veterinary Ophthalmology - Excellent overview of Glaucoma from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Glaucoma in Dogs & Cats - NaturalEyeCare.com
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Treatment of Glaucoma in Pets