What could have caused my dog to suddenly go blind?

Original Question: The dog was an active healthy dog up until Saturday. She went to a new groomer on Friday and on Saturday she was not herself and would not climb the stairs and was bumping into everything. Now she is blind. The vet says she may have retina detachment. How could this happen? - Crystal

What could have caused my dog to suddenly go blind? Oct 13, 2018

Hi Crystal,

Thanks for submitting your question.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re faced with this situation. I can appreciate how concerning and frightening it is.

The small amount of information in your question suggests that your dog has lost vision and that this occurred abruptly. I have a few thoughts on this, the possible causes and some advice on the next course of action. Here are some possible causes, diagnostic steps and features of acute blindness.

  • Detached retina is a condition where the retinas, or sensory receptors in the eye, detach from the back of the orbit and lose their ability to properly sense light or visual stimulation. If it happens acutely as your question suggests, it could occur from trauma. It can also occur due to high blood pressure from a sustained cardiac condition. I would recommend that you visit a veterinary ophthalmologist so they can examine the inside of the orbit and confirm the diagnosis. If it is indeed a detached retina, before assuming it is due to trauma, I would perform some cardiac testing such as allowing your veterinarian to auscultate the heart (listen for abnormalities such as murmurs), perform blood pressure testing to investigate the possibility of hypertension (or high blood pressure), chest X-rays to assess the appearance and shape of your dog’s heart, and any other tests they recommend to evaluate the state and function of your pet’s cardiac system. If these tests are negative, trauma is a possible cause but it is hard to confirm. When dogs visit a new environment or interact with other dogs, it can result in overexcitement and excessive physical play. This can lead to a physical event that could cause traumatic retinal detachment but it is quite rare. I would have a veterinary ophthalmologist weigh in on this possibility and diagnosis as a next step. Detached retinas have been known to spontaneously reattach and subsequently improve vision, but there are also treatment procedures that can create this effect.
  • Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disease that can cause cataracts to form in the lens of the eye which would obscure vision. It is more common for this to occur slowly over time but on less frequent occasions, the development of cataracts can occur rapidly within days. If this is occurring, most veterinarians will be able to identify cataracts on a routine examination of the eyes with an ophthalmoscope. There are also blood tests that can confirm if this disease is present by performing a blood glucose test, urine glucose test, or fructosamine blood test. If it is confirmed, your veterinarian can advise you on the treatment and monitoring of this condition. If you achieve an appropriate level of control of this disease process, it can halt or reduce the speed of cataract development, but it doesn’t tend to reverse the lesions that are already present causing vision loss. A treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the ocular lens which tends to be a specialized procedure that only ophthalmologists can offer.
  • There are other causes of acute blindness that are much less frequent. They include infections that migrate to the ocular orbit, retrobulbar (or behind the eye socket) infections that create a swelling beyond the eye and put pressure on the optic nerve impairing it’s function, retrobulbar masses that have the same effect, acute glaucoma or elevated pressure within the eye creating similar pressure on the optic nerve, infections that cause inflammation and scarring of the cornea or top layer of the eyeball obscuring vision, to name a few.

Hopefully this helps in giving you some direction to start addressing this problem. Good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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