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Filed in Dogs, Health

Glaucoma is a disease in which pressure builds in the eye, sometimes leading to blindness.

The eye is constantly producing fluid that circulates in the eye, and this fluid drains back into the bloodstream. When the fluid fails to drain properly, the pressure in the eye increases and -- if left untreated -- can damage the retina and optic nerve.

Glaucoma is typically seen in middle-aged dogs, especially cocker spaniels and terriers. The most common symptoms are changes in the eye's appearance and in the animal's behavior. Since glaucoma can be very painful, pets may begin to squint, avoid bright lights or look for places to hide. Unfortunately, sometimes there are no signs until the pressure in the animal's eye is very high and the vision already is lost.

The disease may develop over a long period of time or within a few days. Other symptoms can include reddening and inflammation of the white part of the eye, a dilated pupil, and a cloudy blue or white, milky-looking cornea. In advanced cases, the eye may bulge so much that the eyelid cannot cover the eye. This causes the cornea to dry out and ulcers may form. In cats, the only sign may be a dilated pupil and a bulging eye. They rarely show the signs of pain that are seen in dogs with glaucoma.

Nothing can prevent glaucoma, but it usually can be treated medically. Medication can be used to slow the fluid production and increase drainage from the eye. Your pet may be hospitalized for several days during treatment because the dosage of required medication is so critical. After that, the pet owner must treat the animal at home indefinitely.

Surgery often can be an alternative. Cyclocryosurgery allows the veterinarian to freeze the eye's fluid-producing tissue, which will eliminate future buildup of pressure. If the eye must be removed, it can be replaced with a false eye, so your pet will look normal.

Glaucoma is a true medical emergency. If the pressure becomes very high for even a few hours, you pet's sight may be irreversibly lost.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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