Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in Dogs
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Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in Dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Luckily, optic nerve hypoplasia only appears to affect certain breeds. With this said, any dog can develop the condition, but fortunately it is a very rare neurological disorder where either one or both of a dog's optic nerves do not develop as they should. What is known is that there is a genetic link in some breeds. Owners very often do not notice anything wrong with their pet's vision because some dogs are only slightly affected by the fact they have developed optic nerve hypoplasia.

The Causes

Optic nerves are found at the back of a dog's eyes and they form a direct link to a dog’s brain. They are essential for dogs and other living things because it enables them to see. When this link is negatively impacted in any way which includes not having developed properly, it can lead to a dog having impaired vision and in a worst-case scenario, it could result in total blindness in one or both eyes is they are affected by the condition. In certain instances, a dog's eyes are otherwise perfectly normal, but in other dogs, their eyes can be malformed in several ways. However, in all cases, a dog's optic nerves tend to be that much smaller than normal and as such they contain much fewer nerve axons.

Breeds Most at Risk

As previously mentioned, some breeds appear to be more predisposed to inheriting this eye disorder than others, but apart from knowing there exists a genetic link, why some breeds are more prone to optic nerve hypoplasia remains unknown and is not very well understood. Where there is a genetic link, the breeds that appear to be the most predisposed to inheriting optic nerve hypoplasia include the following:

  • Poodle
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Miniature Pinscher

Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Vets usually discover a dog is suffering from optic nerve hypoplasia quite by accident when examining them for other eye disorders that affect their vision. The signs of there being something wrong with a dog's eye sight could include the following:

  • Impaired vision in one or both eyes
  • Dilated pupils in affected eyes
  • Eyes fail to respond to light as they should

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would typically refer a dog suspected of suffering from optic nerve hypoplasia to an ophthalmologist. The tests that would be carried out could well include the following:

  • A fundoscopic examination which involves looking at the backs of a dog's eyes through a specialist lens which would determine the size of a dog’s optic nerves

Dogs born with the condition are usually totally blind right from birth which in short, means their condition is typically quickly diagnosed soon after they are born.

Treatment Options

Sadly, no treatments are available for dogs that suffer from optic nerve hypoplasia which means it is just a question of managing the condition and should a dog lose their eyesight, their other senses become more acute which helps them manage well even though they are blind.

Preventing the Condition

Any dogs known to suffer from the condition should not be used in any sort of breeding programme as this is the only way of reducing the risks of their offspring being born with optic nerve hypoplasia.

Living with a Dog with the Condition

As previously mentioned there is no cure or treatment available for dogs with the condition. However, should a dog be born with optic nerve hypoplasia and they are either born blind or lose their eyesight further down the line, their other senses more than make up for the fact they cannot see which means dogs can cope very well.

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