The Reality of PRA
A diagnosis of PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy is one of the worse notifications that any vet has to give to a dog owner. This condition of the eye is inherited and, unlike some genetic conditions, it is not specific to one or more breeds. Mixed breed dogs are diagnosed with the condition as well as purebreds. In addition some dogs can have no symptoms but be carriers of the genetic combination that creates the disease.
The condition impacts the retina of the eye which is responsible for controlling the amount of light that is used to form the impulses that sends images to the brain. When the retina does not properly process light either because it did not develop properly or it starts to degenerate prematurely, blindness occurs. It may start to develop very early, especially if the defect is congenital, but it is often not seen until the dog is over 5 years of age. It can be slow to develop, which may be seen as a dog’s aging process, or deteriorate more rapidly. PRA is usually found in both eyes and, unlike many conditions, the speed of the course of the disease is often very different for individual dogs.
The one blessing with this gradual loss of sight is that there is absolutely no pain. Most owners will first notice that their dog seems to have difficulty in seeing at night. They may walk into things or not want to walk into a dark room or a dark part of the yard. Over time, which will vary by dog, this diminished ability to see becomes apparent in the daylight as well. The dog may have widely dilated pupils, even in bright daylight. The dog may get around very well in familiar areas but be confused and appear to not be able so see objects when they are someplace new.
However, if you do have a dog that has PRA you can help them adjust to their ever decreasing sight. Make sure that the dog is in a secure, safe and fenced area when outside. Avoid redecorating the home or moving the furniture once your dog becomes blind as they will have a mental map of the room that allows them to move about very effectively. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when outside of the fenced yard and avoid any strange dogs or people approaching the dog.
While PRA is very sad for the owner it is not a life sentence for the dog. Dogs with PRA often have some vision for years, allowing them to have a great quality of life. Consistent routines and staying to familiar places can help your dog live a full and happy life even after full vision is lost.
If you have a dog experiencing any of these symptoms, call us or visit our website use our online appointment scheduler to make an appointment today. Some of these symptoms can also be related to other eye conditions that can be treated effectively so diagnosis is important.