Published: 11/02/2015 12:46:27
AHT glaucoma research aims to stop dogs like Taffy losing their eyes
This is Taffy. Sadly, Taffy lost his left eye due to inherited glaucoma. An otherwise fit and healthy seven-year-old Golden Retriever, Taffy has always been an active gun and agility dog. But one evening he suddenly became unsettled and sensitive to light. The next day he was diagnosed with glaucoma.
Taffy was immediately referred to the Animal Health Trust to see an expert ophthalmologist, James Oliver. James performed a full eye examination, including gonioscopy, which confirmed that Taffy had acute glaucoma in his left eye. The gonioscopy also showed that Taffy had an inherited abnormality of the eyes called goniodysgenesis, a prerequisite for primary glaucoma, which indicated that the glaucoma was therefore inherited and not the result of an injury, infection or tumour. Because of this, Taffy is also at risk of developing glaucoma in his right eye, and becoming completely blind.
Research to prevent canine glaucoma
Primary glaucoma, linked to the inherited eye abnormality goniodysgenesis, is a problem which affects an estimated 1,500 dogs each year; with the majority having to have both eyes removed. The AHT wants to try and prevent this from happening. We have started a new project, with generous funding from Dogs Trust, to better understand this condition, which breeds are affected, and the genetics involved.
By collecting DNA samples from dogs diagnosed with glaucoma, dogs diagnosed with goniodysgenesis and dogs over the age of five clear of goniodysgenesis, geneticists at the AHT hope to make significant steps towards identifying the mutation(s) responsible for goniodysgenesis and developing a DNA test to identify which dogs might be at risk of developing glaucoma and of passing those genes on to their offspring. More information on this research and the breeds affected is available here.
James Oliver said: “It’s heart-breaking to see so many dogs like Taffy go blind due to this sudden and aggressive form of glaucoma. There is a lot of research ahead of us but, with enough support from dog owners and breeders, we hope to be able to make a difference and develop a simple DNA test which could quickly identify which dogs possess the genetic abnormality responsible for this condition.
“Most of the breeds we’re investigating are on the BVA/KC/ISDS eye scheme for hereditary eye diseases which advises screening for goniodysgenesis before breeding. However, we’ve learnt that goniodysgenesis can be progressive with age, so screening a young dog may not be conclusive enough. That’s why a genetic test would be ideal and would have a much greater impact on reducing the number of dogs affected by glaucoma in the future.”
When treating Taffy James Oliver tried everything he could to save his eye. However, as is common in most glaucoma cases James sees at the AHT, the glaucoma proved unresponsive to treatment and so the decision was taken to relieve Taffy of his pain and remove the now blind eye. Glaucoma strikes extremely quickly. Taffy had the surgery and returned home just a few days after being diagnosed with glaucoma.
Barbra Warren, Taffy’s owner, spoke of her experience: “I had no idea that dogs could get glaucoma or that it was an inherited condition in Golden Retrievers. Taffy is of a very high pedigree and an excellent dog. I went through all the normal checks with him for hip and elbow dysplasia but something like glaucoma never crossed my mind. So it was a shock when the vet told me Taffy had glaucoma.
“Naturally I was quite worried at the thought of Taffy losing the eye but James Oliver assured me that Taffy could live just as happy a life with one eye, and he is. The few days he was in pain from the glaucoma he was like a different dog –he wasn’t wagging his tail anymore, which normally never stays still – and he just seemed so miserable. But immediately after having the operation his tail was wagging again and he looked so relieved. I knew I’d done the right thing.
“I am concerned that there is a high risk that Taffy will get glaucoma in his other eye, and then he will be completely blind, but I try not to think about that too much and hope he has his sight for as long as possible. He’s such an intelligent dog, and has even won an agility competition at my local dog training club since losing the eye! I’m really pleased to know that the Animal Health Trust is trying to do something about this and that one day there might be hope that fewer dogs will suffer from glaucoma like Taffy has.
“I would urge anyone concerned about glaucoma in their dog to find out how they can help with the AHT’s research as they need as many samples as possible from healthy and affected dogs in order to try and develop a DNA test.”
Support the Gift of Sight Appeal
If you would like to support the AHT’s research to fight canine glaucoma you can make a donation to the Gift of Sight Appeal. Please give whatever you can. Your support could help us to find answers sooner and help prevent more dogs like Taffy from suffering from glaucoma.
Spending your money wisely
From every £1 you give
us we spend 93p
fighting disease and
injury in animals.
We use the remaining 7p
to raise the next £1.