Almost every breed of dog has some eye disease that is genetic or suspected to be genetic. Some breeds have a very low incidence of eye problems, while others have a high incidence. A caring and intelligent breeder should be aware of all the genetic diseases that exist in their breed.
The age of onset of the disease is an important factor in determining how easy it is to eliminate certain inherited eye diseases. Retinal dysplasia or eye anomaly, for example, are both present at birth. They can be detected at 6 to 8 weeks of age. But some cataracts or retinal degenerations may not appear until as late as 4 to 10 years of age. This is why annual eye examination of breeding stock is critical to eliminate these diseases.
Clear for Life?
Tragedies occur when a breeder treats a clear eye examination at two years of age as clear for life. Years later they find that the animal has developed cataracts and has passed that gene on to some of the offspring.
Type of inheritance also plays a huge part in the success of eliminating genetic eye problems.
In some breeds, the incidence of eye disease has become so high that people have come to accept surgical correction of the problem as a part of owning the breed. An example of this is the Shar Pei, in which puppies usually require surgical intervention at an early age to prevent permanent vision problems or even loss of the eye due to severe entropion (lids rolling into the eye).
Honesty is Important
Caring breeders should be honest and sincere about trying to breed away from eye problems by keeing good records, using only clear individuals for breeding, and sterilizing affected individuals.
Whenever there is a small gene pool to work from, for more exotic breeds of dogs, it is even more important to have breeding stock screened annually. The smaller the gene pool, the more readily a recessive gene can gain a hold in the breed.
People who buy purebred dogs need to apply more pressure on breeders and pet stores by asking them about genetic problems in their dogs. They should ask to see evidence that the parents have been screened clear for problems inherent to the breed. (And not just eye problems!) Anyone who has purchased a dog that has gone blind from genetic cataracts or retinal disease, or someone who has had to pay for sophisticated and expensive eye surgery will remember to check this out in subsequent purchases.
By the planned breeding of selected individuals in purebred dogs we have circumvented survival of the fittest that serves to protect animals in the wild. Breeders must remember that they are producing companion animals for people who will become emotionally attached to their dogs. We must do all we can to provide these owners with healthy and sound animals. Buyers must remember to use their head, not their heart, and to make informed choices when buying a dog.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Pannus (Chronic superficial keratitis)
Article submitted by: © ©Richard Christmas, D.V.M.
Article courtesy of Pet360