The retina is made up of tissues that surface the eyes. It is a sensitive part of the eye which functions as a brain’s camera, conveying images via rods and cones thereby enabling visual experience. It is a part of the central nervous system, and the degeneration or the decline of its functioning would lead to impaired vision, or worse, blindness.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is one of the many forms of retinal degeneration that also affects dogs. This disease encompasses many other disease types that progress over time and cause blindness. The retinas work the way that camera films work. It is responsible for receiving light and forming it into images that are sent to the optic nerve and then interpreted by the brain. If the dog has a PRA, its retina declines in function and degenerates progressively. In this case, both eyes are affected.
PRA has different forms and each one varies in its occurrence and at the rate which it progresses. In some cases, there may be early onset and rapid progression or late onset and slow progression. PRA occurs on different dog breeds including the Labrador Retrievers.
Causes of Progressive Retinal Atrophy
The PRA is hereditary in nature and so it could be an inherited disease passed down to the offspring from the parents. At present, there is a test that allows breeders to determine if a Labrador is free or is not a carrier of this disease.
The first few signs of the presence of PRA in dogs include night blindness. Owners may notice that their Labradors do not seem to like walking down dark places such as hallways, staircases or anywhere at night. Through time, PRA may progress and daytime vision will also be affected. Dog owners may also notice dilation or enlargement of pupils which indicates the dog’s attempt to receive more light to be reflected on the back of the eye. There are also rare cases where Labradors develop cataracts, but are not necessarily the cause of blindness. There is no pain from having PRA and most of the time, owners do not even realize that their Labradors are having eye problems unless they are brought out of the house.
A diagnosis of PRA is done by conducting eye examinations to determine changes in the eye characteristics. There will also be an electroretinography to measure the electrical response activity in the retina and to identify if it is properly functioning.
At present, there is no known treatment for PRA but there are genetic tests to help breeders identify the presence of the disease in dogs and therefore preventing it from spreading. These genetic tests are helpful especially because most cases of PRA are not apparent until the Labrador reaches 5 to 7 years old. So with the use of genetic tests, breeders are able to properly screen dogs for the breeding program.
Living with Labradors
Because PRA is a progressive disease, dogs are able to prepare and adjust with their vision until such time that they are not able to see well. However, blind Labradors are still able to live normal lives despite the blindness. As the owner, you can redesign your home in such a way that it is easier for your Labrador to be familiar with the layout of the house. When furniture are placed everywhere in the house, they may run into them and cause accidents. In addition, when taking your dog to a new place, walk with them around to give them a feel of what the area is like and so they know the boundaries. These will help your dog adjust to their blin