Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs

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Retinal dysplasia in dogs can be defined as the abnormal development of the retina. It affects a number of breeds, although it is less common compared to other eye conditions.

In today’s post, we’re looking at everything that this disease entails, from the types that can affect our canine friends to what it is caused by, how it manifests clinically, how it’s treated, and what the prognosis is. Keep on reading to find out more about it.

Does Retinal Dysplasia Affect Certain Dog Breeds?

The short answer to this question is yes. Retinal dysplasia is commonly encountered in the following dog breeds:

  • Springer spaniels
  • Golden retrievers
  • Labradors
  • Cavaliers
  • Beagles
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Akitas
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Rottweilers

The disease is also more common in Afghan hounds and Old English sheepdogs. Most vets suspect that these breeds have a genetic predisposition to retinal dysplasia. If you want to get your puppy from a responsible breeder, make sure to ask them what the dog’s parents’ health is like and if they can supply a Canine Eye Health Certificate from a vet (dated in the past 12 months).

Clinical Signs

While there are many dogs that never end up showing any symptoms of retinal dysplasia, some might have their vision affected.

As you might know, even when their sight is affected in one eye, some dogs might not give the impression that they have any problem whatsoever. But others might be a little reluctant when performing some moves or even when running in the park. Some dogs might be a little clumsy or get a bit scared of things that don’t exist (because they don’t see well anymore).

It’s not uncommon for dogs to bump into items around the house or even not want to go up or down the stairs. Some pets might not recognize people, although they can use their sense of smell to tell their owners from other individuals.

Although this is not a symptom that shows up in all of the cases, some pet parents might notice that their dog’s eyes don’t look the same in terms of color and even opacity.

Finally, most dogs that have problems with their vision will experience a number of behavioral modifications, too. This happens because they are beginning to feel unsure of themselves.

Are There Different Types of Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs?

Yes. To date, there are several types of retinal dysplasia that affect our canine friends. They are all listed below.

  • Focal retinal dysplasia
  • Multifocal retinal dysplasia
  • Complete retinal dysplasia
  • Geographic retinal dysplasia

Focal and multifocal retinal dysplasia involve only certain areas of the retina being affected. Geographical retinal dysplasia is characterized by the presence of a larger blindness spot (hyper or hypo-reflectivity), and it can usually be found in the center of the retina.

Complete retinal dysplasia involves full retinal detachment, in which case the dog completely loses their sight in the affected eye.

What’s interesting about this condition is that its types appear differently in different breeds. For example, Bedlington terriers and Sealyham terriers have a higher chance of being diagnosed with complete retinal dysplasia than with any other form.

Labrador retrievers can develop any type, and so can Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

What Causes Retinal Dysplasia in Dogs?

There are several factors that lead to the development or diagnosis of this disease in dogs. The first is genetic, meaning that a puppy can, unfortunately, inherit this condition from their parents.

However, as is the case in other animals, dogs that have contracted some types of infections are more likely to develop the disease as they grow. Whether they get the infection in their mother’s womb and they are born with retinal dysplasia, or they become infected right after being born, puppies that are infected with Canine Adenovirus, Canine Parvovirus, and Canine Herpesvirus are statistically more likely to develop this condition.

The same rule applies to other species. Cats can develop retinal dysplasia after being infected with FeLV and Feline Panleukopenia either inside their mother’s womb or when they are very young.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A simple eye exam using an ophthalmoscope is, more often than not, simply enough for a clear diagnosis of retinal dysplasia in dogs. Puppies are usually diagnosed with the condition, and what we mean by this is that the disease had no chance of leading to other complications, such as retinal detachment or cataracts.

Diagnosing the exact cause of your dog’s eye health problems can be a little more difficult when there are several different conditions affecting their sight.

As for the treatment, we’re disappointed to report that this condition cannot be treated at this time. Despite the amount of research that has been performed in the past years, a dog that has retinal dysplasia will eventually lose their sight, or it will at least worsen progressively.

The best way to prevent this disease from affecting any dogs is to avoid using any that are showing eye health issues for breeding. This is precisely the reason for which we recommended asking your dog breeder for a certificate for the eye health of your future puppy’s parents.


Although it might be heartbreaking to know that your dog will eventually lose their sight, the truth is that you can make their life a lot better. Look for information online and on forums where other dog parents go and talk about the changes they have made to their living space so as to accommodate their sight-deficient canine friend’s needs.

If your dog is otherwise perfectly healthy and their vision is the only thing that has been affected, they still have a good chance of living a life that’s very close to normal.



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