Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of diseases that cause the retina of your dog's eye to degenerate over time. The consequence is declination vision and extremely blindness. Granted, that's not good news However, nature is a amazing! The majority of affected dogs adjust quite nicely to their situation.
Both parents must have the PRA gene for their offspring to be affected. If only one parent carries the PVA gene, their offspring will be carriers of the PRA gene. The disease will re-surface, when any of those offspring mate with another PRA carrier.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a progressive, degenerative disease, where your dog will gradually lose its sight. It affects the retina, the light sensitive area in the rear of your dog's eye.
This disease requires a veterinary ophthalmologist. Your regular veterinarian can refer you to a specialist.
The earliest stages can not be diagnosed through a routine ophthalmic examination. However, there are DNA tests recently available; regrettably not for all high-risk breeds. Speak with your veterinarian; the DNA testing procedure for other breeds is progressing rapidly.
Once the disease has progressed, it can be diagnosed through a thorough ophthalmic examination. In later stages of PRA examining the retina with indirect ophthalmoscopy can help the veterinary ophthalmologist reach their diagnosis.
An electroretinogram (ERG) is an additional test that can be done, once the disease has advanced. It measures the electrical response of the retina to a known amount of targeted light stimulation.
If breeding your high-risk dog is your plan; you may want to have your dog certified. When a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist can not find any abnormalities, the dog can be certified free of heritable eye disease through the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
Signs to watch for:
Night blindness – Dog visits going from a lit area into darkness.
Hesitates going down stairs
Hesitates in dark hallways
Hesitates going into dark rooms
Hesitates jumping ie. out of a vehicle … especially at night
Bumps into things
Gradually dog has problems dimly lit areas
Sometimes dog's daytime vision will deteriorate
In some breeds, the first signs of night blindness can appear as early as 6-weeks of age. Complete blindness may result by the age of 1 or 2.
For other breeds, night blindness appears between 2-5 years of age. It progresses to total blindness in approximately one year. At first, peripheral vision is lost.
At this time, there is no cure for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). However, since the disease progresses slowly, most dogs do adjust to their disability.
NOTE: Responsible owners spay or neuter their affected pets. Breeding carriers of the PRA gene only perpetuates the disease.
Breeds Predisposed to PRA include, but are not limited to:
American Cocker Spaniel
American Eskimo Dog *
Australian Cattle Dog
Cardigan Welsh Corgi *
Chinese Crested *
Chesapeake Bay Retriever *
English Cocker Spaniel *
English Springer Spaniel *
Irish Setter *
Jack Russell Terrier
Labrador Retriever *
Miniature Poodle *
Miniature Schnauzer *
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Old English Sheepdog
Portuguese Water Dog *
Siberian Husky *
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
Standard Poodle *
Toy Poodles *
Welsh Springer Spaniel
* DNA test available
Bottom line: One way to help your dog if they are a victim of PRA … do not move the furniture around too much!