Eyes: Injuries and Diseases

The same physical aspects of the Chihuahua's large, luminous eyes that make them so appealing and beautiful also make their eyes more susceptible to injury. There are also a number of eye diseases to which Chihuahuas are particularly prone. Here's how to spot some common eye problems and what to do about them.

If a Chi is experiencing severe pain in her eye, she will close the lids together very tightly. Any efforts to see why she is closing her eyes will be met with significant resistance. Don't force the issue! Get her to your veterinarian immediately.

Injuries

A sign that your Chi has something in her eye or that something has scratched or punctured the eye is the presence of the third eyelid, or nictitans (a protective membrane that is usually present over one-third to one-half of the eye when the dog is sleeping). The presence of this third eyelid when a dog is awake indicates that she is experiencing pain in her eye.

If you suspect something has gotten into her eye or that she was exposed to some kind of irritant, you can attempt to give the eyes a saline wash, using copious amounts of saline solution. Whether or not this seems to help, it is important that you take your Chi to your veterinarian immediately for a closer examination and further treatment.

Diseases

The Chihuahua is susceptible to several eye diseases, with the most prevalent being corneal dystrophy, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Corneal dystrophy appears in three different forms. The Chihuahua is prone toward one form, endothelial dystrophy, which causes a build-up of fluid in the dog's cornea, making the cornea appear cloudy or bluish and significantly decreasing the Chi's vision. Additionally, this type of corneal dystrophy can cause painful water blisters to develop that then burst and cause erosions on the dog's eye. There is no cure for this disease; however, your veterinarian can prescribe medications to limit or control the development of water blisters.

Glaucoma refers to an increased fluid pressure within the eye that damages the retina and optic nerve. It is the leading cause of blindness in Chihuahuas and dogs in general. If the rise in fluid pressure is acute, the dog may become irreversibly blind within just a few hours. A slower rise of fluid pressure can result in blindness over a period of weeks or months.

Symptoms that your Chihuahua has increased fluid pressure in her eyes include redness, pawing or rubbing of the eyes, sensitivity to light, cloudiness in the eye, and enlargement or protruding of the eye itself. Glaucoma is an emergency. If not treated immediately, blindness is a near certainty.

PRA, another eye disease found in the Chihuahua, is often referred to as night blindness. The disease usually appears in adult Chis between the ages of two to five years or older. The progression of the disease is slow and begins with the Chihuahua having difficulties navigating at night or in the dark. Gradually, the Chihuahua's vision worsens until over time she can no longer see even in strong light. There is no treatment for this disease at the time; however, the genetic testing that is available for many forms of PRA is the only promise that the genetics for this disease are not passed to another generation.

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