The Eyes Have It – Eye Diseases in Dachshunds

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) currently separates eye diseases into two categories; Schedule A – inherited disease and Schedule B – possibly inherited diseases. For Further information on the diseases affecting dachshunds in these categories please see the notes at the end of this article. Whilst there are many eye diseases which affect dogs including dachshunds, there is also readily available information on these conditions.

 

In the UK information on hereditary diseases is collected when dogs are taken to the vet for pre-breeding health checks. Checks for congenital eye issues are done at this point. The UK Kennel Club also publishes a list of breeding dachshunds tested for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), see link below:

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/233537/minshdachspraclears.pdf

 

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists regularly produces and booklet entitled, “Ocular Disorders That Are Presumed to Be Inherited in Purebred Dogs”. There are several conditions of varying severity listed in the publication. For further information see link below:

http://acvo.org/new/include_common/Blue%20Book%202013%20Sixth%20Edition.pdf

Whilst there may be several eye diseases which affect dachshunds, I have chosen to focus on the most common or better known which I have detailed below. 

 

Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA)

GPRA is a genetic defect which causes continuing damage to photoreceptors in the retina. The disease is not painful but leads to reduced vision resulting in blindness. The condition can start either early in life (early onset) or when the dog is several years old (late onset). The earliest symptom of this disease is night blindness.

Currently there is a commercially available DNA test relating to one gene mutation found in miniature long haired dachshunds. This test is called the Cord 1 – PRA test. The results of this test are split into three categories: 

Clear of cord 1 genetic mutation – this means the dog does not carry the defective gene and will not pass it on 

Carrier of cord 1 genetic mutation – both normal and mutated genes present. The dog carried a 50% chance of passing on the mutated gene

Two copies of cord 1 genetic mutation – the dog will display symptoms and will always pass on a copy of the defective gene to offspring

Further research is ongoing into this and other mutations. Detection is carried out through a physical examination of the eye. Changes to the eye need to be present in order for the disorder to be detected. Symptomless carriers cannot be identified. Breeding dogs are regularly checked for this reason. Sadly there is no treatment for GPRA.

 

Persistent Pupillary Membranes

These structures found in the eye are left over blood vessels from when the dog was an embryo. As the eye develops these vessels lose their function as the structure of the eye changes. If this development is disturbed then some of these structures, which look like tiny brown fibres in the eye, may remain. This process may take several months. Mild forms of PPM are common and cause no vision problems. However changes can be serious and can result in cloudy eyes which can lead to impaired vision. Diagnosis is usually after the dog has reached 2-3 months of age and is usually done by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Occasionally the condition will resolve itself with no intervetion. The severity of the condition often depends upon which part of the eye is affected. The lens of the eye is generally less of a serious problem. If the lens becomes cloudy due to the presence of the membranes then often it will not worsen and is treated as a cataract and the lens can be removed. However if the cornea is the affected part of the eye the outlook is less favourable. The condition of the cornea will worsen and result in eventual blindness. 

 

Optic Nerve Hypoplasia

Underdevelopment of the nerve that connects the brain to the eye. In the worst cases these nerves are completely absent. This is a condition that affected dogs are born with and can mean visual impairment and blindness. Unfortunately there is no treatment for this condition.

 

Distichiasis

Distichiasis is a common condition in dachshunds which can cause a great deal of discomfort and pain from abnormal eyelashes which grow inwards towards the eye. Affected dogs may squint or rub their eyes. Excess tears are also a common symptom. The vision of the dog is unaffected; however treatment to remove the abnormal eyelashes is needed. This can be done by either freezing or burning the eyelash at its root. In very mild cases a lubricating gel can be applied to the eye.

DNA testing for such conditions allows vets and responsible breeders to predict the development of diseases and other issues and also to determine whether dogs are carriers of recessive genes in the case of recessive inheritance. This process when conducted properly allows the reduction of inherited disease. 

Whilst DNA testing is a good diagnostic tool, physical examination of the eyes is also important, especially in breeding dogs. Physical examination of the eye will also help determine overall eye health which DNA testing cannot do. 

As many of the eye conditions which affect dachshunds are hereditary or have a hereditary element it is important to emphasis the vital nature of responsible breeding in order to minimise the risk of eye issues in future generations. Sadly irresponsible breeders often breed incompatible dogs in order to attempt to create rare and desirable colourings.

Notes:

British Veterinary Association schedule of dachshund eye disease.

Schedule A    GPRA in miniature long haired dachshunds

Schedule B Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in miniature long haired dachshunds

        Persistent Pupillary Membranes in miniature wire haired dachshund

        GPRA in miniature smooth haired dachshunds

Phoebe Foo

Northern (UK) Editor

17th August 2017

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© Diana Bailey