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A retinal hemorrhage may be the problem or it may be a symptom of a much larger underlying issue.
According to petmd.com, “Retinal hemorrhage is a condition in which the innermost lining of the eye has a local or generalized area of bleeding into that lining. The causes of retinal hemorrhage are usually genetic and breed specific.”
Retinal hemorrhages may involve one or both eyes and the age of onset depends on the ocular problem or underlying cause.
Petplace.com also reports, “Retinal hemorrhages in dogs often arise from some pathologic process either in the eye or somewhere else in the body. Therefore, in many dogs, the presence of retinal hemorrhages is often a sign of a serious underlying disease. The underlying disease may be more of a threat to the health of the dog than the actual hemorrhage.”
These breeds are more at risk than others: Shetland Sheep Dogs; Collies; Labrador Retrievers; Australian Shepherds; Sealyham Terriers; Bedlington Terriers; English Springer Spaniels and Miniature Schnauzers.
What Can Cause a Retinal Hemorrhage?
According to petmd.com, there are several factors that can contribute to the bleeding of the retina, such as the faulty development of the retina or the lubricating fluids of the eyes (vitreous humor), which is genetic. Most of the causes occur due to trauma or other issues that are related to any inherent issues, such as:
Generalized (systemic) high blood pressure or hypertension
Kidney disease or heart disease
Increased levels of thyroid hormones
Increased levels of some steroids
Exposure to some chemicals, such as paracetamol
Some fungal and bacterial infections
Some forms of cancer
Blood disorders – blood-clotting disorders anemia; hyper-viscosity of blood; etc.
According to petplace.com, “Retinal hemorrhages are frequently associated with inflammation of the retina and choroid and may be accompanied by detachment of the retina.”
Sometimes, no signs may be observed.
If your dog begins to show several of these symptoms, you must take him to the vet or emergency animal hospital immediately:
Vision loss/blindness, demonstrated by bumping into objects
Bleeding in other body parts – small bruises throughout the body
Blood in urine or feces
Pupil may not contract when bright light is shone in the eyes
If blood from the back of the eye moves forward or eye becomes inflamed
How is a Retinal Hemorrhage Diagnosed?
According to petplace.com, “A thorough ophthalmic examination is indicated. Some retinal hemorrhages are obvious, while others can be difficult to see. Your veterinarian may refer your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further evaluation using specialized instrumentation. Once retinal hemorrhages are diagnosed in your dog, an extensive search is often required to identify any underlying diseases”
Tests to be considered include the following:
Measure of arterial blood pressure
Thyroid hormone assays
Blood clotting tests
Adrenal hormone assays
X-rays of the chest and abdomen
Blood tests for infectious diseases
Possibly a heart and/or abdominal ultrasound
Petmd.com states, “The physical exam will entail a full ophthalmic exam using a slit lamp microscope. During this exam, the retina at the back of the eye will be closely observed for abnormalities. The electrical activity of the retina will also be measured. An ultrasound of the eye may also be done if the retina cannot be visualized due to hemorrhaging.”
“Samples of vitreous humor (eye fluid) may be taken for laboratory analysis. Genetic testing may also be done if your dog belongs to a breed that is prone to familial retinal disease.”
According to Petmd.com, “Patients with retinal hemorrhage are usually hospitalized and given close care by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications depending on the underlying cause of disease. Surgery can sometimes be performed to reattach the retina to the choroid coat.”
“Keep him from excessively pawing or rubbing at the affected eye. An Elizabethan collar works well in ensuring that the dog does not touch the injured eye. It is important that one does not administer human eye medications to the dog as it could cause further irritation,” suggests pethealthandcare.com.
Be sure to schedule frequent follow-up appointments with your vet for your dog to chart the deterioration or progress of their eye condition. If your dog does become blind due to an underlying cause such as retinal detachment, remember that once the cause is under control, your dog’s eye will no longer cause him discomfort.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.