Retinal Detachment in Cats or Dogs

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The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye. When it becomes detached from the tissue supporting it, a very serious situation exists. It is extremely important to get your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect he is having vision problems.

There are several factors that can cause this disorder.

Some of the most common include:

  • Injuries to the face or eye
  • Diabetes
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure (especially in cats)
  • Hyperthyroidism (in cats)
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Poisoning
  • Cataracts or cataract surgery
  • Genetics
  • Poor blood clotting

The most serious symptom of a retinal detachment is reduced vision or, in some instances, blindness. The severity of your pet’s ability to see is directly related to the seriousness of how detached her retina is, or if it impacts both eyes. Other symptoms include dilated pupils (when the eye shows no response to changes in light), discoloration of the white of the eye, or leaking of the eye and clumsiness due to your pet’s inability to see well.

Your veterinarian will perform a complete history and physical examination, including a thorough ophthalmic examination. They may also refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for additional evaluation. In addition to providing a thorough examination of your pet, your veterinarian may recommend tests to identify the underlying cause.

These may include:

  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to screen for infection, inflammation, anemia, and other blood-related conditions
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your pet isn’t suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
  • Screening tests to rule out infectious disease
  • Cultures, PCR testing, and other specialized tests, which can identify if specific parasites or diseases could be the cause
  • X-rays of the chest and abdomen to look for abnormalities
  • A fecal test to rule out fecal parasites
  • A thyroid test to determine if the thyroid gland is producing too little (in dogs) or too much (in cats) thyroid hormone.
  • Blood pressure measurement

It is important to begin treatment as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the eye or permanent blindness. Treatment can include medications and/or surgery. It will depend on the underlying cause of the detachment, the severity of the condition, and your pet’s overall health.

While you may not be able to prevent this condition, by being a diligent pet owner and carefully checking your compadre regularly for anything out of place, you will help catch problems in their earliest stages!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Eye Disorders

Dog's eyes can be so expressive, showing excitement, sadness, apprehension. When there are disorders of the eyes, the dog not only has impaired sight, but impaired ability to communicate. Any disease of the eye should be considered serious and treated promptly under your veterinarian's supervision.

On many lightcolored dogs, especially miniature and toy breeds, we may see a brown or pink stain on the skin and hair below the inside corner of the eye. We can also see these tear stains in cats, most commonly in Persians. In both dogs and cats, this is a common cosmetic problem caused by an overflow of tears onto the cheeks. The color change of the hair and skin occurs when the normal bacteria on the hair and skin react with the clear tears.

In normal animals, tears are constantly produced and drain out through small ducts in the eyelids. The ducts empty into the nose. (That's why your nose runs when you cry.) In animals with blocked ducts, the tears overflow the lids and run down the face.

There are several causes of the overflow of tears. Miniature breeds and Persians often have more prominent eyes. This stretches the eyelid and may cut off the drainage system. This is the most common cause and there is little we can do to correct it. Some animals are born with an abnormal drainage system that may or may not be surgically correctable. Sometimes the eyelids turn inward and block the drainage. This is also surgically correctable.

Hair can act like a wick, drawing the tears out of the eye. This can be corrected by removing the offending hair. In some cases, tear overflow may be due to excessive tear formation caused by irritation of the eye by a particle of something in the eye, an allergy, or an abnormal eyelid or eyelash which turns inward and rubs against the surface of the eye. Inflammation or ulcers of the surface of the eye (cornea), or inflammation of the duct system is also a cause. These conditions, which are often painful, need to be seen immediately by your veterinarian.

Since the tear accumulation on the facial hair can also lead to matting of the hair, skin irritation and possible infection, you must keep this area clean. Trimming the hair below the eye will help. Clean the area and remove any accumulated material or crusts. If a skin lesion is seen, clip the hair closer, and after cleaning the area it may help to apply an antibiotic ointment it is best to use an ophthalmic (eye) antibiotic ointment on skin this close to the eye. If the lesion is large, deep, or ulcerated, or if you have any question about the severity of the lesion, you should see your veterinarian. More severe cases may require oral antibiotics and other treatment measures.

There are products available which are used to remove the brown stain from the hair. These products can be irritating to the eye. They should NOT be used directly in the eye. If necessary, to protect the eye, apply an ophthalmic ointment to the eye prior to using these products.

To help maintain healthy eyes in your pet, check the eyes on a regular basis, keep the area around them clean, and when in the car, roll the window high enough to prevent your pet from getting his head out of the window. Because your pet's eyes are so important, consult your veterinarian if you suspect any type of eye infection or problem.

Nuclear Sclerosis in Dogs

As dogs age, some cloudiness is normal. “Most dogs, with age, develop a haze within the lens similar to cataracts, called nuclear sclerosis,” says veterinary ophthalmologist Martin Coster, DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (DACVO). “Unlike cataracts,” Coster says, “this condition rarely causes vision impairment. However, focusing ability may become impaired.”

It is easy to confuse cataracts and nuclear sclerosis. Both conditions cause the lens to appear cloudy, but there are a few differences. Nuclear sclerosis usually gives your dog’s eyes a cloudy, bluish discoloration, unlike cataracts, which are white and opaque.

More important, nuclear sclerosis (also called lenticular sclerosis) does not significantly diminish your dog’s vision the way cataracts do. It tends to affect both eyes at the same time. The two conditions look different when your veterinarian examines your dog’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope.

Nuclear sclerosis is a change in the lens of the eye that normally occurs with aging. There is no treatment needed because the condition does not cause serious problems, but it might be a good idea to discuss your dog’s aging eyes with your veterinarian, so that you know what to expect as your dog grows older.

“It is often common for dogs who have nuclear sclerosis to also develop cataracts,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer. “If your dog develops nuclear sclerosis, your vet will want to conduct regular check-ups to look for cataracts.”

Dysfunction of the Meibomian glands often cause a sensation of dry eye, as your pet’s natural tear production will evaporate more rapidly than normal. Your pet may actually look as though he/she is tearing more, and this “drying effect” may cause scar tissue to develop on the eye. Meibomitis, or inflammation of the Meibomian glands, causes these glands to be obstructed by thick, waxy secretions. Commonly, this inflammation is due to another underlying condition, such as allergies. Clinically, this is seen as “pointing” or more swollen Meibomian gland openings that can typically only be observed with microscopic examination of the eyelid margin. This condition can be itchy, and if your pet does rub or paw around the eye, this can make inflammation worse. An Elizabethan collar may be recommended during treatment to prevent any rubbing.

  1. Warm compresses- Warm compresses are when a washcloth, usually soaked with very warm tap water, is held against the eyelid margin for approximately 5-10 minutes two to three times a day for at least a week. The warmth of the compress allows the secretions in the Meibomian glands to loosen and may melt back to their normal consistency. These compresses also help to clean away debris.
  2. Topical anti-inflammatories- Mild topical anti-inflammatory medications can be utilized to reduce the inflammation around the Meibomian glands. Ointment formulations may be prescribed to help stabilize the water of the tear film and decrease evaporation.
  3. Oral antibiotics- Occasionally, oral antibiotics are used to reduce any bacterial infection within the glands and also may help loosen the impacted Meibomian glands. These are typically given for an extended period of several weeks to months until improvement is observed.
  4. Oral anti-inflammatories- In severe cases, anti-inflammatory medications may be used to decrease severe inflammation around the Meibomian glands.
  5. Fatty acid supplementation- Fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, may be given as a supplementation in food. Fatty acids are a component of meibum, and supplementation can help to stabilize the tear film. Please consult your veterinary ophthalmologist or primary veterinarian prior to starting any fatty acid supplementation for your pet.
  6. No blowing air- Keep your pet away from blowing heating or air-conditioning vents, and DO NOT allow them to stick their head out the car window. During grooming, forced air dryers and blow drying of the face should also be avoided.
  7. Keeping your pet’s hair trimmed short around the eyes, may prevent build-up of discharge.

The Meibomian glands are a special kind of secreting gland at the edge of the eyelids in both dogs and cats. These glands are responsible for the production of meibum.

Nasolacrimal Duct Blockage

The nasolacrimal system is a thin walled tube that drains tears from the surface of the eye into the nasal passages and oral cavity. The nasolacrimal duct begins at two small openings in the conjunctiva at the eyelid margins on the side of the eye nearest the nose. About half of the tears are lost from the cornea and conjunctiva by evaporation and the remaining half drain from these ducts. Most tear drainage into and through the nasolacrimal duct is moved passively by external forces like gravity. Some drainage is due to capillary action and the force of eyelid closure. Blockage of the nasolacrimal duct may occur in dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses. Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Darkly colored tear staining on the face
  • Green, white, or yellow discharge from the eye or nose
  • Abnormal odor at the corner of the eye nearest the nose


A bright green dye called fluorescein is applied to the eye to identify normal passage of fluid through the nasolacrimal system. In addition, the openings into the duct are examined at high magnification using a slit lamp biomicroscope. The slit lamp enables the ophthalmologist to carefully evaluate the patient’s cornea, conjunctiva, and nasolacrimal ducts. If a nasolacrimal duct blockage is diagnosed or suspected, a small blunt cannula may be inserted into the duct openings in the eyelid. Once in the opening, irrigation of the duct with saline is performed. This is done using a local anesthetic applied to the eye in most cases, but occasionally injectable sedation is needed. Flushing the duct with saline may eliminate blockage or it may provide evidence of ductal scarring that can cause permanent occlusion of the duct. Other diagnostics tests that may be recommended include:

  • Cytology (examination of debris flushed from the duct)
  • Microbial culture of any purulent discharge from the ducts
  • Advanced imaging (CT, MRI, dacryocystorhinography, scintigraphy)


Nasolacrimal blockage can occur due to anatomical defects present at birth, breed related eyelid conformational abnormalities, inflammation of or foreign bodies lodged in the ducts, and occasionally tumors pressing on the ducts. Most blocks in dogs occur due to the shape of the eye, nose and face as well as mild inflammation of the pink tissues in the eye. In cats, prior infection with the feline herpesvirus can lead to narrowing or scarring down of the ducts.


Many nasolacrimal blockages can be treated medically with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial therapy. Some blockages improve but may not completely resolve. Treatment may be used for comfort if resolution is not achievable. For some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary, particularly for conjunctival or scar tissue obstructing the duct openings, foreign bodies in the ducts, or for tumors) Surgery may involve exploration, resection of tissue or reconstruction of normal tissues.

Complications of Blockage or Surgery

Complications are rare and including anesthetic risks, only account for less than 5% of cases. Complications that may occur include:

  • inflammation of the pink tissue (conjunctivitis)
  • breakdown of the wound (wound dehiscence)
  • infections (external and rarely internal)
  • corneal ulcerations
  • corneal scarring, vascularization, or mineralization
  • ocular pain
  • bleeding
  • continued tearing (epiphora)

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding nasolacrimal duct blockages, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

The nasolacrimal system is a thin walled tube that drains tears from the surface of the eye into the nasal passages and oral cavity. The nasolacrimal duct begins at two.

Ocular Foreign Body Injuries

Ocular injuries resulting from accidental contact with cactus spines or other plant foreign bodies are the most commonly seen ocular foreign bodies in dogs or cats in desert regions. Other foreign bodies include plastic, glass, pellets or bb’s, grass awns, bristles, thorns, small stones and even popcorn kernels can adhere to the cornea, leading to corneal ulceration, infection, or rupture. Minor injuries may heal without treatment by formation of scar tissue which can lead to decreased vision. More serious injuries may require surgery.

Long cactus spines embedded within the cornea may extend into the deeper tissues of the eye including the iris and lens. These embedded spines are difficult to remove safely without surgery under an operating microscope. During surgery, a precise corneal incision is often required to free the spine from the cornea. If this is required the incision may then be surgically repaired to prevent leakage of the fluid from the eye and seal the wound. In some cases a foreign body may be found completely inside the eye, requiring a more complicated procedure involving a larger incision to facilitate removal. Spines that contact and penetrate the lens can lead to cataracts, as well as, initiate serious inflammation inside the eye. This inflammation can lead to discomfort and even glaucoma.

More commonly we find patients with ocular discomfort associated with multiple small cactus spines called glochids embedded in the pink tissue around the eye (conjunctiva) – in addition to the cornea and eyelids. These spines cause discomfort and can abrade the corneal surface. These tiny bristles require magnification for visualization, and removal is generally performed under anesthesia with the aid of an operating microscope. These bristles can migrate beneath the conjunctival surface and may not be visible, even with the aid of magnification. If they break through the conjunctival surface at a later time, a process which may occur days to weeks following initial exposure, a second procedure is sometimes required to remove additional spines. As with all surgeries, anesthetic and post-operative complications can occur. This is seen rarely with ocular surgery, but serious complications can lead to loss of vision or loss of the globe.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding ocular foreign body injuries, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Ocular injuries resulting from accidental contact with cactus spines or other plant foreign bodies are the most commonly seen ocular foreign bodies in dogs or cats in desert regions. Other.

Ocular Melanosis in Cairn Terriers

Ocular Melanosis is an eye condition that most commonly affects Cairn Terriers, though it has been reported occasionally in other breeds such as the Boxer. It is also called Pigmentary Glaucoma because this condition often results in glaucoma (which is a high pressure in the eye that can cause discomfort and blindness). Ocular Melanosis is inherited, although the specific genes and mode of inheritance is not completely understood. The condition causes pigmented (i.e. brown) cells to accumulate in the eye and eventually block the drains that are responsible for removing fluid from the eye. These “clogged” drains will cause the pressure inside the eye to increase. The high pressure in the eye will damage the retina (the layer in the back of the eye that senses light) and the optic nerve (the nerve that sends the signal from the retina to the brain). Dark pigment may also be deposited on the sclera (white part of the eye).

Unfortunately, despite ongoing research, there is currently no cure for this condition. Treatment is aimed at controlling inflammation with topical anti-inflammatory medications. Dogs with Ocular Melanosis typically require routine eye exams and intraocular pressure monitoring. If intraocular pressures start to increase, then anti-glaucoma medications can be initiated in an attempt to decrease the pressure. Unfortunately, glaucoma surgeries to preserve vision, such as ECP (endocyclophotocoagulation), have a very low success rate with this condition. In the event that the glaucoma is no longer responsive to anti-glaucoma therapy, alternative surgeries, such as eye removal, may be necessary to ensure long-term comfort.

Ocular Melanosis is an eye condition that most commonly affects Cairn Terriers, though it has been reported occasionally in other breeds such as the Boxer. It is also called Pigmentary.

Pannus (Chronic Superficial Keratitis)

Pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, is a progressive inflammatory autoimmune disease of the cornea. Common clinical signs include pigmentation (brown discoloration), vascularization (blood vessel in-growth) and opacification (haziness) of the cornea. These corneal changes may lead to scarring and may progress to severe visual impairment or blindness in severe cases. Active disease may also result in discomfort.


The definitive cause of pannus is not known, but several factors may be involved:

  1. An increased incidence in certain breeds (German Shepherd dog, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, and Border Collie) suggests a genetic predisposition.
  2. Ultraviolet radiation and high altitude increase the severity of the disease therefore, dogs living at high altitudes and very sunny areas are often more severely affected with the disease that is more difficult to control. It is most common in the desert southwest and the Rocky Mountain States.
  3. Immunological factors are believed to contribute. Pannus is considered a form of an autoimmune disease, in which the body directs an inappropriate immune response against the tissues of the cornea.


The cardinal sign of pannus is vascular or pigment infiltration into the clear cornea, causing whitish, pink or brown discoloration. This typically starts at the outside edge of the clear cornea nearest to the ear and extends inward. The blood vessel in-growth and pigmentation of the cornea may progress across the entire corneal surface and if left untreated, may result in blindness.


A diagnosis of pannus is usually made on the basis of characteristic clinical signs but sometimes additional diagnostics, including cytology and bloodwork, are recommended.


Despite intensive research efforts, no permanent cure exists. The good news is that the vast majority of cases can be managed with topical medications that halt the disease progress and reverse corneal damage. This condition does, however, require lifelong treatment with the best outcomes seen when therapy is instituted early in the course of the disease. The inflammatory cell infiltrations and the vessel invasion usually are reversible with therapy. On occasion, the scarring and pigment depositions are not irreversible but they can often be minimized with regular treatment. Even short periods of interrupted therapy, for example 2 to 4 weeks, may cause severe recurrence with profound effects on your dog’s vision.
There are three categories of therapy:

  1. Corticosteroid therapy may be administered by intermittent injections under the conjunctiva (pink mucous membrane of the eye) and/or by topical application of eye drops or ointments.
  2. Topical immunomodulatory therapy in the form of topical cyclosporine or tacrolimus combined with steroids provides the best possible control of pannus in approximately 85% of dogs with this condition. Frequency of topical medication may vary throughout the year based on levels of UV light.
  3. In patients that do not respond to topical medications, more invasive techniques may be recommended. Surgical excision of a superficial layer from the affected area may restore vision in eyes that have extensive scarring and pigmentation. This is called superficial keratectomy. Unfortunately, the post-operative recurrence rate is high and this method remains a last resort.
  4. Beta-irradiation has been used when medical therapy alone is insufficient. Potential complications associated with the use of these medications include, but are not limited to, inflammation of the pink tissue (conjunctivitis) and corneal ulceration, corneal mineralization some of these complications can lead to blindness if not promptly addressed.

Your awareness of your pet’s symptoms and compliance with recommendations for medication and recheck examinations help control these potential complications.

If you have any further questions about pannus or any other ocular condition, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, is a progressive inflammatory autoimmune disease of the cornea. Common clinical signs include pigmentation (brown discoloration), vascularization (blood vessel in-growth) and opacification (haziness) of the.

Pigmentary Uveitis in Golden Retrievers

Pigmentary uveitis, or Golden Retriever Uveitis (GRU), is a disease primarily seen in the Golden Retriever breed and does not appear to be associated with any systemic disease or infection. While this disease is presumed to be inherited, the cause remains unknown.

Uveitis is inflammation of the uveal tract, which is composed of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid (the vascular components inside the eye). The iris is the colored part of the eye, which is brown in most dogs, including Golden Retrievers. The ciliary body is the structure behind the iris that produces fluid in the eye. The choroid is a membrane of blood vessels that line the back of the eye and nourish the retina.

Clinical Signs

GRU is typically a bilateral progressive disease, however, only one eye can be affected initially. Early in the disease process, inflammation in the eye is usually very subtle and may not be evident by casual observation. Symptoms of uveitis include: squinting, increased tearing or discharge, redness, photophobia (light sensitivity), and cloudiness of the eye or eyes.

Pigmentation of the lens capsule in a radial or “spoke wheel” pattern is considered a hallmark of this disease. The iris can also become heavily pigmented and appear dark brown to black in color. Darkly pigmented iris cysts within the eye can be observed as an early sign of GRU. Iris cysts are small fluid- filled structures, which are either attached to the iris, ciliary body, or free floating inside the eye. These changes in the eye tend to get worse over time and can lead to cataract formation, glaucoma (high eye) and blindness.


Treatment for GRU is aimed at reducing inflammation in the eye and preventing or delaying the onset of glaucoma. The treatment protocol will vary for each individual patient, but may include an anti-inflammatory eye drop, an oral anti-inflammatory, an oral immunosuppressant and/ or medication to delay the onset or treat glaucoma. Routine blood work may be advised if systemic medications are being used in order to monitor for any side effects.


GRU is a chronic concern that will require long-term treatment. In some cases, inflammation is mild and easy to control, but many affected dogs eventually develop glaucoma. Glaucoma, which is painful and blinding, has been found to develop in 46 percent of dogs with Golden Retriever Uveitis. Long-term treatment and management are imperative in helping keep a comfortable, visual eye.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding pigmentary uveitis, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Pigmentary uveitis, or Golden Retriever Uveitis (GRU), is a disease primarily seen in the Golden Retriever breed and does not appear to be associated with any systemic disease or infection.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

To better understand progressive retinal atrophy, one must have a basic understanding of the function of the retina. The retina is a highly specialized tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina is analogous to film in a camera it is responsible for integrating light into vision. Without adequate retinal function, vision is not possible. Simplified, the eye can be thought of as a light-collecting organ that focuses light rays on the retina. As light strikes the retina, a sequence of chemical reactions are initiated, propagating an electrical impulse. The impulse passes through the layers of the retina to the optic nerve and finally to the brain (visual cortex) for interpretation. The brain’s interpretation of the light signal is responsible for what we know as vision.

The retinal cells, which transform light energy to chemical energy, are known as rods and cones. Rods are responsible for black and white vision, night vision and vision for movements, whereas cone cells are used for color discrimination, vision in bright light and acute focal vision. Most domestic animals (dogs, cats, etc.) have a dominance of rods. Color vision in dogs is poor compared to people.

As the name progressive retinal atrophy (or PRA) implies, an atrophy or a degeneration of retinal tissue occurs. Progression of this disease occurs slowly and the early signs may be overlooked in many animals. The slow loss of sight is similar to a dimming switch to reduce brightness of light in a room. If light is slowly reduced over a long period of time, our eyes adapt and the change is not noticed until darkness occurs. A similar situation occurs in progressive retinal atrophy in animals often the condition is not noticed until the condition is significantly progressed. Unfortunately, there is no cure available for progressive retinal atrophy. Identification of affected breeding animals is essential to prevent the spread of the condition within the breed.

Clinical Signs of PRA

The early signs of retinal atrophy include night blindness in most cases, which will frequently progress to day blindness. Night blindness may be manifested in a number of ways, including a pet that is hesitant or afraid to go out in the dark or go into a dark room. Often these pets will get lost in their own home after the lights have been turned off or they may stay near the light in the backyard at night versus wandering the full extent of the yard as they did previously. Pupils may be dilated and/or have a slow response to light. Some pet owners will notice a characteristic eyeshine. This is due to increased reflectivity of an iridescent tissue known as the tapetum located underneath the retina. As previously mentioned, retinal abnormalities may not be noticed at home until later in the course of the disease. Other well-developed senses including olfaction (the sense of smell) and hearing help animals adapt to the slow loss of sight. Often sight loss is not noticed until a change of the pets’ normal environment occurs. Examples of environmental changes include furniture rearrangement in the home an animal that is restricted to a different area of your house or is boarded while you are away on vacation, etc. Because PRA can be difficult to identify, routine ophthalmic examination of all pets is recommended. This is especially important in animals that are being considered for breeding.

When the ophthalmologist views the retina with an instrument called an indirect ophthalmoscope, changes can be seen in the retinal blood vessel pattern, the optic nerve and the tapetum (the reflective portion of the eye that is responsible for “eyeshine”). However, some breeds characteristically have little or no early visible changes and may appear normal until the later stages of the disease. Some affected dogs show various rates of progression making generalization difficult.

Cataracts may form secondarily to progressive retinal atrophy in some animals and are generally associated with the later stages of the disease process. Formation of cataracts may interfere with direct visualization of the retina and make other diagnostic modalities essential. Although cataracts are surgically treatable, removal of cataracts in an animal with progressive retinal atrophy is not indicated, as their diseased retina will still result in visual deficits. Cataracts can leak protein within the eye causing inflammation within the eye. Uncontrolled or chronic inflammation can lead to glaucoma (increased intraocular pressure), a painful and blinding disease. Therefore, the retina (and cataracts) should be monitored as they may require topical medications to prevent inflammation or glaucoma.


Definitive diagnosis of PRA is supported by electroretinography. An electroretinogram “(ERG)” is similar to an electrocardiogram (ECG) for the heart in that they both measure normal electrical impulses produced by the organ of interest. A special contact lens is placed on the cornea and two tiny needles (electrodes) are placed under the skin around the eye. After a period of dark adaptation, flashing lights are used to stimulate the retina. The electrical response of the retina is recorded by the electrodes, which send a signal to a computer. A healthy retina will produce a characteristic wave pattern on the electroretinograph recording. This instrument is sensitive enough to diagnose affected dogs before they begin to demonstrate clinical signs.

Any diagnostic procedure can introduce complications, including anesthetic risks (in the few patients that require anesthesia for diagnostic procedures). In order to obtain accurate ERG recordings, the veterinary ophthalmologist may recommend sedation or anesthesia. Complications from ERG are very rare, and include, but are not limited to, inflammation of the pink tissue (conjunctivitis) ocular infections that may affect internal and/or external areas of the eye (intraocular/ extraocular infections) and corneal ulcerations (superficial to deep). If any abnormalities are noticed in your dog’s eyes following an ERG please notify us immediately so that the condition does not worsen.

Genetic Testing

Since PRA is an inherited genetic disease, it is possible to identify and test for the defective gene. This test has been developed in some breeds affected by PRA. The test requires a blood sample, which is sent to a diagnostic lab for analysis. The blood test can identify dogs that are affected, as well as normal dogs that may pass the defective gene to offspring. Information on genetic testing can be found at A partial list of breeds affected with progressive retinal atrophy follows:

Breed Type of Retinal Disease Age of Onset

  • Collie: rod-cone dysplasia under a year
    •Irish Setter: rod-cone dysplasia under a year
    •Cairn Terrier: rod-cone dysplasia under a year
    •Miniature Long-Haired Dachshund: rod-cone dysplasia under a year
  • Norwegian Elkhound: rod dysplasia, cone 2 to 3 years
    •Samoyed: rod-cone degeneration 3 years
    •Cocker Spaniel: rod-cone degeneration 2 to 7 years
    •Miniature Poodle: rod-cone degeneration 3 to 6 years
    •Miniature Schnauzer: rod-cone degeneration 3 to 6 years
    •Akita: rod-cone degeneration 3 to 6 years
    •Schnauzer: rod-cone degeneration > 3 years
    •Golden Retriever: rod-cone degeneration
    •Labrador Retriever: rod-cone degeneration

Unfortunately, no treatment has been formulated to prevent, treat or cure progressive retinal atrophy. A number of vitamin therapies have been suggested, however, there is no evidence to suggest that vitamins have any therapeutic effect. As stated previously, affected animals should be identified as early as possible and eliminated from breeding programs.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a painless condition. Animals that lose sight from PRA usually acclimate well to their environment with time, as they utilize their other senses to make up for their vision loss. Maintaining a consistent environment for the affected animals will help the acclimation process. For example, frequent furniture rearrangement during this period should be avoided. When animals are taken from their home environment, the use of leads and harnesses are helpful in addition to reassurance to comfort your pet.

Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a broad category of inherited retinal diseases that result in gradual blindness. Because of the insidious nature of the disease, serial examinations may be required to detect affected individuals. Affected individuals should not be used for breeding purposes.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding progressive retinal atrophy, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

To better understand progressive retinal atrophy, one must have a basic understanding of the function of the retina. The retina is a highly specialized tissue that lines the back of.

Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid (Cherry Eye)

Prolapsed gland of the third eyelid or “cherry eye” is the most common disorder of the third eyelid. It is most common in puppies and usually results from weakness in the connective tissue attachments that hold the gland in place. This weakness allows the gland, which is normally located behind the third eyelid to flip up and become visible. The prolapsed gland will appear as a smooth, pink to red mass protruding at the lower inner corner of the eye. This condition can be present in one or both eyes.

The gland of the third eyelid significantly contributes to tear production. Therefore, if this condition is left uncorrected chronic conjunctivitis (inflammation of pink tissue around the eye), discharge, and low tear production can occur. Low tear production can lead to corneal scarring, ulcerations, vascularization (blood vessels in the cornea), or ocular rupture. Some of these conditions can lead to blindness.


Surgical repositioning of the gland is recommended as the treatment of choice. Removal of the gland is almost never advised as a treatment. Many surgical techniques are used to anchor the gland back in the normal position. Surgical repositioning has a success rate of 90-95% in patients. If your pet has only one gland prolapsed, your doctor may recommend a prophylactic tacking of the other gland.

At the time of discharge, your pet may have the eyelid(s) partially sutured closed to protect the surgery site. If present, they will be removed in 10-14 days after surgery. An Elizabethan or “cone” collar is also placed after surgery and recommended until your pet’s follow-up examination. Limited activity is also recommended postoperatively to decrease the likelihood of gland re-prolapse.


As with any surgical procedure, complications are possible including anesthetic risks. The most common complication following surgical repositioning of the third eyelid gland is re-prolapse of the gland. This is not limited to but most common in the English Bulldog. Additional complications are rare and include conjunctivitis, inflammation of the third eyelid, break down of the tissue or suture (wound dehiscence), infections at the surgical site, corneal ulcerations (superficial to deep), or corneal scarring.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding avoiding common problems, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Prolapsed gland of the third eyelid or “cherry eye” is the most common disorder of the third eyelid. It is most common in puppies and usually results from weakness in.

Proliferative Keratoconjuntivitis (Eosinophilic Keratitis)

Eosinophilic keratitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the cornea and/or conjunctiva. The characteristic appearance is white, tan or pink roughened plaques on the corneal surface. These plaques are composed of inflammatory cells known as eosinophils. The cause of eosinophilic keratitis is believed to be related to an underlying feline herpesvirus infection. This disease is progressive and can grow to involve the entire surface of the eye causing blindness and discomfort. Often it is initially detected in one eye however, the disease often progresses to involve both eyes.

Superficial corneal scraping is usually adequate to obtain a diagnosis, which is confirmed by the presence of eosinophils under light microscopy. Occasionally, microscopic examination is not sufficient for diagnosis and further diagnostics may be recommended.

Due to its suspected association with feline herpes virus (FHV-1), diagnostic testing and/or empirical treatment for herpes virus may also be indicated. Treatment for eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis consists of topical anti-inflammatory medications and/or systemic hormonal modification. Ovaban (megestrol acetate) is a synthetic progesterone (hormone) used to treat this disease. It is very effective but does have possible side effects, which may include transient diabetes mellitus, enlargement or (rarely) cancer of the mammary gland, and liver toxicity. The length of treatment is variable and some cats may have disease recurrence when medications are discontinued. The majority of patients can remain comfortable and visual when there is client compliance with respect to the medication schedule.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Eosinophilic Keratitis, please call Eye Care for Animals.

Eosinophilic keratitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the cornea and/or conjunctiva. The characteristic appearance is white, tan or pink roughened plaques on the corneal surface. These plaques are composed.

Retinal Reattachment Surgery

Retinal reattachment surgery is offered at our Pasadena, California (626-564-0202) hospital, where patients are received from around the country for surgical care.

The retina

The retina is a thin membrane that lies against the back wall of the eye. Similar to the way a camera works, images from the outside of the eye are focused by the cornea and lens onto the retina, which can be compared to the film in a camera. If the retina is not properly positioned or becomes damaged, vision is diminished or lost. The retina is only fused to the wall of the eye at its peripheral edges and at the optic nerve. Much of the retina relies on vitreous, a firm molded gel (like Jello), to tamponade it against the back of the eye.

What causes a retinal detachment?

Although there are many types of retinal detachment, there are two main scenarios that require retinal surgery. The first is called vitreal degeneration/dysplasia, where the vitreous humor, instead of forming a semi-firm gel, liquefies. It transforms from a Jello-like consistency to a chicken noodle soup-like consistency and can no longer effectively hold the retina in place. As the eyes move, the swirling liquefied vitreous tugs on the retina, causing tears and fluid flow under the retina, separating it from the wall of the eye. The tears often progress, until the entire retina has peeled off the back of the eye. This type of retinal detachment (rhegmatogenous retinal detachment) is inherited or genetic in many breeds including the Shih Tzu, Italian Greyhound, Boston Terrier, Poodle and Terrier Breeds. Tears may be precipitated or exacerbated by vigorous head shaking during play.
The second main type of retinal detachment occurs secondary to cataracts, cataract surgery or other intraocular surgeries. Inflammation in the eye lead to areas of adhesion between the retina and the vitreous, putting traction on the retina, pulling it off the back of the eye. Retinal detachment can occur due to other causes such as trauma.

Signs of retinal detachment

Because most dogs continue to behave normally as long as one eye has vision, retinal detachment in the first eye is often missed. Patients often present to a veterinary ophthalmologist for vision loss when the retina in the second eye detaches. Signs of retinal detachment include vision loss, a dilated pupil, increased eyeshine, and sometimes blood within the eye. With cataracts, retinal detachments are often detected during pre-operative screening ultrasounds. They may also be identified following cataract surgery during recheck examinations.

How is retinal reattachment surgery performed?

Surgical correction is accomplished by entering the back of the eye via small ports. The diseased vitreous is first removed. The detached retina is then repositioned back against the back of the eye using a heavy oil called PFO. The PFO is replaced by silicon oil, which acts as an artificial vitreous. A laser is also used to strengthen the retina’s attachment to the back of the eye.

What is the success rate?

The two biggest factors that influence the success of surgery are: the length of time the retina has been detached prior to surgery and the cause of retinal detachment. Predisposed breeds, such as the Shih Tzu, tend to have the highest success rates (often >90%) if retinal detachments are caught early. Retinal detachments following blunt trauma or bite wounds often have the lowest success rate (

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common periocular tumors in horses, specifically horses located in areas of intense sunlight or high altitude. Non-pigmented regions of the skin are susceptible to the development of this tumor. The tumor may involve the eyelids, third eyelid, cornea or the tissues surrounding the eye itself. Appaloosas, color-dilute breeds, Belgians and other draft horses are particularly susceptible to development of this tumor.

A horse with an early squamous cell carcinoma lesion can be seen with a reddening, roughening or ulcerated area, along with increased tearing of the eye. The tumor soon develops into a small pink or red mass, which if left untreated, can enlarge and spread around and behind the eye, to the skull, sinuses of the skull, brain and to other parts of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma can be diagnosed in its earliest stages by a biopsy of the lesion, which can be performed by your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist. Treatment and prognosis of squamous cell carcinoma vary with the location, size, and the extent of the tumor. Treatments may involve surgical removal, freezing or heating, radiation, laser ablation, immunotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of the above. In some of these cases, the tumor becomes inoperable and the outcome can be devastating. There is potential for recurrence of the tumor despite the type of treatment used, and additional treatments may be necessary. The prognosis for horses with squamous cell carcinoma is usually good if the tumor is small and can be completely excised. If the tumor is large and extensive or involves the eyelids or space behind the eye, the prognosis may be poor.

The following are recommendations to minimize your horse’s risk of squamous cell carcinoma: avoid peak sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. provide protection of the eyes from insects, dust, and wind by using an ultraviolet protective mask, sunscreen and fly repellent.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding Squamous Cell Carcinoma, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common periocular tumors in horses, specifically horses located in areas of intense sunlight or high altitude. Non-pigmented regions of the skin are.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS)

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is characterized by sudden vision loss in the dog. As the name implies, this disease affects the retina, which is the back part of the eye responsible for sending visual signals to the brain for interpretation. Due to an unknown cause, SARDS patients suddenly lose retinal function and become blind. There is subsequent degeneration or atrophy of the retina that can lead to other complications. In addition to a sudden loss of vision, many owners notice enlarged pupils, as well as, increased appetite and thirst.

In all patients with acute vision loss, an electroretinogram (ERG) is recommended. This test allows for assessment of retinal function, and if the result is negative, it provides a definitive diagnosis of SARDS. An electroretinogram is a non-invasive test that involves placing a specialized contact lens on the surface of eyes that have been numbed with topical anesthetic drops. Some pets require tranquilization or light sedation to reduce movement that can affect the results. After a period of dark adaptation, a standardized series of light flashes are created to stimulate the photoreceptors of the retina. The photoreceptors create an electrical signal that is detected by the contact lens and recorded by a computer. A normal retina produces a waveform, much like an EKG for the heart. In a SARDS patient, the normal electronic responses of the retina are extinguished and no waveform can be detected. In the early stage of the disease, the retina appears normal on ophthalmic examination. After a period of months, signs of degeneration of the retina can be observed on ophthalmic examination.

This syndrome most often occurs in middle-aged female spayed adult dogs No breed is known to inherit the condition, but some breeds appear to be more susceptible than others – including dachshunds and miniature schnauzers. Affected animals are generally in good health, but as described above, some dogs may have a recent history of unexplained weight gain, lethargy, pacing, panting, increased appetite, increased consumption of water and/or increased urination. Blood work is recommended to rule out any systemic problems, such as a condition called Cushing’s that is characterized by high blood cortisol. If affected dogs have systemic problems, an internal medicine consultation may be recommended. The etiology, or underlying cause, of SARDS is currently unknown however, multiple laboratories are conducting research to find the cause. Possible theories for this syndrome include endocrine disorders, autoimmune disease, toxicity, infection, neoplasia, etc.

Unfortunately, there is currently no proven treatment or prevention for SARDS and the blindness it causes is irreversible. The good news is that SARDS is not a painful condition and that it does not reduce your dog’s life expectancy. Many dogs adjust very well to being blind. It may take a few weeks to months for your dog to fully acclimate, but a recent publication reported that owners of dogs with SARDS find their pets to have a very good quality of life. Animals should also be monitored long-term complications, such as secondary cataract formation or glaucoma that can be painful. If signs of these conditions are seen, prophylactic medical therapy may be required. Safety precautions should be taken for all visually-impaired pets, particularly around swimming pools, stairs, roads, strange dogs, etc. There are many resources for owners with blind pets to help the owners adjust to living with blind dogs, as this condition can sometimes be more difficult for the owners than their dogs.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is characterized by sudden vision loss in the dog. As the name implies, this disease affects the retina, which is the back part of.

The Merle Gene and Multiple Ocular Abnormalities

The Merle gene is responsible for a wide variety of beautiful coat and iris colors in the dog. This dilution gene acts to lighten the coat color. The dappling effect it creates is not evenly spread rather, it is responsible for spotting of the coat and variations of the iris or colored part of the eye. A combination of colors may be found in one or both eyes. Colors expressed may range from a pale, light blue to greenish to amber. Unfortunately, the same gene that is responsible for the desirable coat and eye appearance is often responsible for many developmental eye defects. Breeds that have been identified as having the Merle gene include the Australian Shepherd, Rough and Smooth Collies, Shetland Sheepdog, Dachshund, Great Dane, Old English Sheepdog, American Foxhound and the Catahoula Leopard dog among others.

With respect to ocular effects, the Merle gene’s most minor manifestation is a blue iris (or irides). The blue appearance may also be as an ‘inclusion’ or as a partial segment of another wise brown eye (heterochromia iridis). A blue iris does not absolutely indicate the presence of the Merle gene it may also be expressed in dogs carrying the piebald gene, such as the Dalmatian. There is no adverse consequence of the presence of the blue iris alone. Conversely, the other effects of the Merle gene may result in devastating blindness. The abnormalities affect either the front or back part of the eye or a combination of both. When the whole eye is affected, the condition has been referred to as Merle Ocular Dysgenesis.

Since it is understood that multiple congenital ocular abnormalities in the dog may be inherited, a brief review of basic genetics is in order. In any dog, two copies of a gene are present, one from each parent. For the purpose of this discussion, the Merle gene will be termed “m” and the non-merle gene will be called “M”. If both copies are the same for Merle, they are termed homozygous (mm) or a double merle. A double Merle will be a predominantly white dog. If one copy is Merle and one is not, they are called heterozygous (Mm). One Merle gene copy is dominant over the non-Merle gene in that just one copy (Mm) will produce dilution of the coat and potentially different colored eyes, which is considered desirable in many breeds. A dog that is homozygous for non-merle (MM) is a normal, full-colored dog. In the Australian Shepherd dog, multiple ocular abnormalities due to the Merle gene occur secondarily to an autosomal recessive trait. Autosomal implies that this is not a sex-linked condition. Since a recessive trait is expressed only when homozygous, this means that affected dogs must be a double Merle (mm). Double merle animals may also have varying degrees of congenital deafness. The most severe abnormalities occur in homozygous merles with an excessive white hair coat involving the head region.

There are other, more serious ocular problems associated with the Merle gene. Microphthalmia is a congenital defect characterized by a small eye. Severely affected dogs may be blind at birth. Iris changes include thinning of the iris (iris hypoplasia) and possibly an eccentric or off-centered pupil, known as corectopia. An iris coloboma is an abnormality in the development of the iris that usually presents as a notch or cleft of the iris at the edge of the pupil. Another problem that occurs with the iris may be persistent pupillary membranes or PPMs. Pupillary membranes are present in the developing eye in utero but normally regress within the first few weeks of life. When persistent, they represent a congenital defect from blood vessel remnants that fail to regress.

They may appear as strands or sheets of tissue that originate from the iris and attach to another part of the iris, the lens, or the cornea. They range from being of minor significance to causing severe vision impairment. A cataract, or an opacity, of the crystalline lens or its capsule, is yet another possible heritable defect associated with the Merle gene. It may be found independently or in a microphthalmic eye. Cataracts, if focal, may only cause minor impairment of vision, but when cataracts are complete, blindness occurs.

The posterior segment (the back part of the eye) may also be affected. Colobomas, or notch defects, may affect the sclera or the white of the eye. A scleral coloboma indicates the presence of an abnormally thin region of sclera this condition is known as scleral ectasia. When this occurs the vascular layer bulges out beneath the fibrous coat of the eye. This is known as a staphyloma. These may occur in the front half of the eye, apparent as a bulge underneath the eyelid or they may be in the back of the eye, only visualized using special instrumentation. Choroidal hypoplasia or choriodal colobomas may also be seen. In this condition, the vascular layer at the back of the eye develops incompletely. Posterior segment anomalies may also affect the optic nerve. The optic nerve’s job is transmission of information from the retina to the brain for the interpretation of vision. When a defect at this level of the eye is minor, a patient remains visual alternatively, a more serious defect of the optic nerve may be the cause of complete blindness.

In addition to the optic nerve, the retina may also be affected negatively. Retinal dysplasia is abnormal development of the sensory retina with focal folds or widespread geographic maldevelopment. This may occur in conjunction with retinal detachment. If the retina becomes completely detached, blindness ensues. In some dogs with a Merle coat, the tapetum or reflective layer at the back of the eye is missing. These dogs may have somewhat poorer night vision compared to an eye with a tapetum, but there is no obvious functional abnormality with these dogs.

With an array of problems that may have a common end result of blindness, informed breeders will not breed affected animals because those with ‘mild disease’ may still produce severely affected offspring. It is also understood not to breed merle to merle as this will increase the chances for double merles in the litter. As such, it is advisable to include more ‘solids’ or darkly-colored animals in a breeding program. It is always ideal to have breeding animals evaluated by a veterinary ophthalmologist to rule out structural abnormalities of the eyes. This can be accomplished via an OFA Eye certification exam, formerly known as a CERF exam. The OFA is an organization that tracks heritable diseases in many parts of the body including eyes in dogs with the goal of identifying and eliminating genetic conditions. The certification exam can only be performed by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. A certification exam is valid for one year. Ideally, dogs should be certified every year by a veterinary ophthalmologist to ensure that conditions that may be progressive or develop later in life have not appeared. These exams do not guarantee that the dog is not a carrier of genetic ocular disease rather, a passing test proves that at that time of exam no genetic ocular disease was diagnosed. If a dog’s status is unknown, it is strongly recommended not to breed. With respect to the Merle gene and ocular dysgenesis, these abnormalities are congenital, which means they are present at birth. They do not show up later in life therefore, they may be diagnosed in a puppy as young as six weeks old.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding the Merle gene’s possible effects on ocular health or questions regarding OFA eye clinics, please do not hesitate to call us at Eye Care for Animals.

The Merle gene is responsible for a wide variety of beautiful coat and iris colors in the dog. This dilution gene acts to lighten the coat color. The dappling effect.

The abrupt loss of vision can be a terrifying and totally disorienting experience for a cat or dog. Cats usually go into hiding for several days, not emerging even to eat or use the litter pan. Dogs will be be very anxious, may cling to their owners, pant excessively and be reluctant move. If forced to walk they will be hesitant and may bump into furniture or walls. Owners may notice that their pet’s eyes are completely dilated. Most sudden blindness is caused by diseases of the retina (the specialized light receptive cells in the back of the eye) or the optic nerves.

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness we see in dogs. Beacuse it generally arises in one eye before the other, it may not be accompanied by distress in your pet. Glaucoma causes a build-up of pressure within the chambers of the eye, which damages and if persistent, will kill the retinal cells. Glaucoma can cause pain, squinting, engorgement of the schleral vessels and other signs that usually bring an owner promptly to the veterinarian. Veterinarians have instruments that can measure intraocular pressure to diagnose glaucoma, and if treated quickly, vision may not be lost. There is also the opportunity to treat the opposite eye proactively to prevent the onset of glaucoma in that eye, which otherwise almost always occurs.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARD) is a disease of dogs that causes total irreversible blindness over the course of about 1-2 weeks. On initial exam, blindness is obvious but opthamologic exam of the retina will be normal. Electroretinography (ERG) is required for diagnosis, which requires referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist. Many dogs with SARD also begin to drink excessively, urinate more, develop ravenous appetites and have blood abnormalities suggestive of some known adrenal gland diseases. Testing, however, usually does not confirm the presence of these other diseases, so the cause of SARD remains unknown and there is no effective treatment available.

SARD usually occurs in middle aged dogs, most commonly in females. Mixed breed dogs are most often affected. In pure bred dogs it is seen with greater frequency in dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, pugs, Bichons and the smaller spaniels.

Nerve Inflammation

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve caused by a variety of infectious and inflammatory diseases. On ophthalmologic exam, the veterinarian may detect a swollen optic disk in the center of a normal retina. This can accompany more generalized meningitis or encephalitis symptoms. Tickborne disease, viral, protozoal and fungal infections can be responsible, so usually running bloodwork and testing for specific diseases is the first step. These diseases can be difficult to diagnose, so often treatment is instituted without knowledge of an exact cause.

Retinal detachment

Abrupt detachment of the retinas is the most common cause of sudden blindness in cats. These can be seen by examining the back of the eyes with an ophthalmoscope. Detachment may be due to trauma, but more often in pets is due to extreme high blood pressure. Hypertension in cats and dogs is usually secondary to kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or disorders of the adrenal gland, so testing blood samples for these disorders is warranted. Blood pressure is usually measured easily by your veterinarian, and may be controlled with medication to eliminate the risk of retinal detachment. If blood pressure is normalized quickly, partial reattachment of the retinas is possible.

Other less common causes

Exposure to some toxins can cause sudden blindness. Overdosage, individual sensitivity or abnormal metabolism can lead to blindness from prescribed or over the counter medications. Many times toxic or overdosage blindness will resolve once the product is withdrawn. A pituitary or sinus tumor can damage the optic nerves, affecting vision. Usually this will be a gradual process but abrupt vision loss can occur if the tumor suddenly swells or bleeds. Liver failure can cause temporary intermittent blindness.

Sudden loss of vision in your pet is an emergency, and requires immediate evaluation by a veterinarian. With prompt treatment, some blindness may be reversible. In some cases, referral to a veterinary eye specialist will be necessary for further diagnostics and treatment. While almost all pets eventually adjust well to blindness, distress and abnormal behavior in your pet is the most common intial symptom. If your pet is unusually anxious, consider his or her eyes and contact your veterinarian.

Watch the video: Cataract in a Chicken


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