Separation of the Inner Lining of the Eye in Dogs


PetMD Editorial

Published Sep. 8, 2008

Retinal Detachment in Dogs

The retina is the innermost lining of the eyeball. Retinal detachment refers to its separation from the back of the eyeball. This can be caused by a variety of genetic and non-genetic factors, and in some cases is a result of a more serious underlying medical condition. There are some forms of treatment, although retinal detachment may lead to permanent blindness.

The condition described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how retinal detachment affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Dogs experiencing a detached retina may show signs of blindness or reduced vision. In some cases, the dog's iris may stay dilated and will not adjust properly when exposed to light.


While retinal detachment can happen in any breed and at any age, it is more common in older dogs. Some animals are born with congenital defects that cause retinal detachment to occur immediately or in the long term. If both retinas are detached, it is most likely a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. Glaucoma, for instance, is one such condition. Exposure to certain toxins can also cause the retina to detach.

High blood pressure (hypertension) in dogs has been shown to be causative factor for retinal detachment. Other metabolic causes can include hyperthyroidism, characterized by increased levels of thyroid hormone; hyperproteinemia, which is increased protein in the blood; and hypoxia, low levels of oxygen present in the body's tissues. Other causes can include trauma to the eyes, ocular neoplasia (tumor growth on the eye), and inflammation of the blood vessels in and surrounding the eye.


Your veterinarian will conduct a full eye exam, and order a complete blood work-up to examine whether the retinal detachment is due to a more serious underlying medical condition.


Treatment for a detached retina will be determined based on the severity and cause of the medical condition. There are some surgical techniques that are available to reattach the retina, and there are also techniques that can assist in the regeneration of retinal tissue.

If surgery is deemed unnecessary, your veterinarian will treat the underlying medical cause for the retinal detachment by prescribing your dog medication.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will recommend that you restrict the dog's activity post-surgery. There are several possible complications that can occur, including blindness, cloudy lens formation (cataract), glaucoma, and chronic eye pain. In order to quickly identify these complications, your veterinarian will monitor your dog's blood cell counts and recommend frequent follow-up exams.

It is also possible that the retina cannot be reattached, or that the dog's blindness is irreversible. In these cases, your veterinarian may equip you with lifestyle management training skills to improve the overall quality of life for your pet.


There are currently no known preventive measures for a detached retina.

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