Just as with humans, canines can sometimes suffer from a condition of the eyes called glaucoma. This is an increase of pressure that has built up inside the eye. This type of pressure is called intraocular pressure, or IOP for short.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that’s caused by pressure within your dog’s eyes.
Inside the eyes, in between the lens and the cornea, there’s a thick, clear substance called aqueous humor that nourishes the eye tissues and helps the eye keep its round shape.
When the production and drainage of this substance are well balanced, the pressure will be normal, and your dog’s eyes will function as they should. However, when this balance is out of sync, and there’s either over-production or not enough drainage, the pressure begins to build.
When this pressure becomes too much, the eye will start to stretch in order to make room for the build-up of fluid.
There are two types of glaucoma: primary and secondary.
- Primary Glaucoma – usually the result of genetics.
- Secondary Glaucoma – usually occurs after something else happens to the eye that blocks drainage. This could be trauma or an eye injury, infection or general inflammation in the eye.
Symptoms of glaucoma typically include:
- Blinking more than usual
- Redness in the blood vessels
- Some cloudiness in the front of your dog’s eye
- A dilated pupil or a pupil that doesn’t respond to light
- Loss of vision
- Eye pain (rubbing his eye with his paw)
- Swollen eye
With both primary and secondary glaucoma, your dog may experience headaches (you’ll usually see him trying to press his head to the floor/wall to relieve pressure), a decreased appetite and a reduced desire to play.
Allergies and an immune system that’s out of whack are also linked to glaucoma in dogs.
It’s important to remember that glaucoma in dogs is serious. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness, and so medical attention is strongly suggested in order to preserve your pet’s eyesight.
That being said, since glaucoma is the result of the pressure caused by a build-up of fluid, most conventional veterinary treatment involves drugs to lower pressure by blocking fluid production …
But since your dog’s eyes need the nutrients in that fluid, is it really a good idea to stop the eyes from producing it?
Thankfully, there are natural alternatives that can help relieve the pressure and protect your dog’s eyes.
Natural Treatment For Glaucoma In Dogs
1. Spinach. Spinach is full of carotenoids that can strengthen the ocular tissue and prevent further degeneration of the eye. Add some raw, organic spinach to your dog’s meals several times a week (1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight).
2. Fennel. Fennel has many beneficial properties for eye health and can reduce the pressure of the damaged eye. Add 1 tsp per 10 lbs of your dog’s weight per day. You can also use fennel to make an eyewash by squeezing the juice from the fennel onto a clean cloth and gently wiping his eyes.
3. Carrots. Carrots can help repair damaged eye cells because of their high beta-carotene content, which is important for the formation of visual pigment in the retina and protect the cells lining the eyes. Grate the carrots up and add 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day to your dog’s food.
4. Vitamin C. Dogs make enough vitamin c on their own, but since it’s an antioxidant, adding some to your dog’s diet can help protect his eyes. Dandelion and Alfalfa are both good natural sources of vitamin C. For Alfalfa, add a pinch per 10 lbs of body weight to your dog’s food per day. For Dandelion, sprinkle 1 tsp per 20 pounds of body weight directly onto your dog’s food.
You can also make tea with dried dandelion. Boil 8 oz water and add 1 oz of the dried herb. Give your dog 1/3 cup per 20 pounds of her body weight, up to 3 times a day.
If you use store-bought capsules, assume the dose is for a 150 lb human and adjust for your dog’s weight.
5. Magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessel walls and improves blood flow. Phytoplankton is tiny, microscopic plants that form the base of the food chain in the ocean is a good source of magnesium. It’s easy for your dog’s body to absorb so just 1/16 tsp per day in his food is enough.
6. Astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a keto-carotenoid found in microalgae and shellfish. It can cross the barrier to reach the retina, a barrier that few other substances can make it through, and can reduce the amount of damage that occurs to the cells of the eye. You can get astaxanthin from wild Pacific salmon (be sure it isn’t farmed salmon) or give a supplement according to the directions.
- Small Dogs (under 20 lbs): 1/2 tsp once daily
- Medium Dogs (21-49 lbs): 1 tsp once daily
- Large Dogs (over 50 lbs): 2 tsp once daily
7. Coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant and neuroprotectant, meaning it protects neurons from damage. Give your dog 1 mg per lb of body weight per day.
8. Herbs. Bilberry, rosemary, and burdock are all good for glaucoma. For example, Bilberry extract (also known as the “vision herb”) contains active ingredients for eye health and proper vision. The berries are rich in antioxidants that are beneficial in ophthalmology and vascular diseases. All of these herbs can be made into a tea and used as an eyewash.
Reducing The Risk
If you have not seen any signs of glaucoma in your dog, start protecting his eyes right away.
Slowing down the degenerative changes in his eyes can reduce the overall risk of glaucoma.
Here are some ways to do this:
Add antioxidants to his diet. Beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, as well as nutraceuticals such as lutein, astaxanthin, and rutin can all reduce the amount of damage that occurs to the cells of the eye.
Decrease or eliminate stress. Stress makes it hard for your dog to manage the oxidative stress in his body. Recognize what stresses him out and try to remove those things from his environment as much as possible.
Check his eyes on a regular basis. The symptoms of glaucoma can be difficult to spot, but it’s important to keep an eye out for any changes and speak to your holistic veterinarian about how to measure the pressure behind his eyes.
Reduce the pressure on his neck. Too much pressure on the neck can increase inter-cerebral pressure which can increase his risk. Switch to a harness that fits around his chest or loosen up a collar that is too tight.
Often glaucoma will result in the loss of sight and there isn’t much that can be done to reverse the damage. Just remember, your dog is really resilient and for most dogs, a loss of sight really isn’t a big deal (they’ll use their hearing and sense of smell to make up for it). Your dog’s eyes are amazing organs. Treat them well and you can protect them from damage in the future.