URGENT MESSAGE TO ALL GOLDEN RETRIEVER OWNERS
All dogs are subject to various eye diseases, but one in particular is unique to Golden Retrievers --- PIGMENTARY UVEITIS.
- What is Pigmentary Uveitis?
Uveitis is defined as an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, termed the “uvea” but in common usage may refer to any inflammatory process involving the interior of the eye. Although ophthalmologists have previously diagnosed uveitis in Goldens, it was not until 2000 that a large study defined a specific type of uveitis which is now known as "Pigmentary Uveitis" (PU) or "Golden Retriever Uveitis." Unlike uveitis found in other breeds (or other types of uveitis in Goldens; it should be noted that Goldens can get uveitis that is not genetic) Pigmentary Uveitis is not associated with an underlying systemic disease or infectious agents. Because of its unique characteristics; lack of association with underlying causes and a familial link, PU is strongly suspected to be an inherited disease. Unfortunately, pigmentary uveitis is a serious disease because the majority of affected Goldens have it in both eyes, and 46% of affected eyes progress to blindness due to glaucoma. The treatment with medically prescribed eye drops does often help to slow the progression and reduce the eye pressures when caught early. EARLY DETECTION IS KEY, so yearly examinations by an ophthalmologist are critical. It is a real quality of life issue for these dogs and their owners. The mean age at diagnosis is 8.6 years, with a range from 4.5 years to 14.5 years. This means that there is no age at which a dog can be deemed "safe" from developing PU.
· What are the symptoms of PU?
Some dogs will have no visible symptoms. That is why many pet Goldens are presented for examination when chronic changes have already set in. You may simply look at your dog one day and realize the eyes “just don’t look right.” Some will have redness of the whites of the eyes, squinting, sensitivity to light, a small pupil, rubbing, tearing, or corneal edema (fluid collecting in the cornea). Goldens are notoriously stoic about pain and you may not see any changes in behavior. “Uveitis” is generally defined by the layman as any inflammation of the eye, so do not dismiss symptoms as merely an allergy.
· Can my regular veterinarian diagnose PU?
Only a board-certified ophthalmologist can definitively diagnose PU. Eye drops are administered to dilate the eye so that the interior of the eye can be examined. The exam is quick and painless. Because PU can develop rapidly, it is critical to regularly exam the eyes --- yearly, for the life of the dog. To allow PU to develop without treatment WILL result in excruciating pain as the eye progresses to glaucoma. Ultimately many such dogs will go blind. Severe cases may require enucleation (removal) of the eye(s). Some dogs have been euthanized.
· What is CERF?
The board-certified ophthalmologist you consult will be associated with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). This is the organization that tracks eye diseases in dogs. Responsible breeders have always “CERF-ed” their breeding stock in an attempt to rule out breedings that may produce heritable eye diseases. Prior to 2001 PU was not a recordable condition on CERF forms. No one knew PU was genetic. That means there are generations of dogs that have been bred who carry the PU genes. The number of identified cases of PU has been growing alarmingly the last few years. No lines are totally clear of the disease. Some older “clear” dogs could have had PU. Researchers are working to identify the mode of inheritance so that breeders can make informed breeding decisions.
· How do I arrange for my dog to be examined?
Eye clinics are widely available, many held in conjunction with local dog shows or hosted by all-breed clubs in our area. Generally, the cost of an eye exam done by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at a hosted eye clinic is less than when done at the specialist’s private clinic.Golden Retrievers that are currently being bred or planned for breeding typically participate in these clinics on an annual basis to assure absence of eye disease. The Golden Retriever Club of Western New York will be holding annual eye clinics, dates and location to be announced, along with the fee for the CERF exam, as well as what information you will need to provide. The objective of this clinic is to reach a broader group of Goldens than those who are already current with their CERF. It is hoped that owners of Goldens who have not obtained an eye clearance in the past or have not been checked by an ophthalmologist within the last year will take advantage of this special clinic to get their Goldens checked for eye diseases including the devastating late onset disease we now know as Pigmentary Uveitis.
· Where can I find an ophthalmologist in my area?
Animal Eye Care of Western New York, P.C. 716-608-7700
Rochester, NY area:
Veterinary Specialists of Rochester 585-424-1260
Ithaca, NY area:
Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine 607-253-3029