The eyes of English Springer Spaniels are susceptible to a
number of genetic-based disorders, some of which are present at birth and
others that may develop at various times throughout life.
Retinal Dysplasia (RD)
Retinal Dysplasia (RD) is a congenital defect in the
development and layering of the retina resulting in folding and abnormal growth
of cells especially in the outer retina.Studies indicate that RD in the ESS is inherited; a congenital disorder
developing around 48 day’s gestation.Affected puppies are born with the lesions already present.
Abnormalities can be diagnosed by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist when
puppies are 7 to 12 weeks old.Retinal
dysplasia should not affect a dog's ability to function as a pet; however,
affected ESS should not be bred.
Progressive retinal atrophy or degeneration (PRA or PRD) is
the name for several
diseases that are progressive and lead to blindness. First
recognized at the beginning
of the 20th century in Gordon Setters, this inherited
condition has been documented in
over 100 breeds.
What is PRA?
PRA is a degeneration of the layers of the retina that are
responsible for vision. The disease is progressive, eventually resulting in
blindness. The onset in Springers is variable, but usually occurs between 2 and
6 years of age. The disorder is still considered rare; however, its incidence
has increased in recent years. There is no pain or discomfort for the dog but,
unfortunately, there is no treatment.Responsible breeders pay close attention to the eyes of their breeding
stock throughout the dogs' lives, monitoring puppies and adults for the
development of hereditary eye disorders.
What is Affected, Carrier, Normal in PRA? A dog can be tested for the genetic likelihood of PRA by having a blood test
and/or a cheek swab done by a certified laboratory.To understand the ramification of the
results, a knowledge of genetics may be required to understand dominant and
recessive genes.A simplified version is
supplied here. Three different options are possible for a dog with respect to
the PRA gene. A dog that has two recessive genes for PRA is said to be
“CLEAR”.There should be no risk of the
animal coming down with PRA. It has not received a dominant PRA gene from its
sire or its dam.A dog that has two dominant genes for PRA is
said to be “AFFECTED”.This does not
mean that the dog will come down with PRA, just that there is a possibility of
it occurring.This dog has received a
dominant gene from both the sire and the dam.As has been well documented, a AFFECTED dog is not guaranteed to lose
its sight. However, this selection of dogs is at risk of the disease occurring.
A "CARRIER” dog indicates that there has been one dominant gene and one recessive
gene received from the dam and the sire. A carrier dog should not be at risk of
What are the signs of PRA?
Signs may vary depending on the type of PRA and its rate of
progression. PRA is non
painful and outward appearance of the eye is often normal,
i.e.; no redness, excess
tearing, or squinting. Owners may notice a change in
personality of their pet such as a
reluctance to go down stairs or down a dark hallway. This is
characteristic of night
blindness, in which vision may appear to improve during the
daytime. As the disease
progresses, owners can observe a dilation of the pupils and
the reflection of light from
the back of the eye. If the blindness is progressing slowly,
the owner may not notice
any sign until the dog is in unfamiliar surroundings and the
lack of vision is more
How is PRA diagnosed?
Depending on the form of PRA, characteristic changes in the
retina and other parts of
the eye may be observed through an ophthalmic examination by
opthalmologist. More sophisticated tests such as
electroretinography may also be
used. Both tests are painless and the animal does not have
to be anesthetized. If no
abnormalities are found during the exam by a board certified
veterinary ophtha limnologist,
the dog can be certified free of heritable eye disease
through the Canine Eye
Registration Foundation (CERF).
How is PRA treated?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PRA, nor a way to
slow the progression of the
disease. Animals with PRA usually become blind. Dogs and
cats are remarkably
adaptable to progressive blindness, and can often seem to
perform normally in their
Can PRA be prevented?
PRA has been shown to have a genetic component. Puppies from
parents who have
no history of the disease and have been certified free of
PRA will have less risk of
developing the disease. Affected animals should not be bred
and should be
spayed or neutered. The littermates or parents of animals
with PRA should also
not be bred. If your dog develops PRA, notify the breeder.
Entropion and ectropion are conditions that involve the
eyelids.With an entropion the eyelids
roll inward and rub against the cornea (the clear surface)of the eye, usually
the dog will squint and tear excessively.Ectropion is the opposite of entropion, the eyelids droop exposing the
cornea.These conditions frequently
causes other problems within the eye such as conjuctivitis.
Entropion and extropion is usually observed within the first year of life.
Entropion and extropion can be surgically corrected.