Kai Ken
Image © Shōga Kensha

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This is a genetic condition that affects the retina. The age of onset of this disease varies from dog to dog. It causes gradual degradation of the retina over time, and a loss of rod cells which detect light in the retina, it will eventually lead to blindness. This condition is not painful, and there are very limited changes to the eye itself. There is no cure.

Symptoms:

  • Initially poor vision in low light conditions
  • Eyesight worsens over time
  • Eyesight will become worse in daylight as well as low light
  • Bumping into things
  • Inability to follow where you are unless there is sound present
  • Complete blindness

Treatment:

Unfortunately there is no cure for progressive retinal atrophy. The cause of this disease is not well understood, and there are 7 different types of PRA, all of which lead to the same result. It can be diagnosed by your vet with a series of eye exams, you vet may refer you to a specialist veterinary ophthalmologist to diagnose this condition. Dogs can deal very well with being blind, however it is recommended you do not let your dog off lead if they are blind.


Seizures

The most common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy. It is genetic and the cause is unknown. Seizures are when the brain has uncontrolled episodes of electrical activity. It can cause dogs to fall to the floor, have behaviour changes (become aggressive or disorientated), and can last up to several minutes. There are a number of reasons your dog can develop a seizure such as diagnosed epilepsy; ingesting poison; low or high blood sugar; kidney disease; head injury; brain cancer; and brain swelling. The most common kind is the generalized seizure, also called a grand mal, where a dog can lose consciousness and start to convulse violently. The abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain. Generalised seizures usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes. With a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens in only part of the brain. Focal seizures can cause unusual movements in one limb or one side of the body. Sometimes they last only a couple of seconds.

Symptoms:

  • Vacant stare
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions (such as paddling or shaking, these can be mild or very violent)
  • Aggression
  • Being disorientated
  • Vocalisation, such as barking or whining
  • Unconsciousness
  • Urinating or defecating uncontrollable
  • Temporary blindness
  • Tongue biting

Treatment:

Depending on the cause of the seizure, treatment will vary massively. For epilepsy, the most common treatment is medication for life. Always follow your vets advise with seizures. If your dog has a seizure, stay calm, time it from start to finish, and move out of your dog’s way enough so you are at a safe distance, but can monitor your dog. It is important you do not touch your dog whilst they are having a seizure as stimulation can make it worse. Turn off the lights and keep the room quiet. Move things away from them that they could hurt themselves on such as furniture. It is important to remember your dog cannot choke on his tongue. Your dog may urinate and defecate whilst having the seizure. Always ring your vet practice once the seizure is over to let them know what to do next. If your dog continuously seizes for more than 5 minutes, or comes out of a seizure and straight into another one (called cluster seizures), ring your veterinary surgeon and take them to the practice right away, as this is now a medical emergency, as your dog could over heat.


Hemagiosarcoma (HSA)

This is a rapidly growing, highly invasive form of cancer. It is a tumour that is blood filled, and can occur in a variety of places on a dogs’ body. The most common places being the spleen, kidneys, and skin. If this cancer is on the skin (dermal HSA), they will appear as lumps that are red or irregular in size. If left untreated, they will spread rapidly to other parts of the body. If the cancer is internal (visceral HSA), it is not normally diagnosed until the tumour has ruptured, causing a rapid bleed within the dogs’ body, causing sudden collapse. If not treated immediately with surgery, dogs will bleed to death.

Symptoms:

  • Pale mucous membranes (almost white)
  • Sudden collapse
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Distended abdomen (bloated abdomen due to excessive bleeding)

Treatment:

Treatment for this condition is removal of all tumours (dermal HSA) and aggressive chemotherapy. Dermal HSA may return, but if surgery is performed early enough, it can be cured. For internal cancer (visceral HSA), the only treatments are life saving surgery to remove the bleeding mass, blood tests, blood transfusions, aggressive IV fluids, removal of the affected organ (if spleen or part of the liver is involved), aggressive chemotherapy, and supportive care. The only other treatment is euthanasia. This surgery is a palliative care procedure, and will not cure the dog from this condition. The life expectancy of affected dogs tends to be very short, between 3-5 months, as by the time the tumour has ruptured, it is likely to have spread to other parts of the body.

Tags: