Blindness Temporarily Thwarted

Buffy, my one-eyed cocker spaniel, acted normal on Sunday morning, even asking me to throw her ball. But ten minutes later, she stood still with her head down. She stepped cautiously forward and bumped her nose into the bathroom door, then the wall, then the corner. She sniffed everything. I waved my hand in front of her face. She blinked once, likely feeling the air moving. But her eye showed no movement.

Buffy with one eye. Photo by Rachel Elizabeth Seed.

She was blind.

The veterinary ophthalmologist had warned me of this possibility since Buffy tested positive for a genetic predisposition for glaucoma.

Buffy ironically developed glaucoma in her right eye the day after her checkup, when her intraocular pressure changed from a normal level of 10 to 37 mm Hg several days later. A pressure above 35 mm Hg is thought to feel similar to a migraine headache. Buffy lost her vision in the right eye, but it was hard to tell since she could still see with her left eye. But for the entire weekend, she voluntarily stayed in her crate or hid in the corner, clearly not feeling well. The details of this post are here.

Human glaucoma medications also treat canine glaucoma, but the drugs have a short-term effect, sometimes lasting only a few weeks. Within four weeks, the pressure in Buffy’s blind right eye had risen to 30. With a long, out-of-town weekend planned for the Fourth of July, I was afraid Buffy would be in pain while I was gone, so I decided to get her eye removed. You can read about that here.

The ophthalmologist said Buffy would likely lose sight in her other eye (left) within 6 to 18 months. Buffy is only 8 ½ years old, so she likely would be blind for years.

I prepared as best I could.

  • I ordered Muffin’s Halo, which is a band in front of the dog’s head to guide the dog and protect her from bumping into things.

    Cocker with Milo's Halo
    Buffy wearing Muffin’s Halo
  • I used a harness, since there was some evidence that using a collar could raise ocular pressure when the dog pulled.
    • Buffy hated her harness, and she normally doesn’t pull since she often stays behind me. This causes the harness rides up on her back. I needed to buy one with a front clip. The vet said that a regular collar would not raise her intraocular pressure for long, so she didn’t need a harness.
  • I tried to reduce stress – although Buffy didn’t seem to have too much stress in her life.
    • But this is where I may have failed. The day before, I had taken Buffy to the Puppy Up Chicago walk where we met Sandra from Dolly the Doxie and Kristin from the Daily Pip.
      • Temperatures were in the upper 80s and there was little shade by the gathering, although the 2-mile walk was about 40% shaded.
      • The Puppy Up crowd was well prepared with frequent watering stations for dogs and people.
      • I had offered Buffy water several times and she drank some, but she’s not a big water drinker. After the walk, I waited in the shade for a few minutes, but then decided we were both too hot, so I left. The air-conditioned car took a few minutes to cool, but not too long. Buffy panted more heavily than I’d ever seen her and for at least 20 minutes, much longer than I expected given that the car cooled and she had a vent blowing on her. She had lost her Puppy Up bandana, which I hadn’t realized until I was several miles away in heavy traffic. Buffy finally cooled down and the rest of the day she seemed normal.

Could the heat from the exertion have caused her blindness less than 24 hours later?

I found Muffin’s Halo and placed it on Buffy. It gave her immediate confidence as cabinets and walls touched the halo portion and not her face. Stairs though were still a problem as she stumbled down one step to get out the back door onto our deck. I carried her down the remaining four steps to the backyard.

My husband came into the kitchen and suggested that I give Buffy the anti-glaucoma medication that he takes, Latanoprost. Buffy had taken this medication in her blind right eye back in June, but did not have a current prescription for it since that eye had been removed. Buffy was still taking Dorzolamide (anti-glaucoma) and NeoPolyDexamethasone (antibiotic/anti-inflammatory) in her remaining eye.

I didn’t go to an emergency vet, since there wasn’t much they could do and Buffy was not in pain. We had nothing to lose since she was already blind. So I put a drop of Latanoprost in her eye.

A half hour later, Buffy could see!

The Latanoprost must have reduced her eye pressure enough to restore her vision. The ophthalmologist had told me back in June, that vision could return if permanent damage had not occurred, but it would be temporary.

Today, Buffy is chasing her ball, looking out the window, and going for short walks.

Enjoying her vision while she can.

Please leave a comment if you have known a dog or a person with glaucoma.

29 thoughts on “Blindness Temporarily Thwarted

  1. That was, I’m sure, a very difficult few days for you. My cat recently went blind due to high blood pressure. Her retinas detached. I was surprised by how quickly she adapted. Hopefully Muffin will retain the sight in her good eye for a long time, but if not, she will adjust more quickly than we humans do. Sending hugs for Muffin!

  2. That’s so hard! What a sweet girl, and what a hard story! Positive vibes your way, I hope you both can work out things that make life more functionable togerher!

  3. I can completely relate to your concerns about trying to reduce Buffy’s stress level. With Bernie’s Addison’s Disease, we need to keep his stress level low as well. And it’s a tough balance to strike. I want to take him places and have him doing activities, but too many new things just overwhelm him. Buffy is incredibly fortunate to have you as her person. You’re doing so many wonderful things to support her. Hang in there both of you.

  4. This is an amazing story that we don’t hear very often. It is common though for us to beat ourselves up when we think the outcome could have been different if we had been more proactive. I am so glad Buffy can see and enjoy life.

    • I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, but I wonder if she would have had this temporary blindness if she had stayed home or it wasn’t so hot. So far she can still see okay, although she has had a few middle of the night pressure spikes that have caused her to wake me up and give her additional eye drops.

  5. Holy cow, what a story! I’m so sorry you are dealing with this, it’s so hard to not be able to feel in control or able to help when our animals are hurting or uncomfortable. I am glad the medication has helped, even if it’s temporary. Sending you guys lots of love.

    • Actually, I think I have a cooling vest, although it was for my springer and might be too big. Buffy usually stays home and just walks around the neighborhood so I didn’t think about it. Also, being right next to Lake Michigan, it’s usually cooler.

  6. Poor Buffy! I suffer from the occasional migraine and can’t imagine how a little dog would cope. I’m glad she is feeling better and making the most of her sight. Very interesting information – pinning. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for pinning it. Buffy had a bad headache when she lost her vision in her first eye and I didn’t know what the problem was. Of course, it was the weekend and the ophthalmologist thought it was a scratched cornea. So I thought that was why she moped around in her cage that weekend.

  7. Speedy was born with Glaucoma in his left eye and was totally blind in that eye from when we had him as a baby.we used to treat it with drops to control the pressure in the eye,but after a time we could see it wasn’t helping plus he ended up with an ulcer and was in so much pain even with pain meds that we took the decision to have the eye removed,it made a bid difference straight away to his quality of life.I wish we had decided sooner to do the surgery it would have saved him so much pain.Luckily the Right eye is in perfect health and has perfect vision,though we have been told that could change as he gets older but so far there is no sign of glaucoma in the right eye and Speedy is 6 next month.

    To help Buffy negotiate the steps I would put a ramp in now so that she gets used to it now before she loses her sight in the other eye,and then make sure everything stays in the same place in the house in time she will get used to where everything is once she has lost her sight in her remaining eye that she will be able to find her way around in time with out any aids.
    xx Rachel and Speedy

    • Wow, you’re lucky you’ve had 6 years with no problems in the other eye. My vet said Buffy has a genetic predisposition, so she was bound to get it in both eyes. I think Buffy will do okay in the house, but she will lose her favorite activities of chasing the ball and looking out the window.

  8. Oh wow! so happy to hear that Poppy is able to see again and hope she stays stable for a long time, I know any dogs with glaucoma but I am always keen to learn about health conditions in dogs. Poppy is adorable x

  9. Oh I ‘m so sorry to hear Buffy is suffering with glaucoma at her relatively young age . It’s comforting to know tools like the halo and Latanoprost are working for her. Yes, enjoy every moment while your vision is in tact. Glad Buffy still remembers to life life to the fullest and is playing again. Pray that her vision lasts longer than anticipated.

  10. Poor Buffy, I’m so sorry she is losing her eyesight but I’m glad the medication helped. I hope it lasts more than a few weeks. Muffin’s Halo is such a great product, it’s helped so many visually impaired dogs. *hugs*
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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