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Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of eye conditions involving the gradual deterioration of the retina, which will lead to blindness.
The retina is located at the back of the eye and it takes the light gathered and focused by the other eye structures, converts it into electrical nerve signals and sends it on to the optic nerve and then to the brain for interpretation.
PRA can occur in dogs who are only months old up to 7+ years. PRA is not painful, and the outward appearance of the eye looks normal. Due to PRA's gradual progression, early signs of the disease are often overlooked. An animal with PRA will first experience night blindness, and an owner may notice the animal hesitating to walk down a dark hallway or dark stairway. During the day, the affected animal's vision may appear normal, but eventually the daytime vision is affected and will cause complete blindness in the dog. In the later stages of the disease, the owner may see a dilation of the pupils or a reflection of light from the back of the eye.
There is currently no treatment to cure or even slow the progression of PRA. Keeping the dog in familiar surroundings will often help the animal to compensate for the blindness. The good news is that dogs tend to adapt very well to being blind. Owners of blind dogs should not make any major household changes so that the dog is sure of where the furniture is- they remember where their obstacles are and are able to avoid them as long as nothing is moved around much.