A HUGE thank you to Dr. Gayle Watkins (breeder of Trix and Ripple) for allowing us to share her words and research. She is dedicated to the advancement of the health and wellness in Goldens and is doing incredible things in the world of dogs. You can read about Gayle and see the work she does at Avidog University, Canine Health Events and at Gaylans Goldens
An essential part of owning a golden retriever is annual eye exams for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if that dog comes from us or another breeder. Pigmentary uveitis (PU) is found in show and field lines in the US and Canada. Estimates from researchers are 60-80% of North American goldens carry the gene for PU. At the moment, they think PU’s mode of inheritance is Dominant with incomplete penetrance so your dog only needs ONE PU gene to end up with the disease. Not every dog with the gene will have the disease but at this point, we don’t know why that is.
Caught early, the majority of PU cases can be treated with daily eye drops for the dog’s lifetime. A small number of early diagnosed cases will go on to glaucoma, cataracts and blindness regardless of early treatment but these dogs are more likely to keep their vision longer. How do we know we’ve caught PU early? The dog has no symptoms of the disease! The only indication is pigment on the lens that only the ophthalmologist can see. If there are symptoms—redness, tearing, enlarged pupil, visible floaters in the eye—PU is quite advanced and the chance of saving the dog’s eye is significantly lower. Treatment now will be quite extensive, usually requiring multiple eye drops each day, and often unsuccessful. So early diagnosis is important!
Please spread the word to all the golden retriever owners you know! You can also tell goldendoodle owners you might know since PU has now been found in goldendoodles.
Here are a few frequently asked question.
1) Do I need to go to an veterinary ophthalmologist for this exam? YES! Very few general practitioners have the training or equipment to find PU or subsequent problems, such as glaucoma, until they are very far along. Ask for a CERF or OFA exam when you make the appointment. PLEASE SEND IN THE OFA FORM to OFA!!! To find a veterinary ophthalmologist, go to http://www.acvo.org/. Not every ophtho is skilled or knowledgeable in diagnosing PU so ask around, too. Many breed clubs host health clinics throughout the year. You can find a schedule here http://www.offa.org/clinics.html. For dogs that have had normal eyes up until now, health clinics are a fine way to get your dog examined.
2) Must I go every year? YES! Caught early, the majority of PU cases can be managed with daily eye drops for the dog’s lifetime. But if this disease is caught late, it is likely that your dog will go blind in the affected eye and may lose it’s eye. Here is more about PU https://www.grca.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/IntroPigmentaryUveitis.pdf. There is a Facebook group for info about PU at https://www.facebook.com/groups/957702154320605/.
3) When should I start taking my dog for exams? The earliest PU has been diagnosed is 18 months but that is extremely rare so start annual eye exams at 2.
4) How long must I do the exams? The average age the dogs develop PU is 8. Plan to have your dog’s eyes examined for a lifetime.
5) My dog has had several clear exams, must I keep going? YES! Normal exams early in life do not mean your dog will not develop PU!
6) Are annual exams enough? Annual exams are fine for dogs with no history of iris cysts or a family history of PU.
7) Do I have to send in the OFA form the ophthalmologist gives me? You don’t have to but if you want to help further PU research, you must do so. Without publicly recorded eye exams, researchers are limited in their efforts. Please pay the nominal fee and record your dog’s results with the OFA.
8) What causes PU? Aside from knowing it’s a genetic disease, nothing else is known about PU. The distinguishing characteristic of PU is pigment on the lens laid down in a radiating pattern. No one knows where the pigment comes from or how it gets on the lens. How it progresses to glaucoma and cataracts are unknown but it is those two secondary effects that result in blindness. If the dog has glaucoma, it often must have its eye removed due to the pain associated with high eye pressure.
9) Are iris cysts the same as PU? There is good evidence that there is some relationship between iris or cilliary body cysts and PU but the details of that relationship is not clear. There is no correlation between a single IC in one or both eyes and the dog developing PU. However, more than one IC increases the risk the dog will get PU in the next few years. If your dog has more than one IC, you should be doing eye exams every 6 months.
10) What is happening with PU research? I don’t have an update from Wendy but know that she and her geneticist are preparing a video to update everyone. Canine Health Events is funding that video.