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Managing Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs: Tips and Strategies

Understanding Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs

As pet owners, our furry friends hold a special place in our hearts, and we want to do everything possible to ensure they lead happy and fulfilling lives. When faced with the unexpected diagnosis of PRA, it can be a daunting experience for pet owners.

However, understanding what PRA is and how it affects your dog can go a long way in helping you manage this condition. In this article, we’ll explore what PRA is, its causes, symptoms, and breeds that are most at risk.

Definition and Causes of PRA

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a term used to describe a group of genetic disorders that affect the retina in dogs. The retina is responsible for tracking light and converting it into neural signals that are then sent to the brain where they are interpreted as images.

In dogs with PRA, the photoreceptor cells, which include rods and cones, gradually degenerate leading to blindness. While PRA can be an inherited disorder, it can also develop as a result of other factors such as toxins or trauma.

PRA is an autosomal recessive trait, which means that a dog needs to inherit two defective genes, one from each parent, to develop the condition. If a dog only inherits one defective gene, they become a carrier and don’t show symptoms.

Two Forms of PRA in Dogs

There are two main forms of PRA in dogs, early-onset and late-onset PRA. Early-onset PRA is a severe form of the disorder and is usually caused by retinal dysplasia.

Dogs with this form of PRA typically begin to show symptoms at around 3 to 4 months of age, with complete blindness occurring by 1 to 2 years of age. Late-onset PRA usually occurs in dogs that are 5 years and above.

Dogs with this form of PRA will show mild symptoms at first, such as reluctance, clumsiness, and dilated pupils. As the condition progresses, other symptoms such as reflective eyes and cataracts may appear.

Symptoms of PRA in Dogs

PRA can be difficult to detect in the early stages. However, there are several symptoms that may indicate your dog has the condition.

These include reluctance to move around unfamiliar areas, clumsiness, dilated pupils, and a noticeable reduction in night vision. As the disease progresses, the dog may lose their vision completely leading to disorientation and a significant change in behavior.

Other symptoms that may manifest later on include cataracts, inflammation, and eventually total blindness.

Breeds at Higher Risk for PRA

PRA affects a wide range of dog breeds, although some breeds are at higher risk than others. Here’s a list of some of the breeds that are more likely to develop PRA.

1. Akita


American Cocker Spaniel

3. Australian Cattle Dog


Australian Shepherd

5. Basenji


Bedlington Terriers

7. Border Collie



9. Chesapeake Bay Retriever



11. English Cocker Spaniel


French Bulldog

13. Golden Retriever


Labrador Retriever

15. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


Italian Greyhound

17. Mastiff


Miniature Poodle

19. Samoyed


Shetland Sheepdog

21. Siberian Husky


Silky Terrier

23. Tibetan Terrier


Toy Poodle

Gender-Linked PRA

Although PRA affects both male and female dogs, research has shown that male dogs are at a slightly higher risk of developing the condition. This is important to keep in mind if you’re considering breeding your dog.

In such cases, it’s essential to do genetic testing to determine if both parents are carriers of the defective gene. In conclusion, PRA is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a dog’s quality of life.

However, with proper care and management, it’s possible to help your dog live a fulfilled and happy life even with the condition. Knowing what to look out for and which breeds are at risk can help you detect the condition early and take appropriate action.

Consult with your veterinarian for more information on PRA, and your pet’s specific risk factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment of PRA in Dogs

Diagnosing PRA in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog has PRA, the first step is to take them to a veterinarian for a thorough exam. The vet may use an indirect ophthalmoscope to examine the retina and optic nerve for any abnormalities.

They may also use an electroretinogram (ERG) to measure the electrical response of the retina to light. If PRA is suspected, a genetic test can be performed to determine if your dog carries the defective gene that causes the condition.

This test can also be done before breeding to determine if both parents carry the gene.

Treatment and Recovery of PRA in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for PRA, and once the condition progresses, vision loss is inevitable. However, there are several measures that can be taken to help slow the disease’s progression, preserve as much vision as possible, and help your dog adjust to their new lifestyle.

Antioxidants such as Ocu-Glo can be given to dogs with PRA to help support retinal function and slow down the disease’s progression. The antioxidants can help remove free radicals that can cause damage to the eye.

In some cases, cataract surgery may be necessary to improve the dog’s vision. In other cases, special eyedrops may be used to reduce inflammation and promote eye health.

Adjustments will need to be made for dogs with PRA who become blind. These changes can help your dog maintain their quality of life.

If your dog becomes blind, their sense of smell and hearing will become more important in helping them navigate the world. Here are some tips for adjusting to life with a blind dog:


Create a Safe and Familiar Area: Designate an area of your home as a safe and familiar space for your dog. Initially, your dog may feel nervous or uncomfortable, so it’s important to choose an area where they feel safe.

2. Furniture and Objects: Avoid moving furniture and objects around in this designated area, as this can cause additional stress for the dog.

They will rely on their sense of touch and smell to recognize familiar objects. 3.

Stairs Can Be Hazardous: For dogs with PRA, stairs can be particularly hazardous and may result in injuries. Place baby gates to restrict access to stairs to minimize the risk of injuries.

4. Use Protective Covers: Consider using protective covers on stair edges, sharp edges or corners of furniture and walls.

This can help to prevent any accidents that may cause injury to the dog. 5.

Verbal Cues: Verbal cues can be helpful to the dog in navigating their surroundings. With verbal cues, the dog can easily identify areas where they can relax and move with confidence.

6. Walk on a Leash or Harness: Whenever you are outside with your blind dog, always have them on a leash or harness.

A leash can help to keep the dog safe and prevent them from getting into dangerous situations.

Management of PRA

Helping Dogs with Decreased Vision or Blindness

Dogs with decreased vision require specific needs to make them feel comfortable and safe in their homes. Here are some tips to help dogs with decreased vision or complete blindness:


Safe and Familiar Areas: Create clearly defined, safe areas in your home where your dog with decreased vision can move around with ease. This will reduce anxiety or stress that they might experience in unfamiliar spaces.

2. Furniture and Objects: Avoid redecorating, moving furniture or objects around frequently to minimize the risk of injury to the dog.

Familiar objects, such as beds, toys, and food bowls, should be kept within reach. 3.

Mark Stairs and Hazards: Use paint or tape to mark stair edges, edges of slippery floors, or other hazards that your dog would commonly navigate. This will help your dog perceive their surroundings and avoid accidental injury.

4. Use Protective Covers: Cover sharp corners, edges or furniture with protective materials to avoid injuries and make it easier for your dog to move around.

5. Verbal Cues: Use positive voice cues to help your dog navigate, such as “step up” or “step down”.

Verbal encouragement can help to build the dog’s confidence and make them feel more comfortable as they explore their environment. 6.

Routine: Establishing a routine such as feeding and walking time, can help to provide a sense of comfort and security to your dog, and help them to adjust to their new normal. 7.

TV or Radio: Background noise from television or radio can help to provide auditory stimuli that will help your dog perceive their surroundings better. 8.

Toys and Treats: Toys and treats can be used to stimulate your dog’s sense of smell and help them stay active. A unique scent can be added to toys, treats or their bedding to help make it easier for the dog to identify them.

9. Leash and Harness: When taking your dog for a walk, Always use a leash and harness.

This will help to keep the dog safe and protected during walks. 10.

Halo or Device: Using a halo or similar device can help your dog to navigate their surroundings. These devices prevent dogs from bumping into objects by signaling their path and ensuring they’re aware of their exact location.

In conclusion, PRA is a condition that requires special care, attention, and understanding. With the right treatment and adjustments, dogs with PRA can still lead fulfilling lives, even with blindness or decreased vision.

If you suspect your dog may be at risk for PRA, or if you have recently been diagnosed, contact your veterinarian for an assessment and advice on how to proceed. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited genetic disorder that affects a dog’s eyesight and has no cure.

However, early diagnosis and proper management of PRA can significantly slow down the disease’s progression and help dogs adjust to their new normal, preserving their quality of life. Understanding PRA symptoms, breeds at risk, diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and management require special consideration and modifications to make dogs feel comfortable, safe and secure in their surroundings.

Pet owners should seek guidance from their veterinarians and follow suggested strategies to provide dogs with the best care possible while living with PRA.

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