Glaucoma Risk

Prevention is the Best Cure


I hope you will remind your readers about the importance of making provisions for their beloved pets should they die before the pets. A friend recently diagnosed with terminal liver cancer committed suicide last week. Prior to that, I promised him I would care for his two dogs (he had originally planned to kill them first).


I had no idea one of the dogs is on Xalatan (a $100 vial lasts three weeks). He did not give me a clue about the cost. It is an exorbitant expense for which I was not prepared.


My friend’s next of kin have not expressed any interest and I am not one to ask them for financial help from his estate. I have volunteered in shelters where dogs have ended up because surviving relatives did not want them. I do not wish that fate on my friend’s dogs.


The dog, an Entlebucher who is 13 years old, is in great shape save for suffering from “goniodysgenic” eyes. What would be the consequence of withholding Xalatan? Blindness? I’ve met blind dogs who have adjusted well to their disability. But would this dog also suffer and be in pain without the medication?


Dr. Nichol:

I’m really sorry that you’ve been put in such a difficult position. You are right-part of being a loving, responsible dog or cat owner includes planning for their care if you can’t. Fortunately, the future for your late friend’s dog may not be so bleak.


Goniodysgenesis is an abnormality of the outflow of the fluid (aqueous) that is continuously produced in the front portion of the eye. If it can’t drain normally the dog will develop glaucoma-excessive pressure inside the eyeballs. Without proper management the result is severe pain and blindness. For the latest on this disease I contacted veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Gavin Kennard. It turns out that this dog has been under his care.


the Entlebucher is one of several breeds that are prone to goniodysgenesis. But, as the good eye doctor pointed out, not all of them actually get the disease. He recommended “prophylactic topical treatment to avert this blinding, but more importantly painful disease, for which limited treatment options exist once it occurs. Prevention is the best cure.” He went on to explain that “there are more cost effective medications. Timolol drops could also be considered.” So it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.


But that’s not the end of the story. I forwarded Dr. Kennard’s advice to this well-intentioned canine caretaker, who responded with this update: The woman who bred this dog and is active in the Entlebucher rescue organization has offered to adopt both dogs. She is familiar with goniodysgenic eyes (having had dogs who were similarly afflicted). She lives in BC, Canada (where Xalatan is available at 1/2 the cost!). My problem’s solved.”


It would be a stretch to call the rehoming of these dogs a happy ending, especially in view of the death of their owner. Things could have been worse. We can all take a lesson from this. Each of us needs a will that provides for the care of the pets we love.