Retinal dysplasia is an abnormal development of the retina, which is a layer of nervous tissue that covers the back of the eyeball where the sensation of vision occurs. The whole eye is just a container for this tissue that supplies the eye with the necessary nutrition and focuses light. Heritable retinal dysplasia is the most common form, which has been described in many breeds of dogs, including the Bedlington Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Beagle, Labrador Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, American Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, Akita, Afghan Hound, Australian Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, Old English Sheepdog, and Rottweiler. The disease occurs as a congenital defect and does not progress as the dog ages. In the Labrador Retriever, retinal dysplasia may be associated with skeletal dysplasia of the forelegs. Acquired retinal dysplasia can result from prenatal infections with herpesvirus and parvovirus, radiation exposure, toxins and trauma.
Retinal dysplasia results in the formation of small blind areas that usually do not cause serious vision problems. However, large areas of dysplasia (geographic dysplasia) may lead to visual impairment, and dogs with retinal detachments may become totally blind. Congenital cataracts often accompany retinal dysplasia. Some dogs will not have any symptoms and can only be identified through a special eye exams performed by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certified eye specialists.
There is no effective treatment for this diseases. The only way to prevent it is to make sure that the active carriers of retinal dysplasia gene do not breed. All breeding dogs should be registered with the CERF and evaluated before being bred, and then tested yearly by certified eye specialists.