Retinal Tear or Detachment in Dogs & Cats

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The retina is a layer of special light-sensitive cells that lines the back of the eye, and functions like the film in a camera. Upon capturing the light and images, it then sends these visual images to the brain via the optic nerve.

A retinal detachment occurs if the layer of light-sensitive cells is pulled away from the back of the eye. When the retina becomes separated from the support tissue underneath (the choroid, which supplies the retina with blood and oxygen) it can no longer function and is termed "detached." If not treated promptly and properly, the affected animal will become blind, sometimes within a matter of days.

In animals, this problem tends to present late in the illness, as a dog or cat cannot let us know that some of their vision is impaired. Retinal detachments tend to be picked up only when there is significant visual loss, often affecting both eyes.

Causes of a Retinal Tear or Detachment in Dogs & Cats

Causes of retinal detachment include an injury to the eye or head, an inherited tendency, tumor, health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, kidney disease and sickle cell anemia. Other causes include congenital defects such as retinal dysplasia (seen in Labradors), infection, mature cataracts, any eye surgery, poisoning or hyperviscosity syndromes.

The detached retina takes longer to perish in dogs than in cats. Success of treatment depends on how bad the damage is, and how long it has been there. In some cases surgery is just not feasible.


Retinal Tear

Retinal detachments can occur slowly or quickly. If it is occurring slowly and only in one eye, you may not notice any difference in your pet's behavior. You may notice that the pupil of the affected eye dilates and remains dilated as the dog's vision decreases.


Modern surgery involves the use of extreme cold or laser to stick parts of the retina back in position by producing scar tissue. This then allows the blood supply to re-establish.

It is essential that a vet sees any animal with a suspected retinal detachment urgently. Any additional treatment to that recommended by your vet should be complementary rather than alternative.

Complementary Help

  • Eyebright and bilberry, two herbs integral to holistic eye treatment, are primary nutrients that may support healing.
  • Essential fatty acids are important to healing. We recommend a product featuring a high-grade marine lipid concentrate rich in the Omega 3 constituents EPA and DHA.