Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a name given to a group of eye diseases of similar character. PRA causes no pain or discomfort but may result in permanent blindness. The word atrophy means wasting away. PRA develops after birth and in some breeds has been determined to be inherited from both parents. It affects the retina, which lines the back portion of the inside of the eye. The retina contains the light-sensitive rods and cones that change light into energy for transmitting messages to the brain. The retina is similar to the film in a camera; the image or picture is received on it. PRA can occur in all breeds of dogs although certain breeds are at higher risk. It appears earlier in some breeds and can take several years to cause complete blindness. An early sign of PRA is inability to see in dim light or at night. For example, an animal with PRA may hesitate to go from a well-lighted room into a darkened room. Due to PRA's slow progress, most pets adapt very well to the gradual loss of sight. Many owners do not realize their pet is becoming blind. Animals compensate well for blindness, because their senses are much more acute than those of people.
Important Points about PRA:
1. No effective treatment is available.
2. Complete blindness eventually results.
3. The condition, however, is not painful.
4. PRA is prevented through selective breeding of animals with normal eyes.
5. Sometimes cataracts develop secondary to the retinal degeneration. But because of the retinal degeneration, cataract removal would not help the animal regain vision.
6. Poor vision in dim light is the first sign you will see in your dog.
7. You may also eventually see dilated pupils.
If you are concerned about the health of your pet you should contact your veterinary surgeon at all times.