labrador eye problems

The 7 Most Common Labrador Eye Problems

Are you wondering about the most common Labrador eye problems? Well, it’s not uncommon for Labradors to have some eye issues. In fact, labrador eye problems are quite common and can range from mild to severe. From cataracts to retinal dysplasia, it’s important to be aware of the potential issues that could arise with your pup’s peepers.

But don’t worry; plenty of eye problems in dogs treatment options are available to help improve your Lab’s vision and keep them happy and healthy. Let’s dive in and explore some of the common labrador eye problems and how to manage them best.

Overview of Eye Problems in Labrador Retrievers

labrador eye problems

Labrador Retrievers are known for their beautiful, expressive eyes. However, they’re also prone to several dog eye problems, including:

  1. Cataracts: Cataracts refer to the clouding of the lens within the eye, resulting in diminished vision. This condition is frequently seen in Labradors and can vary in severity.
  2. Glaucoma: Glaucoma in Labradors involves an increase in pressure within the dog eye. This condition can lead to discomfort and, if left untreated, could result in lost of vision.
  3. Corneal Dystrophy: This condition affects the cornea, the eye’s clear front surface. In Labradors, it can lead to the development of opaque spots on the cornea.
  4. Entropion and Ectropion: These conditions relate to the eyelids. Entropion involves the inward rolling of the eyelid, while Ectropion refers to the outward rolling. Both can cause discomfort and eye complications in Labrador retriever.
  5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a group of degenerative diseases that impact the retina. It leads to the gradual deterioration of the retina, affecting the dog’s night vision initially and eventually leading to complete blindness.
  6. Retinal Dysplasia: This is a disorder where the cells and layer of retinal tissue do not develop normally, affecting the dog’s vision. It’s a hereditary disease common among Labradors.
  7. Eye Infections and Conjunctivitis: These conditions refer to infections or inflammation in the eye. They can lead to redness, itchiness, and discharge in Labradors.

These are the overview of the most common eye problems that Labradors can potentially experience. We will discuss each Labrador eye problems in more detail below.

Labrador Eye Problems Explained

labrador eye problems

Now, we will dig deeper into each of the conditions discussed above so that you can better understand what to look for and how they can be treated.


Cataracts are a common eye issue among Labradors where the eye’s lens changes, resulting in a murky appearance. These changes render the lens opaque preventing light from reaching the retina, leading to potential blindness. One or both eyes of your Lab might exhibit a milky hue if they have developed cataracts. The cause of this ailment is suspected to be hereditary, though researchers have yet to identify the specific gene responsible. Other potential causes include diabetes, another common concern in Labs, and eye inflammation or trauma.

It’s crucial to distinguish cataracts from other normal age-related changes in your Lab’s eyes. For instance, if your Lab is around six years old and you observe a grayish tone in his iris, this could be nuclear sclerosis, a hardening of the lens that doesn’t significantly impact vision unless it becomes overly dense. This change is analogous to humans requiring reading glasses in their 40s.

Although you can surgically remove cataracts, Labrador owners should consider this option carefully. Post-surgery complications are significantly higher in dogs compared to humans. A substantial proportion of Labs – about one-third, according to a 2011 study published in the Veterinarian Ophthalmology Academic Journal – will develop Glaucoma following cataract surgery. This is particularly noteworthy considering only 10% of Labs usually develop Glaucoma unrelated to surgery. “Each owner has to decide whether they want to do it or not,” says Dr. Komáromy, adding that a Labrador’s quality of life need not diminish with blindness.


Glaucoma in Labradors is a serious condition characterized by an abnormal increase in the pressure within the eye, known technically as intraocular pressure (IOP). High pressure occurs due to an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye called aqueous humor. When the drainage of this fluid is slower than its production, pressure builds up in the eye, resulting in Glaucoma.

Glaucoma can be extremely painful for your Labrador and, if left untreated, can lead to irreversible blindness. Early symptoms can include excessive tearing, a cloudy cornea, a dilated pupil, or the eye taking on a reddish or bloodshot appearance. Your Labrador may also exhibit behavioral signs of discomfort, such as restlessness, loss of appetite, or a reluctance to play.

There are two types of Glaucoma: primary and secondary. Primary Glaucoma is genetic, while secondary Glaucoma is a result of other eye conditions such as cataracts, cancer, or inflammation of the eye.

Treatment options for Glaucoma vary depending on the severity of the condition. They may include medical management through eye drops and oral medications to decrease aqueous humor production or increase its outflow. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary, involving laser treatment or the implantation of a drainage device.

It’s critical to note that Glaucoma is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary attention. Regular eye check-ups are essential to catch the symptoms early and prevent permanent damage. Therefore, Labrador owners must stay vigilant for any changes in their dog’s eye appearance or behavior.

∎Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal Dystrophy in Labradors is a hereditary condition that results in the formation of opaque spots on the cornea, the eye’s clear front surface. Though typically not painful, this condition can vary in severity and potentially impair a dog’s vision.

In Labradors, the corneal dystrophy typically observed is epithelial/stromal corneal dystrophy. This variant manifests as white or greyish circular or irregularly shaped opacities on the cornea’s surface. The opacities are deposits of lipids or other substances and can affect one or both eyes.

The onset of this condition usually occurs in young adulthood (around 1 to 3 years old), with males and females being equally affected. It’s important to note that while opacities may hinder vision, they do not cause complete blindness, and most affected Labradors lead normal, active lives.

Diagnosing corneal dystrophy involves a thorough ocular examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The vet might use a slit lamp biomicroscope, which illuminates and magnifies the cornea, allowing clear visualization of any abnormalities.

As of now, there is no definite cure for corneal dystrophy. The treatment is primarily supportive, aiming to manage secondary complications such as inflammation or infection. Regular vet visits are crucial to monitor the progress of the disease and manage any arising ocular issues promptly.

∎Entropion and Ectropion

Entropion and Ectropion are two common eyelid abnormalities found among Labradors.

Entropion, a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causes the dog’s eyelashes to rub against the cornea (the eye’s clear front surface). This constant friction can lead to discomfort, corneal ulcers, or corneal erosions, which, if severe enough, could impair vision. While any dog can develop this condition, it’s believed to have a genetic predisposition in Labradors. It’s commonly observed in puppyhood and can affect one or both eyes. The dog may show symptoms like redness, squinting, or excessive tearing, indicating discomfort. Surgical correction is typically the treatment of choice for Entropion.

Ectropion, on the other hand, involves the outward rolling of the eyelid. This abnormality exposes the inner eyelid and can lead to dryness, irritation, and infections as the eye loses a degree of its protective function. Ectropion is more commonly associated with breeds with droopy or “loose” skin on their faces. Labradors may develop this condition as part of aging or due to an injury. Symptoms include the visible sagging of eyelids and increased tear production. Treatment for ectropion primarily involves managing the symptoms and preventing secondary infections. In severe cases, you may require surgical intervention.

Both these conditions often require a comprehensive eye examination by a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis. Regular eye check-ups and timely veterinary intervention are vital in preventing any long-term issues arising from these conditions. Despite these eye problems, with proper care and attention, Labradors can continue to lead healthy, active lives.

∎Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a predominantly genetic disorder that targets Labradors and can eventually cause complete blindness. The symptoms of this disease can manifest themselves either in the early stages of puppyhood or become apparent as the dog matures. Puppies diagnosed with early-onset PRA may start showing indications of the illness when they are merely a few months old, while others may not exhibit any symptoms until adulthood.

PRA primarily attacks the rod cells in the retina, which are responsible for low-light vision. Indications of PRA may include a distinctive reflective shine in your Labrador’s eyes and observed difficulty navigating in dimly lit environments. As indicated by its name, PRA is a progressive disease, and eventually, your Labrador may lose its sight completely.

A veterinary ophthalmologist can diagnose symptoms before the emergence of symptoms with the help of an electroretinogram, a test that measures the retina’s activity. Genetic testing is another feasible option that can be performed using a blood sample. Currently, there is no established cure or treatment for PRA. However, through careful and responsible breeding practices, the prevalence of the disease has been reduced. Despite the challenges posed by PRA, Labradors can still lead fulfilling lives with the correct care and attention.

∎Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is a congenital condition that can occur in Labradors, often undetected at birth. According to some doctors, this disorder involves abnormal development of the retina, which could remain asymptomatic in mild cases. However, severe instances may lead to complications such as retinal detachment and premature blindness. In Labradors, it is linked with another syndrome termed ‘oculoskeletal dysplasia’, characterized by stunted limb growth, retinal detachment, and early onset blindness.

Labradors affected by either retinal dysplasia or Progressive Rod-cone Degeneration (prcd) usually fail the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) test, indicating that they shouldn’t be chosen for breeding. This restriction, paired with selective breeding, has been influential in reducing the prevalence of the disease.

To maintain ocular health, incorporate antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins A, C, and E, into your Labrador’s diet. It’s important to note that even Labradors afflicted with a congenital or acquired eye disease that impacts their vision can lead long, healthy lives, provided they receive appropriate care. This care might necessitate lifestyle adaptations, such as using a leash during outings and avoiding major rearrangements of home furniture to prevent disorientation in visually impaired dogs.

Observing any changes in your Labrador’s eyes warrants immediate consultation with your vet. The eyes are sensitive organs, and some of the diseases we see can result in irreversible damage over a period of days. You should not treat Eye problems in Labradors lightly. Any of these presenting signs may represent something serious.” Treating eye conditions promptly and diligently is crucial to prevent irreversible damage and ensure the well-being of your Labrador.

∎Eye Infections and Conjunctivitis

Eye infections in Labradors can be a common occurrence and are typically caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, discharge, or the dog frequently pawing at their eyes. Conjunctivitis, specifically, refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin coat covering the front of the eye and lining of the eyelids. It can occur for several reasons, including allergies, foreign bodies, or as a secondary symptom to diseases like distemper.

Conjunctivitis can cause discomfort and lead to red, watery, or itchy eyes, excessive blinking, and a thick, yellowish discharge. While mild cases can resolve on their own, severe or persistent conjunctivitis necessitates veterinary intervention. This usually involves a thorough eye examination, followed by suitable treatment, including antibiotic drops or ointments.

It’s important to remember that prevention can be as crucial as treatment. Regular eye cleaning can help prevent the buildup of bacteria or debris that can lead to infections. Also, keeping your Labrador’s living environment clean and free from potential irritants can significantly reduce the risk of eye infections and conjunctivitis.

Always consult a vet if you notice any changes in your dog’s eyes. Waiting too long or trying to treat these conditions at home could lead to further complications, including potential vision loss. Remember, early detection and treatment are key to maintaining your Labrador’s eye health.

These labrador dog breeds eye problems mentioned above, while serious in nature, are thankfully relatively rare eye diseases in dogs. However, staying informed and aware of any changes in your Labrador’s eyesight or behavior that may indicate an underlying condition is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Labradors prone to genetic eye conditions?

Unfortunately, Labradors are commonly affected by genetic eye conditions such as cataracts, retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy. These conditions can significantly impact your dog’s vision and cause discomfort, so it’s essential to bring them to your veterinarian as soon as you notice any changes in their behavior or visual abilities. Your vet might recommend a genetic screening to determine if your dog carries any genetic eye disorders.

How do I know if my Labrador is experiencing discomfort from an eye problem?

Labradors are generally good at hiding their pain, so it’s essential to be vigilant and observe any changes in their behavior. If you notice frequent rubbing or scratching of their eyes, excessive tearing, redness, discharge, or cloudiness in their eyes, these could be signs of an underlying eye condition. Your dog might also become irritable or restless, indicating that something is causing them discomfort.

Are there routine eye exams that Labradors should undergo?

Yes, regular eye exams are crucial to ensure your Labrador’s eyes remain healthy and free from any underlying conditions. Your veterinarian might recommend annual or bi-annual eye exams, depending on your dog’s age and health status. During the exam, your vet will conduct a series of tests to check for any signs of eye problems and recommend appropriate treatments if necessary.

Can I use over-the-counter eye drops for my Labrador’s eye issues?

While it’s tempting to resort to over-the-counter eye drops for your dog’s eye problems, avoiding doing so without consulting your veterinarian first is essential. Not all eye drops are created equal; some might worsen your dog’s condition. Your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate eye drops or medications for your Labrador’s particular condition, so let them take the lead.

How does aging affect Labrador eye health?

As Labradors age, they become more prone to developing age-related eye problems such as cataracts, Glaucoma, and degenerative retinal disorders. These conditions can be debilitating and significantly impact your dog’s quality of life. In order to help prevent or delay the onset of these conditions, it’s essential to provide your aging Labrador with a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine eye exams.

Final Words

As a Labrador owner, I have realized that their beautiful big brown eyes require more attention than I initially thought. It’s essential to be proactive and keep an eye on any changes or issues with their eyes as early treatment can make all the difference. From cataracts to progressive retinal atrophy, there are various eye problems that Labradors can be predisposed to. Regular check-ups with the vet, maintaining good hygiene, and keeping them away from harmful substances like cleaning chemicals can all help prevent potential eye problems. As a pet owner, it’s crucial to take responsibility for our furry friends’ health; being aware of common eye problems in Labradors is a great start.

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