Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Corgis make great companions for many reasons. Unfortunately, this playful breed is vulnerable to specific eye problems that can have serious long-term effects.
To be a good pet owner, corgi parents should be aware of some of the most common eye diseases and what needs to be done to treat them.
The most common eye problems in corgis are cataracts, glaucoma, and primary lens luxation. These diseases’ symptoms will vary from a gradual loss of sight, changes in behavior, and clumsiness. It is crucial to speak with your vet regularly, especially if you notice changes in your corgi.
Recognizing these common eye problems in corgis will make you much more prepared to care for your pet.
Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you proactively treat your pet and possibly prevent blindness.
As a veterinary doctor, I’ll give you an overview of each disease, plus common symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Cataracts are a pervasive problem for corgis, especially as they get older.
While they are not painful or irritating for your corgi, they cause blurry vision and eventual blindness.
However, the transition to blindness is gradual, and many dogs do very well during the adjustment, especially if their other senses (hearing and smell) remain intact.
The most common and visible symptom to look for in your corgi is a change in the iris or the colored part of their eye surrounding the pupil.
They will become an opaque, gray-blue color or cloudy in appearance.
You might also begin to notice that they are clumsy or misjudging distances.
Corgis developing cataracts might also become hesitant to jump, rub their eyes, or develop watery eyes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect your dog has developed cataracts, a visit to the vet would be a good idea.
Diagnosing cataracts is relatively simple and is generally done by a visual examination from your veterinarian.
Because the most common symptom is the change in their eyes, most vets can recognize them right away.
If your dog struggles with the gradual loss of sight, the best treatment option is likely cataract surgery.
Most corgis will be suitable candidates for this surgery, as long as they do not have other eye problems such as glaucoma or pre-existing retinal detachment.
If you are considering going this route, it is best to decide sooner rather than later, as positive outcomes are increased.
Typically, the vet will give your dog a muscle relaxer and put them under general anesthesia before the surgery begins.
Like the procedure in humans, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens from the eye and replace it with an artificial lens implant.
Your corgi will likely have to stay at the vet overnight and then require additional care when they come home.
They will be fully recovered in about two weeks.
Glaucoma is another common eye condition you should watch out for in your corgi.
This disease damages the optic nerve, causing pressure inside of the eye.
It is similar to cataracts in that it can cause blindness; however, unlike cataracts, it can be extremely painful for your corgi.
There are two types of glaucoma in dogs:
- Primary glaucoma develops on its own and is an inherited condition.
- Secondary glaucoma results from another eye disease (i.e., cancer or cataracts), disrupting the normal fluid drainage.
There are several ways you can potentially identify glaucoma in your corgi.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- A cloudy cornea
- Continual squinting or blinking of the eye
- A change in behavior
More specifically, you can check your corgi’s pupil for its response to light.
A healthy pupil with change sizes when exposed to light, but glaucoma will prevent this response.
Pupils of different sizes are also an indicator of glaucoma.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Recognizing glaucoma early is essential, as it can result in permanent damage to your corgi’s optic nerve, eventually causing blindness.
Your veterinarian will diagnose glaucoma by measuring the pressure in the eye.
Generally, a measurement of 25 mm Hg will signal glaucoma, but it is essential to consider the accompanying symptoms, as false reads are not uncommon.
Because glaucoma is common in corgis, it is essential to talk to your veterinarian early to develop a plan such as more regular vision exams and preventative therapy.
Ultimately, the most important thing when determining a treatment path is the comfort of your corgi.
For early stages of glaucoma, or if the pressure measurement is still on the lower side (less than 35 mm Hg), your vet will likely prescribe a topical or oral medication.
Because glaucoma can become extremely painful for corgis, laser therapy is also an option in more dire and advanced corgi glaucoma cases or when other treatment options are not working.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a disease of the eye that affects the retina, which is responsible for photoreceptors (where light enters the eye).
In a normal retina, it takes in light and sends that information to the brain to be processed into what they see.
There are two types of Progressive Retinal Atrophy:
- Early-onset – often called retinal dysplasia.
- Late-onset – called PRA.
When a dog is experiencing progressive retinal atrophy, the cells in this part of the eye are gradually deteriorating, causing blindness in your dog.
Like in a corgi with cataracts, PRA is not painful and will not cause any irritation to your dog’s eye.
However, it will cause eventual blindness, which corgis tend to adapt to quite well.
The most significant symptom of PRA is a gradual loss of vision until your dog reaches total blindness.
While it sounds terrible, dogs can adjust to this transition much more smoothly than a human.
If your dog has developed PRA, loss of night sight will be the first clue.
If they seem hesitant or nervous to go outside at night or walk into a dark room, this might indicate night blindness.
You might also notice that your pet has become clumsy or more hesitant to jump than they were before, which is a common reaction for dogs that are losing their sight.
Lastly, corgis that have developed PRA will have changes to their pupils.
If you notice that they seem more dilated than usual or more reflective of light, this could indicate PRA.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect your corgi is losing their vision, take them to the vet to discuss your concerns.
Upon hearing the symptoms, they might suspect PRA, but it can be hard to diagnose until later stages.
At that point, your vet can do some testing on your corgi called an ophthalmoscope, which can detect if there is increased reflectivity on your dog’s retina and changes to the retinal blood vessels and optic nerve.
The next step in diagnosis would be to see a specialist. A veterinary ophthalmologist, or eye specialist, can confirm the diagnosis by giving your dog an ERG.
Genetic testing is an option in some cases but might be difficult to access for some pet owners depending on finances and geographic location.
Unfortunately, there are not any treatment methods available for progressive retinal atrophy.
The best thing you can do for your pet is to make their transition to blindness as easy as possible.
Talk to them often, keep the same routine, and leave their food and water in the same place.
Despite these common eye conditions in corgis, they are resilient dogs who tend to do well in the face of vision impairment or loss.
If you suspect any kind of eye problem in your corgi, talk to your vet as soon as possible.
Being proactive in caring for your pet will make their lives much more comfortable.
- Memphis Veterinary Specialists: Cataract Surgery for Dogs – What to Expect
- Animal ER: Signs Your Pet May Have Glaucoma or Cataracts
- Med Vet for Pets: Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Glaucoma
- Advanced Animal Care: Learn about the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Breed
- The Drake Center for Veterinary Care: Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- VCA Hospitals: Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs
- Corgi Care: Do Corgis Have Eye Problems?
Click here to read my post about common general Corgi health issues
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society