Collie Eye Anomaly

My border collie seemed to develop problems seeing, and was just diagnosed with something called “collie eye anomaly”.  I was told that she will ultimately become blind.  What is this disease?

collie_eye_anomalyCollie eye anomaly (CEA) is also called “collie eye defect” and is an inherited, developmental disease in dogs. The breeds associated with CEA include:

  • Collies
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Australian shepherds
  • Border collies
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

In CEA, there is a mutation on the gene that determines the development of the eye, and this causes the blood vessels that support the retina to be underdeveloped.  The retina may even detach.

In many cases, CEA is not diagnosed until the dog’s vision is affected, although there are stages to this disease that ultimately lead to blindness. CEA may be associated with several, more obvious abnormalities in the eye. “Microphthalmia” describes eyeballs that are smaller than normal. “Enophthalmia describes eyeballs that are sunken deep into the eye sockets. There may be evidence of mineralization in the cornea (surface of the eye) causing cloudiness over the eye.  CEA is typically diagnosed by your veterinarian, through evaluating the retina, located at the back of the eye. There may be an actual hole in some of the structures of the eye. This is called a “coloboma”.  CEA may also be associated with a detached retina.

Is there any treatment for CEA?

Unfortunately, CEA cannot be reversed. In the case of coloboma, laser surgery may be available to minimize the effects. Likewise, surgery may be available to either prevent or re-attach a detached retina. Coloboma may not always lead to retinal detachment, particularly if the coloboma remains stable during the dog’s first year of life.

Can you preventing CEA?

Like treatment, preventing CEA as not an option once pregnancy has occurred. Because this is a genetically-based, developmental disease, CEA can only be prevented by not breeding dogs who carry the abnormal gene. There is now a genetic test for CEA.

Even though CEA often leads to blindness, most dogs adapt reasonably well to their loss of vision. There are lifestyle adaptations that must be made, but it is easy to support them in living comfortably.

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