Cocker Spaniel Glaucoma: Symptoms & Treatment

July 10, 2022

Glaucoma is a severe eye condition that can lead to blindness. It is essentially a drainage problem in your dog's eye where a blockage of the drainage angle leads to pressure within the eye increasing.

The outlook of a glaucoma diagnosis is far more positive if caught early. As with many health conditions, Cocker Spaniels get the sooner you understand what is wrong the faster your dog is on the mend.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to understand about glaucoma in dogs. From what it is, the symptoms to watch out for, and how it is treated.

Sound interesting? Grab a coffee and let's get started!

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the intraocular pressure (IOP) of your dog's eye increasing.

While this article is about Cocker Spaniels and glaucoma it is interesting to know that this condition also affects humans as well as dogs.

This eye condition usually only affects one eye at a time. However, once it has presented itself in one eye it is highly likely it will appear in the other within 12 to 18 months.

If caught late in one eye the good news is that your vet can focus on preserving your dog's vision in the second eye with regular checkups and medication.

To put it very simply glaucoma is a drainage problem. Your dog produces aqueous fluid in their eye which is matched by the rate it is drained.

How Long Do you Have to Treat Glaucoma Before it is Too Late?

Glaucoma in dogs varies a lot case by case. One dog may have mild signs of glaucoma caught early which are managed with medication for several years. While the next dog will have a more aggressive case which quickly progresses.

The importance of getting early treatment for your dog's glaucoma cannot be understated. As the disease progresses the increased pressure will lead to blindness.

As soon as you recognise any signs of glaucoma you need to contact your vet.

Never try to diagnose and deal with this yourself at home. It will not end well for your canine companion.

Image Credit: VCA Animal Hospitals
Image Credit: VCA Animal Hospitals

What Causes Cocker Spaniels to get Glaucoma?

Glaucoma in dogs is caused by ineffective drainage in your dog's eye which leads to increased intraocular pressure.

The rate of production of the aqueous fluid is not the real problem here. Aqueous fluid is perfectly normal and actually nourishes your dog's eye tissue. Usually, the aqueous fluid will drain through the drainage angle in your dog's eye.

This process helps maintain the correct pressure in your dog's eye.

What changes from normal times to your dog being diagnosed with glaucoma is the rate of fluid which is drained from between the cornea and the iris.

The chance could be a blockage stopping the eye from draining or damage to your dog's optic nerve.

There are two types of glaucoma Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to. This is one of the first things your vet will try to determine. Which it is will determine the correct course of action.

Primary Glaucoma vs Secondary Glaucoma

If diagnosed your Cocker Spaniel will have primary or secondary glaucoma.

Primary glaucoma is when your Cocker will develop glaucoma as a result of breeding. This is the most common type of glaucoma in Cocker Spaniels.

The eye will otherwise be perfectly healthy.

This is an excellent reason to take care when choosing a breeder.

Secondary glaucoma differs as glaucoma is caused by another eye condition or injury.

A few examples of what can cause secondary glaucoma include:

  • Cataracts: If a Cocker Spaniel has had cataract surgery they are more susceptible to glaucoma.
  • Previous injury: Physical injury to your dog's eye which has caused damage to the eye lens can also lead to secondary glaucoma.
  • Tumours: Tumours can cause a physical block to the drainage angle stopping your dogs eye from maintaining a healthy intraocular pressure.
  • Uveitis: This is an inflammation of the interior of your dog's eye. Dog's with this condition are commonly affected by glaucoma.

What are the Symptoms of a Dog Glaucoma?

By this point, it is crystal clear that acute glaucoma is not something you want your dog to be afflicted with.

It's important to be able to recognise the symptoms associated with glaucoma in dogs to give your furry friend the best chance.

I've broken the symptoms down into the early signs and those associated with glaucoma which has progressed to later stages.

Early Symptoms of Canine Glaucoma

These are the signs of glaucoma which appear early on. Look out for these in your regular eye checks at home.

Seeing any of these signs will be reason enough to book an appointment with your vet to play it safe.

  • Pain: Pressure building up in your dog's eye hurts. A lot! They may paw their face a bit or appear uncomfortable. Glaucoma is a very painful condition.
  • Red-eye: Could be related to the pawing.
  • Watery discharge: The eye is sore and uncomfortable and may tear more to lubricate the surface.
  • Light sensitivity: Your dog may squint more or blink a lot. It may happen more in direct sunlight or in bright spaces.

Symptoms of Later Stage Glaucoma in Dogs

As glaucoma progresses so does the seriousness of the symptoms.

If your Cocker is exhibiting any of these signs then it's imperative that you see your vet as soon as possible.

It is very likely that it's too late if you see these signs.

  • Lethargic: Your Cocker won't be their hyper and energetic selves. May want to sleep even more than usual too.
  • Cloudy cornea: The front of your dog's eye will begin to become more cloudy. At very late stages it will just look like a white disk on the front of your dog's eye. The eye is blind at this point.
  • Poor coordination: As your dog's vision deteriorates their coordination will worsen. You will notice your dog bumping into obvious obstacles like walls or door frames or miss toys being thrown their way.
  • Loss of appetite: A dog can also lose their interest in food with late-stage glaucoma. 
  • Physical signs: The afflicted eye may also become more protruded from your dog's head and can appear hard. This is a very serious sign.

How is Glaucoma in Dogs Diagnosed?

Glaucoma in dogs is diagnosed by a vet testing your dog's intraocular pressure with a tonometer.

There are a few types of tonometer which could be used. One just puts a puff of air on the surface of your dog's eye. This may ring a bell if you've ever been to the optician with eye problems. The other applies some weight to the eye and then measures the depth of indentation left on the cornea.

The tests don't take long to complete and are painless for your dog.

It is also possible for your vet to refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for more thorough testing. This is a vet which specialises in the eyes of small animals.

Glaucoma in Cocker Spaniel will always be treated as an emergency. This is not something which can be dealt with later.

Your dog's eyesight is at risk.

The longer you wait to deal with this the fewer options you will have for treatment and the less likely your Cocker will retain its vision.

If you suspect your dog may have glaucoma you will need to book an appointment with your vet.

There have been many cases of glaucoma in dogs being misdiagnosed as uveitis or conjunctivitis.

How is Glaucoma Treated in Cocker Spaniels?

The good news is that glaucoma in dogs can be treated with a high level of success if it is caught early.

How glaucoma is treated will depend on the stage it was caught. The earlier on it is caught the higher the chances that non-surgical options can be effective or even used.

Once a dog's glaucoma has got to later stages and they have a protruding eye or deteriorating vision surgery will be the only option.

While it's unlikely a Cocker Spaniel glaucoma will be cured there it may be far easier to manage with medication and frequent vet visits.

There are non-surgical and surgical options for dealing with glaucoma.

Let's run through the options.

Non-Surgical Options for Glaucoma

Glaucoma can be treated without surgery. This will usually be the first step a vet will take to treat this condition, providing it has not been caught very late.

Treatment would include eye drops and regular monitoring of your dog's eye to ensure the disease is not progressing too quickly.

Your Cocker may also be prescribed medications to ease the eye's intraocular pressure as this is very painful. The pain can make the dog paw at the eye which can lead to other complications such as corneal ulcers on the surface of the eye.

If you are given medication to treat glaucoma it is imperative that you never miss a dose. This could even mean placing drops in your dog's eye several times a day.

Surgical Options for Glaucoma

In the vast majority of cases, surgery will be the only real answer to Cocker Spaniel glaucoma. Other solutions may only stave off surgery for some time.

Here are the surgical options your vet will consider.


This procedure is the surgical removal of the eye under general anaesthesia. After the eye is removed the vet will sew the eye shut. The big benefit of this procedure is that there is no chance of your Cocker getting any eye diseases in this eye anymore.

Most Cockers make a full recovery with no complications.

Intraocular Prosthesis:

This procedure is very close to giving your dog a prosthetic eye. It doesn't completely remove the whole eye but only a few parts such as the lens, retina, and iris. These parts are replaced with a ball which gives the appearance of an eye. Some owners prefer this to having the eye sewn shut.

It has a high level of success but your Cocker will be susceptible to other eye diseases.

There have been cases where the body rejects the new prosthetic. Your vet will advise when you need to check in to ensure healing is on track.

Laser Surgery:

There are specialists who offer laser surgery as a treatment for Cocker Spaniel glaucoma which is called Cyclophotocoagulation. We will just refer to it as laser surgery to keep things simpler.

This involves using a laser on the tissue that is responsible for aqueous fluid production through an endoscope. Recover can be a long process but there is a chance your dog will fully recover and not have any problems.

Ciliary Body Ablation

For this surgical option, a section of the back of your dog's eye is removed and medications such as antibiotics, anti-viral, or steroids are injected into the eye.

As the injections do go through the retina and lens your dog will be blind from the procedure but it may save the eye physically.

There is also a chance with this procedure that your dog's eye will shrink quite a bit which may even lead to removal.

This option is often considered for dogs who wouldn't be able to be under general anaesthesia for the process.

Does your Cocker Spaniel need to Follow up After Treatment?

It depends on how early it was diagnosed.

If it was caught early and treated with medication you will need to have regular checkups with the vet to monitor how the condition of your dog's eyes.

Your vet will want to ensure your dog is responding well to medication and that glaucoma has not progressed to a later stage.

Once diagnosed visits to the vet will be a part of life ongoing.

Can you Prevent your Cocker Spaniel from Getting Glaucoma

There is no way to completely prevent a Cocker Spaniel from getting glaucoma.

But you can reduce the probability of it occurring or catch it early to avoid your vet diagnosing acute glaucoma which will be very serious and be treated as an emergency.

So, what precautions or actions should you take to reduce the risks your Cocker Spaniel faces?

Buy your Cocker Spaniel from a Good Breeder

By ensuring that your puppy has come from a nice home breeder you increase the chances of avoiding poor breeding practices. You will still want to check the health history of the parents.

Be sure to quiz the owners and look out for any red flags.

Have Regular Eye Check-Ups with your Vet

Having an expert take to assess your dog's vision is imperative to catching glaucoma before it is too late.

This could save your dog's eyesight from deteriorating faster and help you manage the condition.

Feed your Cocker Spaniel a Good Diet

A good diet goes a long way to having a healthy dog. This can help avoid many health problems just like with people.

Feeding your Cocker a healthy and balanced diet is quite easy if you choose high-quality food.

There are also ways you can supplement your Cockers diet with healthy foods. A few examples of these include carrots, kale, and blueberries. All of these foods are packed with nutrients which will support healthy eyes.

If you want to learn more about what is in a good Cocker Spaniel diet then check out our article on it.


Glaucoma occurs more commonly in Cocker Spaniels so it is important to recognise the signs of glaucoma development to ensure your dog receives professional help as soon as possible.

Your Cocker's sight is on the line as this condition can quickly lead to blindness. Glaucoma in dogs is a very serious condition which should be treated as an emergency.

There is no cure for this eye disease but with vigilance and care, you can reduce the odds of your best pal going blind. Regular eye checks at home and checkups with the vet will plan an important role here.

Early diagnosis makes all the difference! This condition can go bad fast!

If you are interested in learning more about all of the conditions that affect Cocker Spaniel's eyes check out our in-depth guide.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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