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Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Maltipoo Dogs

What This Is

This is a genetic, inherited disease that affects the retina of a dog’s eyes. This is why all dogs should be tested via the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal, including a DNA test for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) before they are used for breeding.

When this happens, both eyes will be affected at the same time. There is a degeneration of the retinas. The dog does not experience any pain. However, it is progressive and a dog will begin to lose their eyesight and will eventually become blind.

This can affect all breeds, but is unusually prevalent with miniature Poodles. 
The Symptoms

Symptoms do vary in Maltipoo dogs with this eye disease, however the most common signs are:

• Night blindness – You may notice that your dog is not seeing very well after the sun sets....this will hold true indoors as well, when lights are set low.  He may stumble into walls or be reluctant to go up or down a staircase, etc.
• Dilated pupils of the dog’s eyes.
• The dog's eyes may appear much more shinier than normal.
• As this progresses daytime vision will start to be affected as well.
• Cataracts may develop, however these are not at fault for the loss of vision

While this can strike a dog of any age, it is most often seen in those that are over the age of 5 years old.

How This Progresses

With the PRA eye disease, from the time that symptoms are obvious and a Maltipoo is taken to a veterinarian to confirm the disease, it can be anywhere from 6 months to a couple of years for the dog to have no sight at all.


Once a Maltipoo owner notices any of the above symptoms, the dog should immediately have a full and complete eye exam by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. 

Using an ophthalmoscope tool, the type of eye examination tool that most of us are used to seeing and having used for eye exams, the vet will examine the dog’s eyes. This is also known as fundoscopty. The veterinarian will look for several things: A shrinking of blood vessels, a loss of pigmentation of an area called the fundus (which is the interior surface of the eye) and an increased reflection from the area of the eye known as the tapetum (a line layer of tissue that is located right behind the retina).  

For Maltipoo dogs that have an advanced stage of PRA, the vet may also look for a darkening of the optic disc (part of the optic nerve). Seeing these different elements will prompt a veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis of PRA.

Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for this. Studies are being done to look for an answer to this. There is some promise that a certain supplement may slow down the process of losing sight. It is Antioxidant supplements for retinal health.

A Maltipoo that has this should have regular eye exams, even after losing all sight. Why? Because although this disease does not cause pain; it can cause cataracts and those can cause quite a bit of discomfort for a dog. 

Because a cure seems unlikely to emerge, prevention is the best course of action. The American Kennel Club has funded 8 research projects that had a combined spending budget of over $650,000.00. This went toward learning more about the genetic marker for this disease. Due to these programs, tests are available for both the Poodle and the Maltese to check for this hereditary trait before any breeding is done. 

How to Help a Dog that Has Lost Their Sight

It is a scary thought to have a loved canine family member lose their sight. However, one must remember that a dog relies on their sense of smell much more than they do their eyesight. It is amazing just how well a dog adjusts to being blind when their owners set things up properly for them. 

Since this comes on slowly, a dog has a lot of time to get used to losing their sight, therefore they are not shocked by suddenly not being able to see. 

Dogs are creatures of routine. They like to know exactly when they can expect to go for a walk and what times during the day they will be let outside to eliminate. They also feel secure when they can always count on knowing where their food and water bowls are. Dogs like to always have their doggie bed in the same area, so that they know exactly where to retreat to when tired or when needing a rest away from noise, etc. Therefore, it is important to keep up the same routine that your Maltipoo is used to. A dog can still go for walks, play with you, and be a wonderful companion.

As the dog is beginning to have real trouble seeing, it is best to not move furniture and to always keep important items in the same place. In case the dog is ever becomes lost, it is highly recommended to have a medical alert tag on your dog that lets people know that they are blind.
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