Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 23, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye condition in dogs that can result in blindness, affecting various breeds.
  2. Early signs of PRA include night blindness and changes in pupils; regular vet check-ups can detect early stages, especially in high-risk breeds.
  3. While there's no cure for PRA, affected dogs can adapt to vision loss, and modifications to their environment can help them navigate.
  4. Genetic testing aids breeders in identifying PRA carriers, promoting responsible breeding to reduce the condition's spread.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs

What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)?

PRA is a genetic eye condition in dogs that can sadly lead to blindness. It affects various breeds, so if you own or plan to breed dogs, it's important to be clued in. In simple terms, PRA damages the light-sensitive cells in a dog's eyes. These cells fade away over time, meaning our four-legged pals can lose a lot or even all of their vision. Knowing the early signs can help provide the best care and make sure breeding choices don't spread the condition. Furthermore, investing in pet insurance can be beneficial, as it may cover potential medical costs associated with conditions like PRA and ensure your dog gets the necessary care without putting a strain on your finances.

The Dog's Eye and PRA's Impact

Think of a dog's eye like a camera that turns light into pictures. This "camera" has different parts:

  • Cornea (the clear front bit).
  • Lens (focusing the light).
  • Iris (adjusting light entry).
  • And importantly, the retina (like a screen at the back capturing images).

The retina has special cells, rods and cones, that sense light and color. PRA harms these cells. As it worsens, these cells fade away, making vision blurry until, sometimes, our furry friends can't see at all. Being aware of how the dog's eye works, especially where PRA strikes, helps in early spotting and maybe even helping slow down its effects.

How Do Dogs Get PRA?

PRA's a family matter. It's in the genes. While certain breeds have a higher risk because of their genetics, any dog might have these genes. Thanks to science, breeders can use genetic tests to find out if a dog carries the PRA gene, helping reduce the risk of puppies inheriting it. Knowledge is power here, and understanding these genetics helps in both early spotting and smarter breeding choices.

Spotting PRA Early On

The sooner we spot PRA, the better for our dogs. One of the first signs is night blindness. If you notice your dog being unsure in the dark or bumping into things in dim light, it might be an early sign. Changes in their pupils or how they react to light can also be a clue. Regular eye checks by a vet can pick up on changes even if they're not obvious just yet – especially vital for those breeds at a higher risk.

Caring for Dogs with PRA

There's no magic cure for PRA, but there are ways to help our pups adapt. Simple things like keeping our homes consistent (no surprise furniture moves!) and using toys they can hear or feel can make a big difference. Check-ups and talks with vets can also suggest treatments or ways to slow down PRA's progress. Love, patience, and understanding from us are the secret ingredients to helping our PRA-affected dogs live happy lives.

Looking Ahead: Breeding and PRA Research

Breeding dogs responsibly is a powerful tool against PRA. Genetic tests can spot carriers, guiding breeders in their choices and helping reduce PRA in future pup generations. The good news? Science is on the case. Researchers are diving deep into PRA, uncovering more about its causes, and hopeful about future treatments. By working together, breeders, dog-lovers, and scientists can pave the way for a brighter, clearer future for our canine buddies.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary condition that affects the retinas of dogs. Early indications of this condition can be subtle, with night blindness being a prevalent sign. Owners might also notice an increased reflectivity in their dog's eyes, often accompanied by dilated pupils, even in well-lit conditions. As PRA progresses, these early signs give way to more severe symptoms, most notably a gradual vision loss which, unfortunately, culminates in complete blindness. For a definitive diagnosis, veterinarians typically recommend ophthalmologic examinations, which assess the health and structure of the dog's eyes. Genetic testing is another invaluable tool in confirming PRA, especially in breeds known to be predisposed to this condition.

Effects of PRA on Affected Dogs

The diagnosis of PRA can be a distressing revelation for dog owners, raising concerns about their beloved pet's quality of life. While vision loss can certainly present challenges, it's heartening to know that dogs are incredibly resilient creatures. Many affected dogs adapt remarkably well to their diminished sight or complete blindness, relying more on their other heightened senses. With time, they learn to navigate their environment with confidence, albeit with a few changes to their routines and habits.

Management and Treatment

While there's no known cure for PRA, early detection and management play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of affected dogs. Owners can make several modifications to their living spaces to aid their pets, such as creating clear pathways and avoiding frequent rearrangement of furniture. Toys with distinct sounds or scents can provide much-needed stimulation and engagement. It's essential for owners to exercise caution, ensuring that their dogs are kept away from potentially hazardous situations like busy streets or unfamiliar terrain. Regular check-ups and consultations with veterinarians can also provide further guidance on managing this condition.

Prevention and Breeding Implications

Breeding plays a significant role in the spread of PRA, making it imperative for breeders to prioritize the genetic health of their dogs. Before breeding, genetic testing is recommended to identify carriers or those affected by PRA. Responsible breeding practices, such as pairing only PRA-free dogs, can drastically reduce the prevalence of this condition in future generations. By staying informed and proactive, breeders can ensure the health and longevity of their breeds, championing a brighter future for all dogs.

Case Studies

Here are some real life examples of dogs diagnosed with PRA and there experiences

From u/TheManyFacesofMe13

“...We started noticing that she couldn’t see the ball well when we threw it. It would take her longer to find it or she would wait for it to hit the floor and hear it before going after it. So we took her to the vet to get her eyes checked. The vet saw some cloudiness in one eye and referred us to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist was able to do more testing and that’s how we were told she had PRA. While PRA isn’t treatable, I’m glad we got the diagnosis so we can take the best care of her. If you think your pup may be having eye issues, I would suggest taking them to the vet. It’s always good to catch anything as early as possible.”

From u/AndrewRnR

“...We adopted a mini-poodle about 5 years ago and he always had small cataracts in his eyes. We visited an eye specialist twice a year to ensure no progressive and have been on Ocu-Glo the whole time. Recently we noticed one of the eyes became more cloudy and visited the doctor to which she confirmed the cataract in that eye progressed. We decided to move forward with surgery to have it removed and upon going in for pretests it was discovered our dog also has progressive retinal atrophy therefore rending the cataract surgery almost worthless. We were hoping to go in today to be cleared for tests but this was quite the news to hear. The dr did a test in darkness and our dog ran into things (it was pitch black), with light he seems super sharp even in a darken house he appears fine. The doctor said it could progress fast or could be years before fully blind. While the tests today revealed both retinas are not at the number they should be, the eye with the increased cataract is worse. So were hopefully that even as this progresses that perhaps one eye will be still be good.”

From u/PrincessSparklepants

“...So my 6-year old greyhound boy has been getting a bit clumsier (he has never been what I’d call graceful), running into things, barking more. Having to practically place treats in his mouth since he couldn’t see my hand. At his last annual checkup, the vet found cataracts and gave me a referral to an animal eye center. Our appointment was yesterday and the good news is, no cataract surgery. The bad news is that this is because cataract surgery would be pointless because he has PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy. It’s similar to macular degeneration in humans, and there’s no treatment and no cure. My boy will probably be 100% blind in the next two years. There’s a supplement that might help a little, ocu-glo, so I’ve ordered a bottle and we’ll try it, but I’m not optimistic. I know dogs are adaptable and he’ll be fine, he’s not in pain and it’s a slow decline so his other senses will acclimate. But I can’t help but be a little sad.”


Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) remains a poignant concern within the canine community, profoundly affecting not only our cherished companions but also the devoted owners who stand by them. This condition, characterized by degenerative changes in the retina, can lead a once-vibrant dog into the shadows of visual impairment. Yet, in the face of such adversity, there lies hope and resilience. Awareness is our foremost weapon—educating ourselves and others about PRA's early signs ensures timely interventions and potentially slows the disease's progression. Early detection, coupled with consistent veterinary oversight, offers the best chance at managing the symptoms and preserving the dog's quality of life. However, the pivotal role of responsible breeding cannot be understated. By prioritizing genetic health and employing discerning breeding practices, we can curb the prevalence of PRA, safeguarding future generations of dogs from this challenging affliction.

Resources and Further Reading

For those keen on deepening their understanding of PRA, numerous reputable veterinary journals and articles delve into the intricacies of this condition. The world of canine ophthalmology is vast, with dedicated professionals constantly researching and advancing our knowledge. Organizations such as the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) serve as invaluable hubs for information and expertise. For personalized guidance and assessments, seeking out professionals specializing in canine ophthalmology is highly recommended. Their expertise can provide tailored insights and strategies, ensuring that every dog receives the best possible care and attention.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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