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Retinal Detachment in Dogs and Cats

2016/5/4 10:38:10

The retina is the layer of light-sensitive cells that lines the back of the eye, functioning much as the film does in a camera. The image lands on the retina, having been focussed by the lens. Impulses are then sent from cones and rods (specialist retinal cells), down the optic nerve to the part of the brain that processes images.

A retinal detachment occurs if the layer of light-sensitive cells is pulled away from the back of the eye. In animals, this problem tends to present late in the illness, as a dog or cat cannot let us know that some of their vision is impaired. Retinal detachments tend to be picked up only when there is significant, often bilateral, visual loss.

Once the layer of cells is no longer attached to the back of the eye, its blood supply can no longer bring nutrients and oxygen to it. This is why the retinal detachment tends to progress, spread and worsen if not treated.

Causes of Retinal Detachment: Trauma; Inherited tendency; Congenital defects such as retinal dysplasia (seen in Labradors); Infection; Hypertension; Mature cataracts; Post-operative - any eye surgery; Poisoning; Hyperviscosity syndromes.

The detached retina perishes more quickly in cats than in dogs. Success of treatment depends on how extensive the damage is, and how long it has been present. In some cases surgery is just not possible.

Modern surgery involves the use of extreme cold or laser to stick parts of the retina back in position by producing scar tissue. This then allows the blood supply to re-establish.

It is essential that a vet sees any animal with a suspected retinal detachment urgently. Any additional treatment to that recommended by your vet should be complementary rather than alternative.

Complementary therapies:

Most complementary therapies that don't rely on musculoskeletal manipulation will help ease the anxiety of any sudden onset poor vision such as retinal detachment. Spiritual healing and Reiki will both help the animal to harness its own self-healing, improving the recovery rates from surgery, and even spontaneous recovery. Even if blindness results, healing and meditation will help in the adjustment process. In addition, Bach Flower remedies can help with dealing with change and with panic, while crystals can boost healing - I particularly find blue lace agate helpful with eye problems.

For the best homeopathic and aromatic treatments for a particular animal, you are best asking for the advice from a qualified practitioner. Homeopathic practitioners look at the personality and environment of the animal, and include this information when selecting a remedy to suit its current circumstances. This is why a long consultation is needed to really get a good result.

With aromatics, the animal is offered several essential oils to choose from, and observed closely while it smells, licks its lips or turns away. The initial selection may be chosen on the basis of a combination of background knowledge (for example, that Neroli can help with separation from another animal or human, and that peppermint can help with nerve damage) and kinesiology or dowsing, and then the animal demonstrates his or her preferred options from there. Animals frequently benefit from a number of different aromatics, which the owner is encouraged to offer daily, while a single remedy is often chosen with homeopathy.


Retinal detachment is a rare problem in animals, but it is serious, and this article covers the various options open to the owner in managing it, from the necessity to call a vet urgently, to the ability to complement veterinary care and surgery with other modalities.

Dr Alison Grimston is a holistic doctor and animal healer. If you are a pet owner or therapist, sign up for her free report on keeping your pet healthy naturally, by logging in at