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Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

You may be wondering…

“What in the world is optic nerve hypoplasia?”

And you would be rightfully asking because very little is known about this disease.  This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet decided that we would take a moment and discuss precisely what optic nerve hypoplasia is so that if your veterinarian has recently told you that your dog has it, you might have a better understanding of what that means and what you as their owner can do to improve their quality of life.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into this.

Optic Nerve Hypoplasia Defined.

Optic nerve hypoplasia is a rare congenital condition in which a puppy or kitten is born with a shortened optic nerve.  This makes the optic disk look smaller because there aren’t enough neuron connection points from the “smaller” optic nerve.  While this is a relatively rare disease, it should be noted that it is the most common “type” of optic never deformity, which can affect your dog or cat.  It should also be pointed out that having an “issue” with your optic nerve is a huge deal because it is your optic nerve that allows information to be transmitted from your eyes to your brain!

And when…

If shortened, it can cause severe defects to your dog’s eyes, like reduced vision or blindness in one or both eyes.  Amazingly, not all animals that suffer from optic never hypoplasia will exhibit any signs or symptoms of the disease.  This is why it’s entirely possible that you may own a dog or cat or have previously owned one with this condition and never even knew it!

That said, however…

Those animals that experience symptoms usually experience significant symptoms that can affect their quality of life.  Symptoms such as:

  • Deformed eyes,
  • Issues with the retinal vasculature,
  • Glaucoma,
  • And other vision complications.

The dog breeds that may be most susceptible are Poodles and Collies.  Also, when it comes to cats being affected with this disease, there does seem to be a direct link between panleukopenia, AKA feline distemper, and optic nerve hypoplasia in that it appears like feline distemper can increase a cat’s risk of having kittens with optic nerve hypoplasia.

Behavioral symptoms of optic nerve hypoplasia

Your biggest clue that your dog or cat is suffering from this condition will be that they are having difficulty seeing.  Which will be evident when you see your pet:

  • Running into things,
  • Tripping,
  • Not being able to catch items well,
  • Not being able to see you from specific locations relative to themselves,
  • And a hesitation in their movement, almost like they are nervous.

If you see these symptoms, it’s probably best not to immediately think that your pet suffers from optic nerve hypoplasia.  After all, there are a lot of things that could cause your pet to exhibit these same symptoms.

Diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia

Typically, the first thing that your vet will want to do is check for your dog’s reaction to a light being shone on their face; this will provide them with a lot of information about how your pet’s eyes react to light.  Then, they might choose to perform a fundoscopic examination of the back of your pet’s vision using a lens.  During this exam, your vet is looking for if your pet’s optic disk looks smaller than it should be to make a definitive diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia.

The bad news is…

There is no treatment or cure for this disease, but that does come with the upside that it is very inexpensive.  This is because it should cost much to diagnose, and you really can’t do much to treat it.  But just because there isn’t a “cure” for this condition, it’s essential to make sure that you do have a veterinarian confirm the diagnosis so that you can be sure that your dog isn’t suffering some other “type” of eye condition which could worsen or could be treated and improved.

Which brings us to…

We want to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  This is why if you feel like your pet may have optic nerve hypoplasia (or any other health issue), you will want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs, Which is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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