Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

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In domesticated mammals the retina is the reflective area at the back of the eye which responds to light . The retina contains special light-sensitive cells called rods and cones that help an individual to recognise the presence of light and form an image of its environment - as white and shades of grey (rods) or colours (cones). Retinal dysplasia is a congenital (present at birth) disorder in which the retina does not develop properly.


Retinal dysplasia is a congenital (present at birth) disorder in which the retina does not develop properly and there are two main types :

Breed Occurrence

In the UK Eye Screening and Certification programmes for breeders and owners exist for the following breeds of dog ;

  • Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia - American Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Hungarian Puli, Rottweiler
  • Total Retinal Dysplasia - Bedlington Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Sealyham Terrier

A BVA Canine Health Scheme Brochure on "Hereditary Eye Disease in Dogs" is available- If you would like to receive a free copy of this publication please contact us with your postal delivery address at the following email address 


Affected puppies may not have any signs of a visual defect, or they may  have poor eyesight (multifocal retinal dysplasia) or be totally blind (total retinal dysplasia) from birth

Total retinal dysplasia is often complicated by the presence of other eye disorders including microphthalmos or nystagmus- especially in Sealyhams

In one form of retinal dysplasia seen in Labrador Retrievers the eye problem is associated with skeletal abnormalities as well. This form, which is due to a single autosomal recessive gene for the skeletal disease has incomplete dominance over the eye,  has not been reported to occur in the UK.

Diagnosis is confirmed by examination of the retina with an ophthalmoscope which may reveal the presence of :

  • Patchy abnormal discolourations
  • Folds in the retina
  • Ridges in the retina
  • Rosettes
  • Detachment of the retina - focal or complete

These changes may not be obvious until the puppy is 6 months of age.

Two forms of the disease are recognised in dogs :

There is no treatment for the damage to the retina that occurs with Retinal Dysplasia and the main focus is to try to identify clinically affected dogs and apparently normal carriers of the disease and avoid breeding from them.

Exposure to non-genetic causes of retinal dysplasia , such as canine herpesvirus infection, should be avoided in pregnant bitches

Individual animals with mild forms of the disorder can live normal lives, but totally blind puppies present problems for owners.


Updated October 2013