An Introduction to PRA: What Is It, and When Can It Strike?

A common cause of blindness in dogs is progressive retinal atrophy or PRA. The disease affects the photoreceptors in the back of the eyes. Light often enters one’s eyes through the lens and is transmitted to the cells in the retinas. From there, it is sent to the brain for analysis and interpretation.

The photoreceptor cells that aid in this process are known as cone cells and rod cells. PRA leads to the breakdown and destruction of these cells, which can result in complete blindness in the affected dogs.

At What Age Does Progressive Retinal Atrophy Occur?

There are two types of PRA recognized by veterinarians. The first is early-onset PRA, which occurs in puppies as young as three months. In these cases, the dogs are born with abnormal or deformed retinal cells. Thus,  blindness may occur at the beginning of their lives.

The second type is late-onset. This disease can occur in adult dogs anywhere between the ages of three and nine. Typically, these dogs were born with normal, healthy rod and cone cells that ultimately degenerate with age, causing vision loss as the affected dogs get older.

As with other diseases, any animal can be susceptible to the progression of PRA, though some breeds have shown more vulnerability than others.

Among these breeds are:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • American Eskimo dog
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Karelian Bear Dogs
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Lancashire Heeler
  • Toy Poodles and
  • Portuguese Water Dogs.

These dogs—and others—have shown a tendency to inherit the gene that causes the degenerative mutations in retinal cells.



Is PRA An Inherited Disease?

In many cases, PRA is an inherited disease, meaning dogs that suffer from it could potentially pass the problem down to their offspring. It is widely stated that any dog exhibiting signs of PRA should not be used for breeding purposes.

The good news is that PRA is not painful, nor will it contribute to a shorter or low-quality life. However, it’s important to note signs of vision loss in your pet and visit a veterinarian as soon as you see anything suspicious. Some of the signs of PRA may include bumping into objects or furniture, even when they’re extremely close.

A dog affected by PRA may also be reluctant to enter a dark space or behave timidly at night. A lack of illumination will only enhance his growing inability to see. Shining a light into the dog’s eyes and seeing either clear or reflective surfaces could also mean that your dog is suffering from the disease.

PRA can be a relatively slow process. While circumstances are different for every breed, most subjects are likely to be completely blind within one to two years of first exhibiting signs of PRA.

PRA Diagnosis

If your vet has diagnosed PRA in your dog, you will need to help him prepare. The world is about to go dark for your little friend and making sure he has the right tools will ease his period of adjustment.

One tool to consider is a new halo. The halo extends beyond your dog’s head to ensure his body and face steer clear of any nearby items that could cause injury. If your dog is meandering about the room or yard and comes within proximity of a couch or other large barricade, the halo is sure to strike first. Your dog will feel the impact of the halo against the sofa and learn to keep his distance.

There is no medicine or treatment designed to cure PRA, but your love and patience can certainly make your dog feel stronger and happier as he learns to cope with his new ailment.

Muffin’s Halo is here to make sure that the lives of dogs both young and old are happy and free of stress. Call us at (818) 943-9673 or email us at to learn more about how our products can help.