Siberian Huskies are prone to a host of genetic eye problems. Many people believe that blue-eyed Huskies are more likely to develop these issues than their brown-eyed cousins, but this is not the case.
Hereditary or juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) have nothing to do with eye pigmentation. They are a result of recessive genes that affect different parts of the eye.
Juvenile cataracts usually appear when a Husky puppy is between 6 months and a year old, but they can begin as early as 3 months. The signature cloudy appearance of a cataract is caused by a build-up of protein within the eyeball that then blocks and deforms the lens.
The lens’ job is to focus rays of light as they enter the eye so that an image can form on the retina. Cataracts distort the lens’ ability to function and can lead to partial or total vision loss. As with senior-onset cataracts, one or both eyes can be affected.
Corneal dystrophy is slightly less common and can often be mistaken for cataracts. In this condition, a fatty film builds up on the outside of the eye over the cornea, giving it a hazy blue appearance. It is most often seen in young adult Huskies, and females tend to develop it more often than males. Fortunately, corneal dystrophy rarely affects vision, just the appearance of the eye(s).
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) affects the retina of the eye and causes loss of night vision, followed by a loss of day vision and eventual blindness. The condition affects the rods and cones of the retina. The severity of PRA in Huskies is dependent upon the sex of the dog and which affected chromosome is inherited. Male puppies are most severely affected and can go blind as early as 5 months old.
Due to the prevalence of these three eye conditions in Siberian Huskies, breed registries have been developed specifically to confirm that breeding dogs have had recent eye exams. Huskies can be registered with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation or the Siberian Husky Ophthalmic Registry.
You should never purchase a purebred Husky puppy without first confirming that its parents have been registered with one of these organizations.
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