For dog and cat owners, keeping our four-legged companions healthy and happy is an important priority. Nutritious food, regular exercise, and vet checkups are all part of caring for an animal, but even the most caring pet owners can get caught off guard by diseases that occur later in life. Like many other vision-related conditions, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA-rdAc) is a serious concern for pet owners.
What Is Progressive Retinal Atrophy?
PRA is a degenerative autosomal-recessive genetic condition that can eventually lead to blindness. There are two types of cells in the retina of the eye: rods and cones. Rods assist with night vision and motion detection, whereas cones help with day vision and color detection. The condition usually causes the rods (and later cones) in the retina to deteriorate, making it progressively harder for your pet to see in low light conditions, eventually degrading to the point of total blindness at some point down the road. In some cases of PRA, however, the cones deteriorate first, causing vision loss in higher-light conditions. This is referred to as achromatopsia.
Progressive retinal atrophy is most common in dogs but can also occur in cats, particularly Abyssinian and Persian cats. PRA results from one of a number of specific genetic factors, depending on species and breed. For example, in dogs, the CNGA3 gene has been associated with achromatopsia, while the CRX and CEP290 genes are associated with progressive retinal atrophy in cats. (PRA also affects people, and there are actually far more potential genetic markers for PRA in humans, with more than 90 genes being linked to the condition.)
Unlike some other hereditary diseases, progressive retinal atrophy is usually not apparent in dogs or cats at birth, only becoming noticeable as the condition advances. But in some rarer cases, PRA can cause the rods and cones not to develop properly at all, causing vision struggles to begin after only a few months, rather than later in life.
Recognizing and Managing Progressive Retinal Atrophy
While PRA can have a significant impact on quality of life in its more advanced stages, many animals learn to adapt to it as it develops. While this is good news because pets with PRA generally do not suffer from the condition, it also means that retinal atrophy can be hard to spot until it has already progressed significantly.
Because animals adapt to their conditions, progressive retinal atrophy and achromatopsia do not have to be debilitating. This is especially true when pet owners have advanced warning. For example, knowing that your dog or cat is likely to develop a condition like PRA gives you the chance to teach them verbal commands to supplement their failing vision, a process that is much more challenging if left until your pet’s vision is already significantly deteriorated.
Know What to Expect with Orivet Genetic Pet Care
Whether your pets are showing signs of early onset PRA or not, having them tested is absolutely essential to ensuring that you can provide the best possible care throughout their lives. Orivet’s line of leading DNA tests (recently named the best choice for purebred cats in 2023) is an excellent place to start, with tests specifically for progressive retinal atrophy as well as other conditions, inherited traits, and full breed profiles.
A leader in genetic testing for dogs and cats, Orivet offers a range of genetic services to owners, breeders, and veterinarians, including screening of genetic diseases, coat colors, traits, parentage confirmation, and much more. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a seasoned breeder, Orivet’s at-home testing kits provide a surefire way to better understand your dog’s breeding and lifestyle needs.
To learn more and see the full range of available testing kits, head to orivet.com.