by Loretta Cornelius

This is a disease that was not supposed to be a problem in the Shiba Inu.

As far back as l998 I had not heard of it in the breed. No one I knew had either. We were not aware that it was a big problem in Japan because no one conveyed that information to us. Breeders were doing the CERF tests on their breeding stock and felt that eyes were healthy.

Well, not so! CERF testing does not detect glaucoma nor does it show the potential for a dog to develop the disease!

A Shiba I had sold was in need of a new home at 5 years of age. He was very healthy and happy. I learned of a home in Oklahoma with a family with two very lively boys wanting a dog. The boys were in Minnesota visiting their grandparents, and that gave me the opportunity to meet them and for them to meet the dog. Love at first sight. I met them at the airport and they and the Shiba flew home to Oklahoma. I kept in close contact and even visited them one summer. Such a wonderful family and such a lucky dog. The boys taught him to run with them while roller blading, he learned to play ping pong and everyone loved him.

I received a letter from them when Koko was 9 years old. He had been diagnosed with Glaucoma and had already lost one eye. The eye was removed and a prosthesis put in it’s place. The owner stated, “He will still have his beautiful brown outer eye, but he will never see out of it.”

Needless to say, I was devastated, I had CERF’D everyone prior to breeding and thought that was all that was necessary. I felt so guilty for placing this dog at such a young age with this family, only to have this happen. Koko had primary Glaucoma. He went to the “bridge” late last year. He was still dearly loved, but his quality of life was not what it should have been.

PRIMARY GLAUCOMA (hereditary, as far as ophthalmologists know): This usually affects both eyes.

SECONDARY GLAUCOMA can happen in just one eye and be the result of injury due to inflammation or growths. Glaucoma is a result of an increase in eye pressure because the fluid within the eye is unable to drain normally. This causes damage to the retina and the optic nerve.

Glaucoma is VERY painful. The pressure that builds up hurts. Some dogs only show signs by hiding under furniture, where it is dark, and exhibiting behavior changes. Rubbing their eyes, runny eyes, enlarged pupils, etc.

Another of my dogs has now had an eye removed and the other eye is in jeopardy. The owner did not recognize the symptoms above and he suffered for several weeks before she took him to an ophthalmologist. He is now l0 years old, and doing very well on medicines to keep pressures down. He was just diagnosed this year. So you can see the variances to this, age wise and symptom wise.

EARLY DETECTION is imperative if you are to save the sight in at least one eye! If one eye is bad and the other is becoming involved then the sight in the second eye will almost always go bad within the next couple of years. Glaucoma normally comes on at 5 to 6 years of age. Such a bad time, your wonderful Shiba is so good now. You are through the chewing, most escaping, etc. then.........Blindness. With so many years left, it is unthinkable.

Many veterinarians now have the equipment for testing eye pressures. It is called a Tonometer. They place it directly on the eyeball and get a pressure reading. Any pressures under 20 are acceptable. It is preferable you go to an Ophthalmologist, he can do more extensive exams.

I called everyone that ever bought a puppy from me and advised them to take their dogs to an Ophthalmologist for pressure testing. One called me after doing so and her bitches pressures were 34 and 35.....We were so happy she caught it. This bitch had NO SYMPTOMS! In this instance the Dr. prescribes medicines to lower that pressure. He checks the angles at the bottom of the eye to see if they are correctly angled and open enough to properly drain eye fluids.

I have been contacted by many people over the last 5 years, after writing in the E-news about my experience. My Ophthalmologist feels that glaucoma is hereditary. He offered to check with many of his associates and let me know his findings. In his own words, “an overwhelming response that a lot of shibas across the United States have been found with Glaucoma.”

RECOMMENDATION: Every Shiba should have their eye pressure checked at about 4.5 to 5 years of age. The disease can be advanced before any symptoms present themselves......most cases are discovered after the sight in one eye is already gone or is seriously compromised. I have lots of information, if you are interested contact me at I can mail it to you.

Do not let this thief rob your precious Shiba of his/her eyesight.


Re-printed with permission by Loretta Cornelius, longtime Shiba owner/breeder

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Shiba Sightline is an online chat group that was started to bring together owners of Shiba Inu with eye problems, especially Glaucoma, so they may exchange ideas and knowledge about this "Silent Thief"!