flat-coated retriever eye problem

Understanding the Most Common Flat-Coated Retriever Eye Problem

Have you ever heard of the flat-coated retriever eye problem? It’s a condition affecting one of the most beautiful dog breeds. Unfortunately, these pups are prone to developing eye problems that can cause discomfort and blindness if not treated properly.

As a dog owner, this is concerning, and it’s important to be aware of the common signs associated with this particular issue. But don’t worry; there are steps you can take to help prevent and detect these issues early on. Let’s delve into more details about the flat-coated retriever eye problem so you can better protect your pup.

Overview of Flat-Coated Retriever 

flat-coated retriever eye problem

Flat-Coated Retrievers are mid-sized sporting dogs with a characteristic shiny black coat and feathering on their legs, chest, and tail. Their long, oval-shaped head gives them a distinctive, intelligent look, highlighted by their dark brown or black eyes framed with long eyebrows that give their faces a somewhat mournful expression. Their intelligent eyes are set relatively wide apart and have a friendly and eager-to-please expression.

The eyes of the flat-coat retriever are one of the many things that make this breed special. Unfortunately, they can also be prone to several eye problems. In history, the eye problem has been referred to as “flat-coated retriever corneal dystrophy” or “flat-coat corneal dystrophy.” Today, most people refer to it as the flat-coated retriever eye problem.

Types of Flat-Coated Retriever Eye Problems

As mentioned, it’s essential to understand the various types of flat-coated retriever eye problems. These include:

∎Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Flat-coat retrievers are known for their cheery disposition and love for the outdoors. They are an energetic breed with much to offer, making them a popular choice for pet enthusiasts. However, like any breed, flat-coated retrievers are prone to certain health issues, including Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a serious genetic health problem affecting both eyes and can cause blindness in dogs if left untreated. It is essential to be aware of PRA and its symptoms, as early veterinary intervention and proper treatment can help your furry friend maintain a good quality of life.

Possible Causes 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a group of inherited eye disorders that occur in many breeds of dogs, including flat-coated retrievers. The disorder mainly affects the retina, causing the cells to degenerate over time, leading to blindness. The disease typically affects both eyes of the dog and is caused by mutations in genes responsible for the retina’s functioning.

Signs and Symptoms

The initial signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy may be difficult to notice in the early stages. However, as the disease progresses, a dog’s vision changes occur. Night blindness is a classic symptom in dogs suffering from PRA, which can lead to disorientation and reluctance to move in the dark. As the condition worsens, the dog’s visual impairment will progress to daytime vision loss, resulting in complete blindness.


Although there is currently no cure for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, early detection and proper management of symptoms can prolong the dog’s sight. Treatment consists of providing a well-balanced diet, Vitamin E, and antioxidants. Regular exercise and avoiding chaotic or changing environments can also be beneficial. The use of eye drops to relieve discomfort and inflammation in the affected eye is also an effective solution. Behavioral modifications such as sound signals can help the dog feel comfortable and more secure in their environment.

∎Pigmentary Uveitis

Pigmentary Uveitis is an eye inflammation that affects the uvea, a part of the eye that supplies blood to the retina. Inflammation occurs when there is an attack by the immune system on melanin deposits, pigment-containing cells in the eye. This condition is prevalent in flat-coated Retrievers, and both eyes are typically affected.

Possible Causes 

The exact cause of Pigmentary Uveitis is unknown. However, it is believed to be a genetic predisposition. According to research studies, nearly 50% of flat-coated Retrievers in the US are affected by this eye disease. Another possible cause is the improper functioning of the retinal cells and fluid buildup in the uvea.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary symptoms of Pigmentary Uveitis in flat-coated Retrievers include squinting, sensitivity to light, redness in the eyes, decreased vision, and excessive tearing. Moreover, you can also observe pigment particles that deposit on the retina, looking like dark spots. If you notice your pet exhibiting any of these symptoms, take them for evaluation promptly.


Although there is no known cure for Pigmentary Uveitis, combining treatments can help manage the symptoms. If caught early, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops, which effectively reduce inflammation and slow down the disease’s progression. Furthermore, use anti-glaucoma veterinary medicine if there is high pressure in the eyes.

Some studies suggest that diet changes, increased physical activities, and Vitamin supplements can be helpful. Immediate veterinary surgery is considered the last resort and is performed only in severe cases of blindness or when there is no response to medication.


Distichiasis is a genetic disease in which extra eyelashes grow on the dog’s eyelid, pointing inwards towards the eyeball. These extra eyelashes can irritate and scratch the eye’s surface, causing discomfort and potential long-term damage if not treated. The signs of this disease may not show up immediately, and sometimes, dogs can have the condition for years before symptoms appear.

Possible Causes

The cause of Distichiasis is a genetic mutation that results in a change in the way the dog’s eyelashes grow. The condition is relatively common in Flat-Coated Retrievers, with around 8 % of dogs affected by the disease. Unfortunately, breeding two dogs that carry the gene can increase the risk of their puppies developing the disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of this disease may vary from slight irritation to intense pain and discomfort. The most common signs of Distichiasis include excessive watering of the eyes, squinting, eye redness, rubbing or pawing at the eye, and repeated conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is essential to consult your vet for an eye examination.


The management of distichiasis aims to remove the extra eyelashes that grow inwardly so that they no longer cause irritation or damage to the eye. Various methods are available for removing the extra eyelashes, including Electroepilation, removal using ophthalmic scissors and forceps, or cryotherapy. The treatment choice will depend on the individual case and the severity.

In severe cases of distichiasis, surgery may be necessary to reposition the dog’s eyelashes. This procedure involves removing a strip of tissue from the eyelid and then repositioning the eyelashes to grow at a more normal angle. Surgery usually offers a long-term solution for the condition, with up to 90% success rate.


Glaucoma is a condition in which pressure builds up inside the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. This pressure buildup can result in the loss of vision and blindness if not treated promptly. There are two types of glaucoma; Primary Glaucoma and Secondary Glaucoma. Flat-Coated Retrievers are more prone to Primary Glaucoma due to their genetic disposition. Genetic disposition is the leading cause of Primary Glaucoma in Flat-Coated Retrievers. The faulty genes are responsible for the inability of the eye to drain its fluids, causing pressure buildup.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of glaucoma are not noticeable at the early stages, so it is crucial to schedule eye check-ups for your pets regularly. The eye will become red and cloudy as the disease progresses, and your pet may become light-sensitive. You may also notice that your pet is rubbing its eyes more frequently, or if the condition is quite severe, your pet may even experience vision loss.


If you suspect your pet might have glaucoma, it is essential to take them to a vet immediately. The vet will determine how severe the condition is, and they will recommend a suitable treatment. The treatment options for Glaucoma in Flat-Coated Retrievers include oral medications, laser surgery to increase drainage and reduce pressure, and eye drops, which help control the pressure buildup. 

It is important to note that glaucoma is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing care and management to ensure your pet maintains its vision. Medications and visits to the vet for check-ups and monitoring are important parts of the treatment process. It is also essential to keep your pet’s eyes clean and free from infections, as secondary eye infections can worsen an existing case of glaucoma. 


Cataracts refer to the clouding of the eye’s lenses, which can be partial or complete, interfering with vision. In flat-coated retrievers, cataracts are an inherited eye problem, with most cases resulting from a gene mutation that causes abnormal lens development. Cataracts can also develop due to old age, diabetes, eye injuries, or long-term steroid use.

Possible Causes

The progression of cataracts varies from dog to dog. In some cases, the lenses may only have small opacities that do not affect vision significantly. The lenses may be fully clouded in more advanced cases, causing blindness. Common symptoms of cataracts in flat-coated retrievers include:

  • Cloudy or milky-colored eyes.
  • Increased eye discharge.
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in dim light.
  • Bumping into objects.
  • Reluctance to move around.


If you suspect your flat-coated retriever has cataracts, it’s essential to consult an ophthalmologist immediately. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can prevent cataracts from worsening, which could lead to blindness. Treatment options include surgery, which involves removing and replacing damaged lenses with artificial lenses. This option is viable only in dogs with mature cataracts. Your vet may also recommend eye drops or medication to manage the symptoms of early-stage cataracts.

Cataract surgery is relatively safe and effective, with a success rate of over 90% in flat-coated retrievers. However, it’s worth noting that cataract surgery is costly and may require specialized care, including follow-up appointments. Additionally, some dogs have high surgical risks due to underlying health conditions or other complications.

Corneal Damage

Corneal damage can be a serious problem for dogs, leading to decreased vision and discomfort. Various factors, including trauma, infection, and dry eye, can cause corneal damage. Trauma is often a common cause of corneal damage in flat-coated retrievers due to their active and playful nature. Scratches or scrapes to the cornea can occur from several different sources, such as playing rough with other dogs or running through dense vegetation. 

Infections can also lead to corneal damage in flat-coated retrievers, especially if the dog has dry eye, which occurs when there is a lack of tear production.

Signs and Symptoms 

Symptoms of corneal damage in flat-coated retrievers may vary depending on the severity of the injury. However, some common symptoms include excessive eye discharge, squinting, redness, and cloudiness of the cornea. In more severe cases, the dog may paw at their eye or avoid light due to pain. It is important to note that if your flat-coated retriever shows any signs of eye issues, it is best to take them to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Treatment options for corneal damage in flat-coated retrievers depend on the severity of the injury. If the injury is minor, the dog may only require close monitoring and eye drops or ointments to help with pain and inflammation. In more serious cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the cornea. It is essential to follow all treatment recommendations from your vet to ensure that your flat-coated retriever’s eyes heal properly.


Entropion is a condition that affects the eyelids of dogs. It occurs when the lower eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes or hair to rub against the eyeball. Entropion can affect one or both eyes, leading to irritation, redness, and corneal ulcers. Flat-Coated Retrievers are known to be more prone to Entropion than other dog breeds, and it is typically seen in younger dogs.

Possible Causes

The primary cause of Entropion is genetic. Flat-Coated Retrievers may inherit the condition from their parents. The other common cause of Entropion in Flat-Coated Retrievers is due to scars or injuries that affect the eyelid shape. Trauma or rubbing of the eyes can cause the eyelid to fold inward, leading to Entropion.

Signs and Symptoms 

The symptoms of Entropion in Flat-Coated Retrievers can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms include excessive tearing, redness or inflammation of the eyes, squinting, sensitivity to light, and discharge. Your dog may also paw at the affected eye or rub its face on the ground to relieve the discomfort caused by Entropion.


The treatment of Entropion in Flat-Coated Retrievers depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be treated with ointments or eye drops to reduce inflammation. However, more severe cases may require surgery to repair the eyelids. Surgery is typically reserved for dogs with chronic or severe Entropion that does not respond to medical management.

These are just some common eye issues that flat-coated retrievers may face. It is important to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups and if they show signs of any eye problems. Early detection and treatment can help prevent further damage and keep your pet healthy.

Preventing Flat-Coated Retriever Eye Problem

flat-coated retriever eye problem

Now that you know some common eye issues in Flat-Coated Retrievers, taking steps to prevent them is crucial.

1: Regular Check-up:

The first step to preventing eye problems in your Flat-Coated Retriever is to keep a regular check on its eyes. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian will help identify any problems early on, which is crucial in preventing blindness. In addition, you should also check your dog’s eyes regularly at home. Look for redness, cloudiness, discharge, or any other unusual symptoms. If you notice anything that concerns you, bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

2: Keep Their Eyes Clean:

Flat-Coated Retrievers are known for their love of the outdoors and can often be found running around in fields or playing in the water. It can lead to dirt, dust, or sand getting in their eyes, which can cause irritation and infection. To avoid this, keep your dog’s eyes clean and debris-free. You can use a clean, damp cloth to gently wipe around their eyes, being careful not to touch the eyeball itself.

3: Protect Them from the Sun:

Just like humans, dogs can also be affected by UV rays from the sun. Exposure to the sun can cause damage to their eyes, leading to problems such as cataracts or even blindness. To protect your Flat-Coated Retriever’s eyes from the sun, ensure they have access to shade when outside, or use dog-specific UV goggles. You can also trim the hair around their eyes to prevent it from falling into their vision.

4: Watch Their Diet:

Believe it or not, your dog’s diet can also impact their eye health. A well-balanced diet will provide the necessary nutrients your dog’s body needs to maintain healthy eyes. Specifically, ensure your dog gets enough vitamins A, C, and E, which are crucial for good eye health. You can find these in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and blueberries.

5: Prevent Genetic Eye Diseases:

Some eye problems, such as cataracts or progressive retinal atrophy, are genetic and can be passed down through generations. It means choosing a reputable breeder who performs regular eye checks on their breeding dogs is important to minimize the chances of genetic eye problems. 

Remember, prevention is better than cure, so keep up with your dog’s eye care routine to clear its vision.

Home Remedies for Flat-Coated Retriever Eye Problems 

You can try home remedies if your Flat-Coated Retriever has an eye problem. While home remedies should not replace professional veterinary care, they can be helpful in some cases.

✔️Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to help soothe swollen and irritated eyes. Brew a cup of chamomile tea and let it cool down. Use a soft cloth to apply the cooled tea to your dog’s eyes, gently wiping the area around the eyes. Repeat this several times a day until the symptoms improve.

✔️Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and healing properties that can help reduce swelling and promote the healing of damaged tissue. Remove the gel from an aloe vera leaf and apply it directly to your dog’s eyes. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after the application, and be careful not to get any gel in your dog’s eyes.

✔️Cold Compresses

Cold compresses can help reduce swelling and soothe itchy, sore eyes. Wet a soft cloth with cold water or wrap an ice pack in a cloth and place it gently against your dog’s eyes. Hold it there for a few minutes, and then remove it. Repeat this several times a day as needed.

✔️Saline Solution

Saline solution is a gentle and effective way to clean your dog’s eyes and remove any dirt, debris, or discharge that may be causing irritation. Mix one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and stir until it dissolves. Using a dropper or a syringe, pour a few drops of the solution into your dog’s eyes, one drop at a time. Gently massage the area around the eyes to help the solution circulate. Repeat this once or twice a day or as needed.

✔️Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve eye infections and promote healing. Apply a small amount of coconut oil to a cotton ball or a soft cloth and gently wipe the area around your dog’s eyes. Ensure you don’t get any oil in your dog’s eyes, as this can cause discomfort and irritation.

✔️Supplements and Vitamins

Supplements and vitamins can help strengthen your dog’s eyes and improve its overall health. Look for supplements that contain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, vitamin A, and other nutrients beneficial to eye health. However, talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements or vitamins.

If your dog’s symptoms persist or worsen despite home remedies, or if you notice any signs of eye injury or trauma, contact your vet immediately. Remember, your dog’s eyes are precious, and caring for them can help prevent serious health problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What color eyes do Flat-Coated Retrievers have?

Flat-Coated Retrievers commonly have dark brown eyes that are almost black. Occasionally, they may have light brown eyes, but this is uncommon.

Is a flat-coat retriever prone to eye problems?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can be prone to certain eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy. Having your Golden Retriever’s eyes checked regularly by a veterinarian to catch any potential issues early on is essential.

What is the predisposition of Flat Coats Retrievers?

Flat coat retrievers are prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which results in the gradual deterioration of the retina. This can eventually lead to blindness. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA, but early detection and management can slow down its progression.

How do you know if your Flat coat retriever’s eyes are bad?

Some signs that your FCR may have eye problems include redness, swelling, discharge, cloudiness, or a change in eye color. If you notice any of these signs, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Should I clean my Flat coat retriever’s eyes every day?

Cleaning your FCR’s eyes should be a regular grooming routine. This can help remove any debris or discharge accumulated around their eyes. However, it’s essential to be gentle and not use harsh or irritating products that could do more harm than good.

Final Words

After researching flat-coated retriever eye problems, I can tell you it’s a serious issue. As much as we love our furry friends, we must acknowledge that their eyes are quite vulnerable, and they might develop diseases like Glaucoma, Cataracts, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy.

These conditions could lead to a complete loss of vision which is heartbreaking. So follow the above steps and always observe any changes in your FCR’s eyes. Invest in pet health insurance and contact a veterinarian if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Remember, a little precaution goes a long way in keeping your family dog’s eyes healthy and their tails wagging.

About Tom Thorpe

Tom Thorpe has overtime interacted with different species of dogs mostly through breeding and training; according to him, man’s best friend is yet to find solace in the company of man, as they are continuously mistreated. He, therefore, runs a rescue center that provides shelter to stray dogs, and has been advocating for the rights of animals; the Golden Retriever dogs are among his favorites, the reason he came up with the extensive excerpts to help educate the society on the right treatment and care of the respective breed. Tom spends most of his time running his dog shelter; he is a husband and proud father of two boys and loves to go fishing during his free time.

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