What Is Primary Lens Luxation in Dogs?

Primary Lens Luxation happens when a lens becomes dislocated, leading to inflammation and partial blindness if left untreated.

Mar 6, 2024By Jessica Montes
what is primary lens luxation in dogs

Dogs are known for their heightened sense of sight. Therefore, owners must protect their eye health. Even if humans do everything in their power, we have no control over inherited diseases. This is the case with Primary Lens Luxation (PLL), a condition that can cause pain and reduce your pup’s vision. Learn more about what causes PLL, the breeds that are at higher risk of development, and recognizable symptoms.

Primary Lens Luxation Is an Eye Condition

Primary lens Luxation
Photo by: Eye Care for Animals

Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) is a condition that reduces vision and creates other eye problems. A dog’s eye lens is held in place by fibers, called zonular ligaments. If these ligaments break up or weaken, the lens can become dislocated (lens luxation) and cause partial blindness if not treated. PLL irritates and damages the nerve endings in the eye, can lead to glaucoma, and creates a painful experience for your dog. This condition can also develop as a result of inflammation, trauma to the eye area, cancer, and cataracts.

Breeds Susceptible to Primary Lens Luxation

American Eskimo Dog
Photo by: VetStreet

Dogs inherit PLL and develop symptoms only if the gene is passed down from both the mom and dad. If they receive the gene from only one parent, they likely will not develop PLL, but they can still pass it down to their pups. Hypothetically, two dogs that carry the abnormal gene but show no symptoms can mate and have a litter that develops PLL. Since both parents have the gene in their DNA, the puppies are at a higher risk of inheriting the condition.

The following breeds are more likely to develop PLL:

Symptoms of Primary Lens Luxation

Sad dog
Photo by: Dominika Roseclay

PLL symptoms can start as early as 20 months. Without proper medical attention, full PLL begins in adulthood, usually between the ages of 3 and 8. Based on the average 10 through 13-year lifespan, a dog can spend anywhere from half to most of its life with partial, blurred vision.

Make note of red, irritated, or teary eyes with a cloudy appearance. Be aware of symptoms associated with glaucoma as well. These include:

  • Frequent squinting or blinking
  • Scratching or pawing at the eyes
  • Pupils of different sizes
  • Loss of interest in activities or depression
  • Vision problems

Most dogs are nearsighted, but they have excellent peripheral vision. Pets that have trouble seeing items at certain angles or that constantly bump into things in their path may have eye problems. Schedule an examination with your vet to determine the potential causes.

Treatment for Primary Lens Luxation

Dog eye exam
Photo by: Mikhail Nilov

Finding out your furry friend has a condition that can lead to blindness is never good news. However, the earlier PLL is diagnosed, the greater the chances are of preserving more of your dog’s vision and health. Vets will conduct various exams to rule out a case of inflammation or glaucoma, which can have similar symptoms.

Once PLL is identified as the culprit, the vet may recommend surgery to correct the lens dislocation. If your pup is painfully uncomfortable, they will prescribe oral medicines and topical ointments that reduce the irritation. Note that PLL can develop in both eyes at separate times; treating one eye does not mean it will not reoccur in the opposite one at a later time. Owners must remain vigilant and keep track of the symptoms listed earlier.

How to Prevent This Eye Condition

Dog genetic testing
Photo by: Orivet

The number one way of catching PLL is through genetic testing. If you found your pup through a breeder, ask them about any DNA exams, the dog’s parents’ health, and any inheritable diseases. Most ethical breeders will perform these tests to stop dogs from passing down certain health conditions to future litters.

For shelter dogs or those without any documented tests, you have two options. You can get your furry friend tested through your vet. Depending on whether you have pet health insurance and what the plan covers, part or most of the genetic test cost can be covered. Don’t worry if your pup doesn’t have insurance. Websites like Orivet and The Kennel Club sell PLL tests that are delivered and received via mail. You’ll collect DNA from the inside of your dog’s cheek, seal the package, send it back, and get your results in a few weeks.

Helping a Blind Dog

Blind dog
Photo by: Best Friends Animal Society

No matter how early a condition is diagnosed, sometimes dogs become blind because of PLL, age, or another eye problem. Owners must give their pets extra love and help them navigate the world through their other senses. One fantastic way of helping a blind dog relearn the spaces in your home is through scents and textures. Using a different, dog-safe mist, air freshener, unlit candle, or plug-in spray in each room will let your pup roam your home with their nose. They’ll learn to associate every area with a unique scent.

Similarly, adding specific textures lets your dog distinguish one room from the next. Your pup will know exactly where they are when their paws feel the rough welcome mat at the front door, the smooth, anti-slip mat in the bathroom, the family room’s dense rug, and the fluffy rug in the bedroom.

Other Vision Problems in Dogs

cherry eye
Photo by: Forever Pets

Dogs can also inherit another vision problem known as cherry eye. This happens when their third eyelid (which lies under the bottom lid) pops out and creates a small, cherry-colored lump near the tear duct. Besides the bump, other symptoms include dry or swollen eyes and discharge. Your pet will experience the greatest recovery with surgical procedures that push the eyelid back into place and artificial tears that keep their eyes hydrated.

Like PLL, cherry eye affects some breeds more than others. Pups with flatter, squished faces are more susceptible because their third eyelid has a weaker attachment compared to those with longer snouts. These round-faced dogs include:

  • Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Shih Tzus
  • Boxers
  • Lhasa Apsos
Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.