“Collie Eye” is a group of related eye problems seen primarily in Collies, Australian Sheperds, Border Collies, and Shetland Sheepdog (Shelties). The problems, which affect the retina and the optic nerve, range from mild to severe. These abnormalities are visible only with an ophthalmoscope. Because Collie Eye is so widespread, many breeders have their puppies’ eyes checked at the age of six weeks.
Mildly affected dogs have small areas of the retina that appear pale because they did not develop properly. The optic disc (the part of the optic nerve than can be seen using an ophthalmoscope) may be slightly misshapen.
Severely affected dogs have partially detached retinas or very small, undeveloped optic discs. Partially detached retinas almost always become fully detachedover time, leaving the dog blind in that eye. Severely undeveloped optic discs cause poor vision or blindness. Collie eye can’t be cured or treated.
Mild forms of Collie Eye do not become worse over time, and such dogs have normal or nearly normal vision. They should not be used for breeding, however, because their offspring could have severe forms of the disease.
Collie Eye is not more common in dogs of a particular coat color or sex. However, it is more challenging to diagnosie in Collies with blue eyes, often seen with a blue merle coat, because such dogs normally have paler retinas than dark-eyed collies do.
A veterinary ophthalmologist can be called upon to distinguish between normal blue eyes and “Collie Eye” if there is any question about the diagnosis.
There’s no reason not to buy or adopt a puppy that has the mildest form of Collie Eye, because his vision shouldn’t be affected, but do neuter the puppy to avoid passing on the condition.
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Betsy Brevitz, DVM