Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Rottweilers | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

How much do you know about Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Rottweilers?

To help you understand PRA and what it means to you, we’ve assembled this overview of the disease and its causes, symptoms, testing, and treatment options.

You can also learn about what organizations like The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists are doing to raise awareness about PRA and help at-risk dogs live longer, healthier lives.


What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Rottweilers

Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition that causes progressive degeneration of cells and tissues in the retina. The disorder results from abnormalities in one or more of several genes that encode proteins involved with vision, specifically retinitis pigmentosa-4 (RP4), which makes a protein called rhodopsin; cone-rod homeobox 4 (CRX4), which makes a protein called crx; and several other eye-specific genes.

Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all dogs with PRCA have defects in either rhodopsin or crx. The result is that photoreceptor cells gradually lose their ability to sense light, resulting in loss of central vision, which can progress to complete blindness.


Causes of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Rottweilers

There are a few things to consider with PRA.

First, there are two types: juvenile-onset and adult-onset. Each one is treated differently. Your rottweiler could be affected by either type or neither at all.

But that doesn’t mean your dog won’t have eye issues; dogs can develop a number of different issues related to their eyes as they age that are not PRA-related and can include cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, etc…

In fact, some dogs have so many issues with their eyes that treating them for PRA may not be practical. The second thing you need to consider when discussing PRA is whether your dog is at risk of developing it at all.

Read Also: 8 Quick Secrets to Your Rottweiler’s Long Life


How does it happen?

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) occurs when rods and cones (cells that are responsible for sight) deteriorate over time. While it’s typically seen in older dogs, symptoms can appear at any age.

Typically starting with night blindness, PRA progresses until your rottweiler can no longer see. The amount of time between symptoms varies greatly, but the disease is usually fatal within two years of onset.

The disease is hereditary—it’s caused by a mutation to one or more of your dog’s genes, which means she can pass it on to her puppies.


How fast does PRA develop in Rottweilers?

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) affects both eyes simultaneously, and most dogs lose their vision by eight years of age. However, some dogs may be asymptomatic for longer than that. Because PRA is a genetic disease and can affect any breed, it’s difficult to say how long after symptom onset it takes before total blindness sets in.

If you’re wondering whether your dog is developing PRA and what you should do about it, consult with your veterinarian so he or she can diagnose your pet and advise you on treatment options.

Your vet will want to know about: Age of onset Symptoms Behavior Changes Exercise habits Diet Does your dog have a family history of PRA?


Symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Rottweilers

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disease that has no known cure. Dogs with PRA can experience visual impairment and blindness as a result of cells in their eyes deteriorating and dying off.

The disease primarily affects both eyes, although one may be more severely affected than another; an animal with PRA may also have lesions on its retina and lose vision at night or when it’s cloudy.

Progressive retinal atrophy can appear any time after five years of age, but symptoms are more common between six months and three years of age. Currently, there is no definitive test for PRA—though there are screening tests that may detect signs early on, such as changes to a dog’s pupils.

In addition, some dogs with PRA will display other clinical signs such as dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, head tilting, and walking into objects. It’s important to note that not all dogs with PRA develop these additional symptoms.

Read Also: The Care for Your Rottweiler Ears | The Complete Guide


Diagnosis of PRA In Rottweilers

If your Rottie is six years or older, it’s important to have his eyes checked by a veterinarian at least once a year. While you’re there, ask your vet to look for signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), an inherited disease that causes degeneration of light-sensing cells in the retina.

Symptoms include night blindness, seeing double, and going blind. PRA has been reported in several purebred dogs including German shepherds, Irish setters, and other breeds but is most common among breeds with long, floppy ears like Rotties.

Your vet can diagnose PRA during a routine eye exam by examining retinas under a microscope. There is no treatment for PRA, so early detection is key to slowing its progression and giving affected dogs more time with their families.



While there is no cure, recent research suggests that supplementation with essential fatty acids and antioxidants may slow or even halt disease progression. If your dog shows signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy, we recommend bringing him to a vet for treatment.

Treatments include antioxidant supplements such as L-Carnitine and Vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acid supplementation. Both these treatments may help improve your dog’s quality of life, by improving his vision and relieving some of his symptoms.

We recommend you take your dog to see a specialist immediately if he shows any signs of PRA – there is still a chance that they can help your beloved canine companion live longer and happier!


Treatments of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Rottweilers

There are no effective treatments for PRA in dogs. In fact, there is no known cure for any of the genetic forms of retinal degeneration found in dogs. Dogs diagnosed with PRA will not recover from their condition and, over time, will lose sight.

The loss of sight can progress rapidly or slowly; it depends on which form of PRA is involved and a dog’s breed (for example, chondrodysplasia can progress more quickly than PRCA).

Typically, a diagnosis of PRA is made after blindness has already occurred, although some changes may be visible during a veterinary exam—the presence of areas called drusen between cells on retinas seen via ophthalmoscope can indicate possible early signs of PRA.

Final Words

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited condition that causes loss of sight, but it doesn’t typically lead to total blindness. This makes the rottweiler a common breed for those who are blind and need an assistance dog. PRA affects dogs gradually and is detected by eye exams. Dogs may have one or both eyes affected by PRA, and symptoms vary from one dog to another.