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Flick used to be found looking out any window. If he could not hunt outside, he would keep watch for something to hunt from a window.

Not now. Now he uses Dart as a guide dog to hunt squirrels. When she points a squirrel and if he sees her point, he will follow, step by step, until the squirrel is treed. Then they will both be at the bottom of the tree "looking" up the tree.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Vizslas

In 2000, I had an academic argument with Pam Williams. It focused on unnecessary health tests for Vizslas. My argument was: why test for diseases that have not been found in Vizslas?. Her argument was that if you didn't test you wouldn't find the diseases. My response: How could the diseases exist without symptoms, so why test if there are no symptoms? Well I lost that argument. Big time.

In the summer of 2002, Flick and I traveled to LA to help my mother sell her house and move into a retirement community. I found Flick bumping into things at night. "You stupid dog", I'd say. After we got home in August, I would point out the squirrels in the back yard and he appeared not to see them. "You stupid dog", I found myself saying again.

The stupidity was mine. I decided to get his eyes checked. Made an appointment with an ophthalmologist in Indianapolis. But the day before the appointment, there was a CERF clinic at the Bloomington Kennel Club Dog Show. It was the same ophthalmologist. I decided to go there. After Flick's eyes were dilated and when we saw the doctor, I told him we had an appointment for the next day and just came there to see if we needed to keep the appointment.

His response: "You don't need to keep the appointment. He has progressive retinal atrophy. He will be totally bind in six months. You cannot do anything about it. You don't need to come tomorrow. It is a genetic disease. He should never be bred. He should be neutered." That was it. We had to move on for the next dog.

Flick's signs were 1) bumping into things a night (i.e. night blindness) and 2) a strange green glow to his eyes when light was not directly shined into them.

I got a second opinion with the ophthalmologist at Purdue. I could see his eyes. There was a luminescence which represented the damage. He still had good perfusion. He said it was a 95% chance of PRA.

I later returned to have the ERG done. It was only fair to his breeders to get a 100% diagnosis. The ERG confirmed PRA. He had 0% electrical activity in his left eye and only 49% in his right eye. But both eyes still exhibited a blink reflex.

Since Flick was the only documented case of PRA in Vizsla (CERF and VCA data) the ophthalmologist said he was defining the disease in Vizslas. The characteristics are

  • late onset (signs & symptoms not exhibiting until 6 1/2 years old)
  • slow progression ( not blind yet at 8 years old)


The inheritance for PRA in Vizslas is recessive. The following chart illustrates this inheritance pattern.

In looking a t Flick's pedigree, the following dogs are carriers for PRA

  • 50% of the dogs produced by his father - (Normal x Carrier)
  • 50% of the dogs produce by his mother- (Normal x Carrier)
  • 100% of the dogs produced by him - (Normal x Affected)

Flick was only the tip of the ice berg. He may represent approximately 50 carrieres in his line. At least 94 dogs in kennels from Oklahoma to Connecticut have been produced by Flick, his father and his mother; at least 47 of them, if bred will pass the PRA genes. Flick's get have been bred; which means the threat continues.

The late onset of this disease means that many affected dogs will be bred before the disease is detected. Consequently, this diseaes will be passed more than in other breeds. It will escalate more rapidly.

Watching your Vibrant Dog go Blind

Flick lives to hunt. My perception is that if he cannot hunt, there is no reason to live. So far, his desire to hunt is stronger than his blindness.


The time line
6 1/2
  • Night blindness in unfamiliar places
  • Unusual green glow to his eyes when light was not directly shining into his eyes
  • Was having trouble seeing squirrels in the backyard
  • PRA diagnosed
    • Prognosis: complete blindness in six months
  • ERG confirming diagnosis shows
    • 0% electrical activity in his left eye
    • 49% electrical activity in his right eye
    • Blink reflex present in both eyes
  • Hits his ears and head into the wall when he shakes his head
  • Still looks out the window
  • cannot see dog biscuits on the ground
  • stopped six inches in front of dinning room table before he hit it
  • will only look out the window when I leave through the front door
  • bumps into items left "out of place" on the deck at night
  • bumps into screen door. Cannot see it closed at night.
  • bumps into run door in the garage. He waits for me to tell him the run door is open.
  • bumps into doggie gate across the bottom of the steps in the basement
  • can move from the couch to the chair right next to it
  • will not jump up on furniture he can step up onto
  • will jump up onto the bed at night only after he has put his front feet up to "see" if anything may be in his way.
    • stays outside alot, even at night
    • he may be found just sitting by a fence
    • he loves to sleep in the sun
    • when called in, he runs toward the run and follows the run fence to the doggie door.
  • BUT when hunting
    • bumps into small limbs on the ground
    • will not go into multi floral rose anymore
    • has not bumped into any standing tree. He has bumped into downed logs
    • can see (hear) a bird take off, but cannot see it land

He never went blind. In good light, you'd never know he was blind. I'd turn on all the lights in the house for him. Otherwise he would use light sources and landmarks to find his way. I put throw rugs all over the house so that he knew where to turn.

I did stop taking him hunting except for the conservation club where he knew it well. I had the "mountain climbers" philosophy, if he died climbing the mountain, he died happy. Problem was, he we spent too much time in the emergency clinics. So, I limited his hunting to places that were safe for him.

He was such a happy dog. He had no idea life was not supposed to be this way. He made the best of it.


Hunting with a blind field trial Vizsla

Flick is (was) a field trial dog. He placed first place in Open Derby in his first field trial stake. He placed first in each field trial after that. He had all his puppy and derby points in three field trials. As a broke gun dog, he ran clean in 85% and placed in 30%. He had his major and retrieving points in Open Gun Dog. In the 2001 VCA Nationals he qualified for the Second Series in the National Amateur Championship. He was on his way to be a dual champion until he became blind. He was only four points away for FC and three points away for AFC.

This year's hunting trip emphasized his blindness. He managed to do fine. He only ran into one fallen tree that hurt me to hear the impact. But he just ran around it trying to find his bird. His desire to hunt is stronger than his blindness.

He almost earned a second master hunter leg in October 2003. His retrieves were perfect. The birds flew straight and the gunners shot them early. He found both with perfect retrieves. But is backing was hard. Luckily we had a white pointer to back, but he was too curious to know what was going on with the pointer that he took too many steps after the shot.

His range has been cut down, but he will still take a tree line to the end. I do loose him occasionally, but have found him within 5 min. BTW, I'm not so sure he was trying to find me. However, sometimes he just stops and looks for me.

He has had too many eye infections this fall from the seeds in his eyes. So, I decided to use his goggles. They stayed on very well at the conservation club. But the cover was so thick at Rend Lake, they would not stay on there. There was also no seeds there. So, I let him run without them. We put in saline and antibiotics morning and night while hunting.


Last Updated: 12-Sep-2013
Totem Vizslas
Webmaster: Janet P. Wallace, PhD