Distinctive histopathologic features of canine optic nerve hypoplasia and aplasia: A retrospective review of 13 cases

Enry Garcia Da Silva, Richard Dubielzig, Mitzi K. Zarfoss, Armien Anibal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Canine optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH) and aplasia (ONA) are significant neuro-ophthalmologic disorders that have been reported in several species. The purpose of this study was to describe the distinctive histopathologic features of ONH and ONA in canine patients identified from a collection of 20 000 ocular submissions at the comparative ocular pathology laboratory of Wisconsin from 1989 to 2006. The following information about ONH and ONA cases was collected: signalment, and clinical and gross findings, including unilateral vs. bilateral involvement. Microscopic evaluation was performed, with attention to optic nerve malformation, retinal ganglion cell (RGC) and nerve fiber layer (NFL) loss, and retinal disorganization. The distribution of retinal vasculature was recorded and a search for unusual findings of ONH and ONA was performed. Information and histologic documentation was available for 13 cases. Eight cases of ONH and five cases of ONA were identified. The average group age was 20.2 months and 16.1 months, respectively. The most common breed was the Shih Tzu (3/13). ONH usually presented bilaterally (7/8); all ONA cases presented as a unilateral disease (5/5). The morphologic findings in the optic nerve (ON) in ONH included variable degrees of ON hypoplasia and gliosis, as well as ectopic vestigial ON remnants within orbital nerves and connective tissues. The NFL was detected in the majority of the ONH cases; however, RGCs were rare or absent. Mild retinal disorganization was seen occasionally. Most cases of ONH were associated with regional peripheral retinal blood vessel extension into the vitreous, leaving the peripheral retina avascular. In ONA cases the retinal blood vessels, NFL and RGCs were totally absent and retinal disorganization was severe. Distinctive microscopic features encountered in ONA included anterior segment dysgenesis in some cases. The retina in these cases was stretched across the posterior lens capsule, never making contact with the posterior pole of the globe. The current study reviews the human and veterinary literature pertaining to ONH and ONA, compares ONH and ONA in dogs, and presents related ophthalmic histopathologic findings that have not been reported previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary Ophthalmology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Canine
  • Histology
  • Optic nerve aplasia
  • Optic nerve hypoplasia


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