The Top Ten Eye Afflictions in Dogs (and What to Do About Them)
Your dog's eyes allow them to see the world and explore new territories. These two organs capture light waves that your pet's brain and neural network convert into imagery. Your furry friend's vision works at its best when they have healthy eyes. Sadly, injuries can damage the eyes' structures. Other diseases can also impact your dog's sight.
Here are ten common eye disorders your dog may develop, and how to manage these issues.
This eye condition is not an actual disease. Blepharospasm is a clinical sign that your pet has an eye-related issue. Their eyes rapidly blink due to involuntary contractions of the eyelid's orbicularis oculi muscle. It makes the eyelid appear red, swollen, and closed. These dogs often have itchy eyes. They paw or rub their face or eyelids, which can damage surrounding tissue. Sometimes, their eyelids can crust or flake with small pustules or pimple-like bumps on the area.
Causes of blepharospasm are entropion, allergies, and infections. Other triggers are tumors, inflammatory disorders, mange, nutritional disorders, and endocrine problems. Environmental irritants, such as tobacco smoke, can also initiate the condition.
Treatments include applying warm compresses several times per day over the eyes. You can also use saline drops to remove any discharge. Treatment of the blepharospasm depends on the underlying issues.
2. Cherry Eye
Dogs have three eyelids: two are visible, one is hidden. The third eyelid sits in the inner corner of your pet's eyes. The structure has invisible tear glands. It also has ligaments that fasten it in place. The third eyelid can leave its normal location when a dog's ligaments have a congenital weakness. The eyelid pops out, so it appears that the canine has a small 'cherry' in the corner of its eye. Genetic abnormalities cause this condition. This problem affects both eyes over time.
To treat cherry eye, a surgical procedure to restore the third eyelid to its correct position is usually needed. A South Boston Animal Hospital vet may perform this surgery, or we may recommend an ophthalmologist for more complicated cases.
3. Corneal and Scleral Wounds
The cornea is a clear, dome-shaped tissue that covers the eye's outermost layer. Your pet's sclera is the white portion of the eye. These delicate, skin-like tissues can become damaged when your pet explores its territory. Dust or small branches can scratch their eyes causing injuries. Other causes include pre-existing anatomical problems, dry eyes, and fights with other animals. Common wounds dogs receive include small lacerations (cuts), ulcers, or punctures on their corneal or scleral tissue.
A veterinarian will examine your pet's eyes to find the object that caused the corneal or scleral abrasion.
Scleral and corneal wounds cause dogs to squint and rub their eyes. These wounds also inflame the eyes. Pet owners will notice their dogs have red, tearing eyes after this injury.
A South Boston Animal Hospital veterinarian will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or atropine ointments to prevent infection. Following treatment, your pet may need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from scratching their eyes. The veterinarian will perform surgery on severe injuries to prevent further damage.
4. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye
Veterinarians call this disorder the "dry eye syndrome." KCS occurs when dogs have deficiencies in their aqueous tear film. These issues cause severe drying of the eye's surface and eyelid's lining. There are several causes including systemic disease, dry nose, drug toxicity, and neurogenic causes.
This condition primarily affects bulldogs, cocker spaniels, Shih-Tzus, Lhasa apsos, and terriers.
Symptoms include excessive tearing and swollen conjunctival vessels. Other dogs will have mucus or pus discharge from the eyes and corneal changes in the blood cells (ulceration and pigmentation). Severe KCS can cause diseases can lead to blindness.
A veterinarian will perform a Schirmer test to measure the tear value and amount of wetness in your pet's eyes. A low test value indicates KCS. A fluorescein stain, a non-invasive dye, will reveal details of your pet's eye under a blue light. This screening can reveal any abrasions or ulcerations. A veterinarian may take samples of the aqueous fluid to culture to see if there is bacterial growth in the eye. This underlying issue can cause KCS.
5. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Inside your pet's eyelids are mucus membranes called the conjunctiva. They also cover both sides of the third eye and parts of the eyeball.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a term that means inflammation of the conjunctiva. Symptoms include reddened or irritated conjunctiva, drainage, and pain. Many conditions can cause conjunctivitis in dogs, including inward-growing eyelashes, allergic reactions, and viral and bacterial infections.
Veterinarians treat the eye infection depending on its underlying cause. A sterile saline eyewash can flush out eye irritants (available over-the-counter). Prescription antibiotics can address bacterial eye infections.
After applying ointment or eye drops, you should wash your hands. The chances of catching pink eye from your pet are small. If your pet's eyes worsen, bring them by our office for more help.
"Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, isn't just a human ailment...your dog may be susceptible to it too." TWEET THIS
The eye maintains a steady pressure by balancing its fluid drainage and production. Glaucoma occurs when this process becomes unbalanced. Symptoms include eye pain, redness, increased tearing, cloudy corneas, dilated pupils, and cherry eyes. In some cases, your pet may have enlarged eyes.
Call a South Boston Animal Hospital veterinarian if you believe your pet has glaucoma. Delaying treatment can result in blindness. Treatments include a combination of topical and oral medications. These drugs decrease inflammation or absorb eye fluid. Other medicines lower fluid production or promote fluid drainage. Some dogs may require surgery.
Most dogs have clear lenses in the middle of their eyes. Sometimes the structures can become opaque. These cloudy areas are cataracts. The abnormalities can prevent light from reaching the back of the eye. This issue causes poor vision, pressure problems, and blindness depending on its severity.
Frequently, lens luxation (see below for an explanation) can occur with cataracts that cause the lens to contract and crack.
Cataracts are sometimes confused with lenticular sclerosis or the natural aging of your dog's lenses. Both conditions give a milky white or grey appearance to the black center of a dog's eyes. A veterinarian can tell the difference between the two disorders during an eye examination.
A South Boston Animal Hospital veterinarian will recommend surgery if cataracts compromise your dog's vision.
Some dogs have eyelids that roll inwards. Veterinarians call this condition entropion. The painful disorder causes a dog's eyelids to rub against the eye's surface. The irritation increases the eye's tear production. It also causes pets to squint. Eventually, entropion can damage the cornea, sclera, and eyelids.
Sometimes, underlying health condition trigger entropion in dogs. A veterinarian will temporarily suture the eyelids into a normal position if they have a curable illness. Surgical procedures can permanently fix the eyelids in other cases.
9. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
This eye disease is difficult to detect in dogs. Progressive Retinal Atrophy causes your pet to become blind.
Canines with the disorder have normal-looking eyes. The first symptom is night vision problems. Most pets act normal until their sight diminishes. No veterinary treatments exist for PRA.
10. Lens Luxation
Lens luxation occurs with adult dogs between four and nine years old. This problem occurs when the lens capsule separates from the zonules (fiber-like processes that ensure the eye lens stays in place). The lens pops out of its normal area.
The disorder can begin at the front, then progress through the pupil, and the eye's front chamber. It can also occur in the posterior (back area) of the eye. The issue primarily afflicts German shepherds, cocker spaniels, border collies, and terrier breeds.
Do you suspect that your pet has an eye issue? Bring them to South Boston Animal Hospital. Our expert veterinarians will screen your pet for any health-related issues. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.