Eye Conditions in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options
Eye problems are common medical nuisances that occur in canines as much as they do human beings. They cause tremendous annoyance to the dog and the owner and can even cause blindness when not attended to. In certain cases, it may not occur to owners that their dogs have problems.
Always seek the advice of your veterinarian to keep your dog's eyes healthy.
The Experience of a Senior Dog
As often as they do in us, cataracts occur very often in senior pets aged six and over. I could not understand why my miniature schnauzer, Misty, kept bumping into things until I brought her to a vet and a transparent film over her eyes was seen. She was diagnosed with a cataract and it is pending removal as we wait to bring her for her next appointment. If left there, it could cause blindness. I will discuss the nature of cataracts, especially those caused by diabetes, later in this article.
Eye Conditions in Dogs
Symptoms of Eye Problems in Dogs
Eye problems in dogs can be very obvious, but owners have to be a bit more conscious of them. Very often, we just subscribe our dog’s actions to “doggy” behavior and do not take them very seriously. Their behavior is dismissed as just being “cute” and not an actual problem. How does a dog show us when its eyes are causing discomfort?
Pain in the Eyes
A dog tells us when it is suffering pain when it squints, tears or shows sensitivity to light. Other symptoms will include sensitivity to touch as well. The nictitating membrane, or the third eyelid in dogs, protrudes when a dog's eyes are experiencing any of the conditions that will be discussed later. This is a sign that a canine’s eyes are suffering severe pain.
Eye conditions in dogs are usually accompanied by discharge. The type of discharge will usually determine the kind of problem the dog has with its eyes. A painless discharge signals conjunctivitis. Any discharge accompanied by pain or whining should alert an owner to corneal or inner eye problems.
Film Over the Eye
An opaque film over the eyes signals problems to do with the third eyelid or nictitating membrane. When the nictitating membrane appears, the eyeball has sunken into its socket, or that the eyeball has been pulled back into its socket because of severe pain.
When a dog experiences cloudiness over the eye, it is a sign of keratitis, glaucoma or uveitis. Buildup of fluid in the cornea, known as corneal edema, will also give the eye an unclear appearance. These are usually accompanied by signs of pain.
When the dog does not show signs of pain, cataracts are probably the cause. The dog is not necessarily blind, but probably has some difficulty seeing with clarity.
Changes in Eye Pressure
Changes in eye pressure mean that dogs may develop “hard” or “soft” eyes. These are a result of eye diseases in the inner eye. Hard eyes with an inner pupil would mean glaucoma. Soft eyes with small pupils indicate uveitis.
Irritation of the Eyelids
The irritation of the eyelids is a result of diseases that cause swelling, crusting, itching, or hair loss. These are conditions related to hormonal excess or deficiency. Skin problems in dogs will be discussed in another article.
Bulging or Sunken Eyes
These occur as a result of tumors, glaucoma or even abscesses behind the eyeball, pushing the eye out of its socket. A sunken eye occurs with dehydration, weight loss, eye pain, and tetanus. Some breeds, such as Pugs, have eyes that normally bulge somewhat.
Eye Diseases That Are Common in Dogs
What are some of the eye conditions that are prevalent in dogs? Here are some that arise often, plaguing dogs and their owners.
What Is Cherry Eye?
A dog that has a Cherry Eye usually has a red lump at the corner of the eye. This happens when there is a prolapse of the third eyelid, causing it to protrude or “fall out.” Dogs have two tear-producing glands, one in the upper and the other in the lower eyelid, in the nictitating membrane. When the eyelid prolapses, it means that the moist tissue is exposed to air and other irritations.
The cause of this condition is not fully known but has been thought to be a weakness in the eye tissue that holds the membrane in place.
Genetics has also been thought to play a role, with breeds like Sharpeis, Bulldogs, Beagles, and Boston Terriers reportedly having a higher incidence of the condition.
The condition is not painful but can cause dry eyes because the glands cannot produce tears. Irritation because of the exposure can result.
There are two options for treatment. The third eyelid can be either replaced or the tear gland removed. Vets used to remove glands many years ago, but with the importance of tear production especially in the latter part of the dog’s life, more opt to replace the eyelid instead. The veterinarian will offer the best course of treatment.
What Is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis or “pink eye” as it is less technically known is the inflammation of the pink membrane that covers the front of the eyeball and inside of the eyelids. It can be acute, chronic, infectious or non infectious.
Conjunctivitis is divided into two types, serous and purulent. Serous conjunctivitis is a mild condition in which the conjunctiva looks pink & swollen. Discharge is clear & watery. Common causes include wind, dust & allergens. Serous Conjunctivitis becomes purulent when thick secretions crust the lids & the discharge contains mucus or pus.
The third eye as mentioned above will usually protrude when there is conjunctivitis. The dog will usually experience blinking, squinting and be pawing at his eye.
Conjunctivitis may be caused by:
- Bacterial infection
- Anatomical Abnormality
Mild cases of conjunctivitis merely require the flushing of the eye with saline. Purulent or more serious conjunctivitis may require eye irrigations. Antibiotics may be given to combat eye infectious. Anti-inflammatories may be given to combat infectious.
What Is Glaucoma?
A serious eye condition, glaucoma leads to blindness when not treated. It arises because the fluid in the eye is produced faster than it can be removed. It leads to intraocular pressure or pressure within the eye. When the pressure is too high, it causes degenerative changes to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma can be acute or chronic, depending on how quickly the signs develop. An eye with acute glaucoma, which develops suddenly is very painful, causing the dog to squint and tear. The affected eye is harder than the other, causing the dog to have a fixed blank look. Glaucoma causes your dog to have a chronic migraine.
Chronic glaucoma develops over time. It is chronic when the eyeball slowly begins to protrude as a result of the developing mass behind it.
Glaucoma can be Primary, meaning that it is a disease that arises with no preceding condition, or it can be secondary, arising because the dog already has an existing eye disorder.
Primary Glaucoma is hereditary, affecting breeds like Basset Hounds, Samoyeds, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels. In 50% of cases, one eye is soon affected after the first.
Secondary Glaucoma is a complication arising from other eye diseases like cataracts and Uveitis.
Acute glaucoma is an emergency and needs to be treated immediately or it can cause blindness. The dog needs to be rushed to the veterinary hospital. Doctors usually administer the drug mannitol intravenously through a drip or use inhibitors that block the enzyme that produces the fluid building up behind the eye. Some may give the inhibiting drugs orally with together with drugs like Xalatan.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract occurs when the dog’s eyes turn opaque and cause him to have blurred vision. Cataracts should be removed as early as possible to prevent them from the possible complication of glaucoma and eventual blindness. Dogs of all ages and breeds can develop cataracts but they are more commonly found in cocker spaniels, poodles, miniature schnauzers, terriers, and golden retrievers.
Cataracts can be a result of old age, trauma or secondary complications from diseases like glaucoma. Most often, they result because of an inherited condition. They can, therefore, be present at birth or develop when a dog is very young.
Cataracts can also result as a secondary complication of diseases such as diabetes. A small consolation, but dogs with cataracts have surgical success rates that are higher.
A visit to a veterinarian is essential once a pet owner notices that its eyes are turning blush grey. The vet will recommend the additional steps for treatment or surgery.
Uveitis or the “Soft Eye”
Uveitis occurs when the pressure in the eye decreases drastically, resulting in a “soft eye.”
It is painful and accompanied by a red eye, severe tearing and squinting, the third eyelid protruding and avoidance of light. The pupil reacts slowly to light because it is too small.
If left untreated, the dog suffers from a sunken eye and eventual blindness.
Uveitis comes about when the iris becomes inflamed. The iris works like the shutter on a camera, blocking the pupil from excess light. When it becomes inflamed, there is a drastic decrease of pressure within the eye because of a reduction in the fluid that maintains this pressure. This fluid is produced by the structure of the eye known as the ciliary body.
This condition often results because of a deficiency in the immune system of the dog. So the dog may also have accompanying bacterial and infectious diseases.
The treatment process of Uveitis is complex and involves corticoids and drugs that dilate the pupil.
Glaucoma, Uveitis, Cherry Eye are inner eye conditions that can plague your dog. Do consult a veterinarian for a thorough diagnosis and advise on treatment.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
My dog has a black hard substance on his eyeball and I can't get it off can you tell me what to do for him?
I believe it is an opacity that just needs some cleaning. Use an eye gunk removal solution that you can get in pet stores. If the substance is stubborn, do pay your vet a visit.Helpful 3