Eye Conditions in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
Updated date:

Eye Conditions in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

My dog, Misty, was diagnosed with cataracts. I hope to educate fellow dog guardians about common eye problems in dogs.

Learn some of the behaviors your dog may exhibit if their eyes are bothering them.

Learn some of the behaviors your dog may exhibit if their eyes are bothering them.

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.

This little dog should go to the vet if his eyes are showing any of the symptoms in this article.

This little dog should go to the vet if his eyes are showing any of the symptoms in this article.

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?

Common Symptoms

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.

Discharge

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.

Cloudiness

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.

Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye

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.

Causes

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.

Treatment

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.

A dog with conjunctivitis

A dog with conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis

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.

Causes

Conjunctivitis may be caused by:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergies
  • Irritants
  • Injury
  • Anatomical Abnormality
  • Parasites
  • Tumors

Treatment

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.

A dog with glaucoma

A dog with glaucoma

Glaucoma

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.

Causes

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.

Treatment

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.

Cataracts

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.

Causes

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.

Treatment

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.

Dog with Uveitis

Dog with Uveitis

Uveitis or the “Soft Eye”

Description

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.

Causes

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.

Treatment

The treatment process of Uveitis is complex and involves corticoids and drugs that dilate the pupil.

Conclusion

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

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Comments

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 01, 2020:

Jennie, it could be http://www.eyecareforanimals.com/conditions/hyphem... though you may have to ask the vet if this is the case. Here is an article that could help further.

Jennie on August 01, 2020:

My dog had cataract surgery in both eyes and the right eye looks all red , it looks like it is bleeding under the new lens. The dr said the surgery went well but she doesn't know what is going on with the right eye snd can't tell me anything but she has a 50/50 chance of losing the eye. Does anyone know what could of happen or can i save her eye?

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 30, 2020:

In this case do take him to the vet to seek proper treatment. It may be a bit late, but better late than never.

Krystian on June 29, 2020:

My dog's eye was shot out when my grandparents gave him to someone else. They took him back and haven't done anything about his eye. Well now he's my dog, and I don't know what I should do about his eye and how to treat it. Any advice?

Erica on March 28, 2020:

Every time my 8 1/2 month old chiweenie scratches her right eye, the corner if her eye pops out. (Her tear gland) it goes back in, but why dies it do that, and is it serious?

Cathy barosh on February 10, 2018:

My dog has a tumor on his eye he rubbed it on the carpet and it is bleeding . Can’t get to the vet until Monday what to do?

Phyleescia on November 30, 2017:

What do I do if my dog scratched her eye and is pink and it's rolled halfway back???

Jennifer on November 25, 2017:

My 12 year old Pom’s eye is all popped out and red this morning over the years she has been having seizures but they seem to subside latley and now her eye

Doreen on June 16, 2017:

My dog has good film over both her eyes. What can I do?

My Dashhound only 6 a month ago just started running into things, she seems to be completely blind, she has thyroid problems the Vet is trying to get that under control, it hurts me to see her not see on February 02, 2017:

My Dashhound, only 6 months old, a month ago i ststarted running into things, she seems to be completely blind, she has thyroid trouble, the Vet is trying to get that under control. It hurts to see her this way, not knowing the cause, and on limited income, . None of the eyes in the photos look like hers, when she's in the sun, a brown circle starts. Covering her purple. My Marlie is the perfect pet, and I love her so much.

Rhonda on March 16, 2016:

My Rot mix has mucus over one of her eyes and it is crusty around the outer edge. She is 13 yrs. old. Any idea what this could be?

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 16, 2013:

Cavalier spaniels are beauties! Thanks for sharing, Thelma!

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on August 14, 2013:

I have a cavalier king charles spaniel dog and this hub might be helpful to me. Thanks for sharing this useful and very informative hub. Voted up and pinned for later use.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 13, 2012:

Hi Hyph! I had a Bichon too, who passed away of an enlarged heart at old age. That was some time ago, and if I had taken my own advice then, perhaps she'd have had a couple of more years. :-(. Was a teen then! Please say hello to Mirabella for me too...saw her in the photo of your hub, and she's a cutie! Thanks for dropping in!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 13, 2012:

Ah, the poor doggies tear at my heart. Sometimes people forget animals also suffer illnesses and other conditions. It must be frightening to the little guys when they cannot see. Thank you for the information. It helps one know what to look for as a dog ages. My own precious MiraBella will be seven next month and I can tell she is not as strong as before. She is a Bichon.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 13, 2012:

Thanks, Richard!!

Rich from Kentucky on October 12, 2012:

Michelle,

Very detailed hub. Had no idea that dogs had so many eye problems. Very well presented hub. Great Job!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 12, 2012:

Peggy, glad that it never got so bad for them! Thanks for sharing with those who'll need this. Thanks for coming by!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 12, 2012:

A few of our dogs when they got older had the start of cataracts but it never got bad enough that surgery was needed. This is a hub packed with useful information for people who love their animals and wish to have information of what to look for with regard to eye conditions. Up votes and sharing.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 12, 2012:

Thanks for taking notes, Cogerson, and I hope that it's useful for your eldest dog! He's indeed at that age where he is prone to such troubles, so it is good to note. Thanks for dropping in!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 12, 2012:

ignugent, I hope this will help your dog! Say hi to Butler for me! Thanks for dropping in!

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on October 12, 2012:

Lots of great information in this hub....and one that I read very carefully as our oldest dog is now 13 and eye problems are pretty common with older chocolate labradors. Luckily she is not showing any effects that are listed in your hub....voted up, useful....as well as shared and bookmarked for future reference...job well done.

ignugent17 on October 12, 2012:

Our dog is already 9 and his eyes is already having cataracts. It is sad if he cannot see.

Thanks for this information. It is very useful.

Have a great day! :-)

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

Hi Marites and Simba! Will be glad to offer some more "doggy"reads soon! Misty says thanks as well. Cherry eyes are scary. But the good thing about these conditions is that they are all treatable if caught very quickly, so it's good to be observant. Thanks for dropping in, and say hi to Simba for me too!

Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on October 11, 2012:

Hi Michelle! Just finished reading this hub with my dog Simba right beside me. I checked on his eyes of some stuff mentioned here. I hope he has no eye problem, but he really looks away when he sees me trying to point my camera on him, perhaps because the flash would hurt his eyes just like us.

I got scared of the 'cherry eye' on one dog in the picture. What a sad thing!

I hope your Misty will be fine afterwards or when the next appointment will be. I will say a little prayer for Misty tonight and for you too, Michelle.

This hub has lots of useful information til the next continuation of other detail sections come on your "dog" articles.

If you can only see me, I'm having a sad face now...(some cute photos, however and some pitiful).

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

Thanks, Kim! Doesn't often happen, don't worry, if your dogs are happy dogs. Usually it's a response to other conditions. Good to be aware, though! Thanks for coming by!

Sasha Kim on October 11, 2012:

ok some of those pictures made my eyes hurt! I'm so thankful my dogs' eyes are all healthy at the moment, but I'm going to bookmark your hub in case I see any signs of trouble! Thanks for another wonderfully helpful and informative doggie hub ^_^ voting and sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

Thanks, Eddy! Glad you've come by!!

Eiddwen from Wales on October 11, 2012:

This hub will benefit many readers.

Eddy.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

Thanks from Misty, Janine, she's a grand old dame, so she does have a few problems. Couldn't get rid of her cataract earlier because Some dogs are unfortunately prone to these. Left untreated, most become blind. Thanks for coming by, my friend!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

Thanks, Don. I guess the vets decided not to suggest it because they would not be able to withstand the trauma of an operation! So sorry to hear that you too have these ailments. Thanks for sharing, and do take care!!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on October 11, 2012:

I never actually had to deal with this with our dogs when we had when I was younger, but can see from your article how this can truly be an issue and the sooner you know the problem the sooner you can treat it and not have it cause irreversible damage. Great job as usual and have voted and shared all over!! Also hope your little dog has his cataract removed soon and heals quickly too.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 11, 2012:

Our last two dogs did get cataracts when they got old. The Vets never suggested doing anything about it. Probably because they were old. I am somewhat familiar with cataracts and glaucoma because I suffer from these ailments myself. Your information is useful and I am sharing it.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2012:

This is an article on the common eye problems in dogs and their causes, symptoms and treatments.