7 Most Common Eye Problems in Dogs

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Your dog’s eyes perform an extraordinary function. They make nerve impulses from reflected light. These impulses are then sent to the brain that forms an image that the dog can understand.

To properly convert reflected light, all parts of a dog’s eye should be healthy. Unfortunately, several conditions can affect your dog’s eyes and, consequently, the way they function.

Though this presents a new challenge for you in terms of taking care of the dog, it primarily affects the extent to which your dog will enjoy its life. It thus is best to know the common eye issues you should be on the lookout for.

The following are the seven most common issues that might affect your dog’s eyes, along with their causes and management options.

Dry Eye

This is also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). It follows cases where your dog’s tear glands produce less tears than normal because of a disorder of the lacrimal gland. KCS is also linked to Addison’s disease and immune-mediated conditions.

Tears are meant to clear out potentially damaging objects from the dog’s eyes and nourish the corneal tissues. As such, without enough tears, your dog will usually exhibit the characteristic signs of KCS, including continuous mucus drainage from the eyes, pain, and corneal ulcers.

Mild cases of dry eye are managed by applying an artificial tear solution frequently. This is often combined with the administration of medications like cyclosporine that stimulate tear production. In severe cases, surgery to redirect the duct that carries saliva to moisten the eye is the typical solution.

Pink Eye

The mucus membranes covering both sides of a dog’s eyes are called the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis and pink eye are interchangeable words that refer to the inflammation of this mucous membrane.

Its symptoms include a swollen and reddened conjunctiva, eye pain as well as eye discharge. The discharge can be purulent, mucoid, or clear.

In general, conjunctivitis is considered a symptom of another disease rather than a condition itself. Allergic reactions, bacterial or viral infections, and physical irritation, such as when eyelashes grow inwards, are some of its causes.

The management of the pink eye is directed at its cause. Sterile saline eye washes can be used to flush out any physical irritants or allergens from the dog’s eye. An antibiotic eye ointment or drops suffices for a bacterial infection.

Eye Inflammation

Eye inflammation is also called blepharitis. The condition generally affects a canine’s eyelids and sometimes the tissues in and around its eyes, including the meibomian glands.

Eye inflammation can be caused by allergic, congenital, and bacterial conditions or, in a few cases, tumors. The most common causes are ectopic cilia, distichia, mast cell tumors, lagophthalmos, sebaceous adenomas, and traumatic eye injuries.

Though eye inflammation affects all dog breeds and ages, some dog breeds are at a higher risk of the condition because of hereditary abnormalities. These include Labrador retrievers, collies, Chinese Shar Peis, golden retrievers, chow chows, and rottweilers.

The treatment of eye inflammation primarily addresses its underlying cause. For instance, if it is related to a tumor, surgery is the first choice. On the other hand, new diet plans and changes in your dog’s environment will help manage eye inflammation following exposure to allergens.

Cherry Eye

A dog has three eyelids; two are visible while the third one below the eye’s inner corner is hidden. This third eyelid houses a tear gland. While the tear gland is invisible, it might pop out of its location and look like a cherry in the corner of your dog’s eye.

This is because of a congenital disability that causes the laxity of the ligament holding the tear gland in place. Since the resultant condition called the cherry eye has a genetic basis, it generally affects both eyes over time.

Cherry eye is more common in Beagles and Cocker Spaniels. The exposed gland will irritate the ocular gland and might lead to conjunctivitis. Alternatively, the tear gland might dry out with continued exposure and lead to dry eye syndrome.

In most cases, the condition’s treatment option is surgery to attach the tear gland into its normal position. If the tear gland’s repositioning is not possible, the vet might remove it altogether, then prescribe lifelong eye drops to keep the dog’s eyes lubricated.

Cataracts

There is a lens in the middle of your dog’s eyes. This lens should be clear, but at times, it develops an opaque cloudy cataract. This cataract keeps light from getting to the back of the eye, causing blindness or poor vision based on its severity.

Most people erroneously confuse cataracts with lenticular sclerosis, a normal change associated with aging that affects the lens. In both conditions, your dog will have milky, grey, or cloudy pupils. A professional eye exam differentiates the two conditions.

Most cases of cataracts in dogs are linked to inherited diseases. The condition can also follow diabetes and eye injuries though a few cases occur spontaneously or as your dog ages. The only solution for cataracts is prompt surgery.

Delaying the surgical intervention for cataracts can lead to retinal detachment or glaucoma. However, some cataracts in dogs below age six, affecting both eyes spontaneously reabsorb themselves within one year.

Glaucoma

The drainage and production of fluids in a dog’s eyes are precisely balanced to maintain a set pressure. When there is a disruption of this pressure, this sets the background for the development of glaucoma.

The condition arises if more fluid is produced than the eye can remove or something is impeding fluid drainage. Primary glaucoma is a genetic condition that affects certain dog breeds. The most commonly affected are cocker spaniels and beagles.

Secondary glaucoma often follows another eye condition such as uveitis, trauma, or lens dislocation. Acute glaucoma that causes a sudden, painful tearing is a medical emergency. To relieve the eye pressure, mannitol is administered.

In chronic glaucoma, the affected eye often has no vision and is thus surgically removed. In less severe instances, vets use oral and topical medications to absorb fluid in the eye, decrease inflammation, and enhance fluid drainage from the eye. Left untreated, glaucoma causes retinal and optic nerve damage.

Blindness

Most obstacles pose no danger to your dog but will become hazardous when the animal falls blind. Blindness in a canine is thus a scary diagnosis.

Some of the common causes of the condition include glaucoma, diabetes, cataracts, injury, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome) and old age. Moreover, breeds like dachshunds, great Danes, chow chows, Dalmatians, poodles, and Siberian huskies have higher risks of becoming blind.

The treatment of blindness in canines will depend on its cause. For example, underlying conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypertension, and diabetes that complicate to blindness will be managed first.

In some cases, the optimal management of these underlying issues will reverse blindness. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PRA and SARDS.

Your choice, in this case, is training the blind canine to live a fulfilled life. It will quickly learn to use its sense of hearing to replace the lost sight, so blindness will not limit it.

Conclusion

You might have little control over some of the above eye issues in your four-legged friend. Even so, you can minimize the risk of an eye condition in a canine by keeping hair and irritants like shampoos, flea medication, or soaps out of its eyes.

Moreover, be vigilant to pick signs of eye problems like rubbing or pawing in your dog. When diagnosed early, the treatment of canine eye conditions is not only quick but also inexpensive. Eye issues in dogs often worsen quickly.

As such, it is best to have a trusted vet on call to handle them as he/she would an emergency though some of the conditions are not considered typical canine emergencies.

Other Resources:

  • https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11196&meta=Generic&catId=30760&ind=323
  • https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/
  • https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/
  • https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/eye-disorders-of-dogs
Dogs - Updated: November 3, 2020

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