Dog Eye Problems

Symptoms of Eye Problems in Dogs

If your dog has matter in his eye or if the eye waters, if the dog blinks, squints, paws at the eye, and gives evidence that the eye is painful, or if the eye appears red, the dog has an eye problem. You must examine the eye and attempt to determine the cause.

Signs of Eye Ailments

Eye diseases are accompanied by a number of signs and symptoms. The most serious is pain. A dog with a painful eye should be taken to the nearest veterinary hospital as soon as you notice the condition. Irreversible damage can occur in a matter of hours.

  • Eye pain. Signs of pain include excessive tearing, squinting, tenderness to the touch, and sensitivity to light. Other signs of a painful eye are loss of appetite, lethargy, whining, and crying. The nictitating membrane often protrudes in response to pain. The dog may paw at the eye. The most common causes of severe eye pain are acute glaucoma, uveitis, keratitis, and corneal injuries.
  • Discharge. The appearance of discharge helps to define the cause of the problem. A clear discharge with no other signs suggests a problem with the tearing mechanism. A painless discharge accompanied by redness is typical of conjunctivitis. Any discharge accompanied by signs of pain should alert you to the possibility of corneal or inner eye problems. A thick green or yellow discharge, often mucoid, can indicate infection or a foreign body. This may build up on the lids or on the hairs around the eye.
  • Film over the eye. An opaque or whitish membrane that moves out over the surface of the eyeball from the inner corner of the eye is a protruded nictitating membrane. Causes are discussed under Nictitating Membrane.
  • Cloudiness. Loss of clarity or transparency, accompanied by signs of pain, suggests keratitis, glaucoma, or uveitis. Corneal edema, the buildup of fluid in the normally clear cornea, will give the eye a uniform blue-gray appearance. This is usually associated with signs of pain. Cataracts are the most likely cause when the eye is not painful. If the eye is entirely opaque you might think the dog is blind, but this is not necessarily the case.
  • Hard or soft eye. Changes in eye pressure and firmness of the eyeball are caused by diseases of the inner eye. A hard eye with a dilated pupil indicates glaucoma. A soft eye with a small pupil indicates uveitis.
  • Irritation of the eyelids. Diseases that cause swelling, crusting, itching, or hair loss are discussed in Eyelids.
  • Bulging or sunken eye. A bulging eye occurs with glaucoma, tumours and abscesses behind the globe, and with an 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.

How to Apply Eye Medicines

Place ointments into the space behind the lower eyelid (the conjunctival sac). Drops can be applied directly to the eyeball.

To apply ointment, steady your dog’s head with one hand and draw down on the lower eyelid with your thumb to expose the conjunctival sac. Rest the hand containing the applicator against the dog’s forehead. This way, if the dog jerks his head your hand will move with it, preventing the applicator from poking the eye. Slowly squeeze out a ribbon of ointment. Then gently close the eyelids, massaging a bit to spread the ointment over the entire eyeball.

To instill drops, steady the hand holding the dropper against the side of the dog’s head. Tilt the dog’s muzzle up; then drop the medication into the eye. Eye drops tend to wash out with tears and must be applied several times a day.

Only use drops and ointments that are specifically labelled for ophthalmic use. Be sure to check the expiration date on the product’s label. Note that prolonged administration of antibiotics in the eye may lead to resistant infections. Your veterinarian may recommend flushing or cleaning the eye with artificial tears before putting in a new dose of medication.

Tear Stains

Your snow-white poodle is so cute — but he’d be even cuter without those reddish-brown streaks under his eyes. Dogeye discharge and tear staining are common problems, especially with certain breeds. So, what causes these issues, and what can you do to remedy them?

1. What causes tear stains under a dog’s eyes?

Excessive tearing can occur as a result of irritation to your dog’s eyes or because your dog’s tears are not draining properly.

Just as your eye waters if a speck of dust blows into it, dogs’ eyes will make tears when irritated to flush away anything harmful. When the eyes are continually irritated, this can lead to chronic tearing that produces stains. Conditions that might irritate the eye include dog eye infections, glaucoma, and eyelash or eyelid problems.

In a normal dog eye, there are small holes that drain tears away from the eye and down the throat. A variety of dog eye problems can affect this drainage, causing excessively watery eyes. These conditions include:

  • Shallow eye sockets. If the eye sockets aren’t big or deep enough, tears can spill out onto the fur around the eyes.
  • Eyelids that are turned inward. If the eyelids roll in toward the eyeball, the drainage holes for tears (called puncta) may become blocked.
  • Hair growth around the eye. If hair grows too close to the eye, it can wick tears away from the eye and onto the face.
  • Blocked tear drainage holes (puncta). Previous dog eye infections or eye damage can cause scar tissue to form that blocks some of the drainage passages for tears.

2. Which types or breeds of dogs are more susceptible to dog eye discharge and tear stains?

Regardless of breed, white dogs are more likely to have visible tear staining on their faces, because the pigments in their tears can easily dye light-coloured fur. Also, dogs with long hair on their faces may be more prone to excessive tearing.

Short-nosed dog breeds, such as Shih-tzu, Pekingese, Maltese, and pug, are prone to excessive tearing because they often have shallow eye sockets or hair growth in skin folds around the eyes that cause problems. Also, cocker spaniels and poodles are more likely than other breeds to have blocked tear ducts.

3. Can the dog eye problems that cause tear stains be treated?

It depends on the condition leading to excessive tearing. There is no way to stop dog eye discharge because of shallow eye sockets, so the goal in this situation is to minimize skin irritation and coat discolouration.

If your dog’s tear stains are developing because his eyes are always irritated, eliminating the source of irritation will help. This might include keeping hair near the eyes trimmed very short and treating infection or glaucoma, if present.

There are surgical options for certain eyelid or eyelash problems that can restore normal tear drainage and eliminate overflow onto the face.

4. What can I do to get rid of my dog’s tear stains?

Although those reddish-brown stains can be stubborn, there are certain remedies that may minimize their appearance. These include:

  • Antibiotics. The antibiotics tetracycline and tylosin are sometimes used to address tear staining, as they reduce or eliminate the likelihood that tear stains will form. There are concerns about the use of antibiotics for this purpose on an ongoing basis, however, because it could lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which would be far more dangerous to your pup than a few unsightly stains.
  • Whitening products. Swabbing the stains with hydrogen peroxide or using special grooming products designed for pet fur may help with tear stains.
  • Regular washing of your dog’s face.

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