What is an Eye Infection?
Eye infections are very common amongst pets, usually affecting the conjunctiva (thin membrane covering the front of the eye). When the conjunctiva is infected, it leads to conjunctivitis or pink eye and causes the eye to become reddened, inflamed, and filled with blood, swollen and very painful.
Other common eye problems such as Cherry Eye and dry eye (Kerato-conjunctivitis sicca) also occur as a result of infection in the eye and surrounding structure. Eye infections may develop in one or both eyes, and tends to be more common in dogs than cats.
Certain dog breeds such as poodles, Cocker spaniels, Boston Terriers, Yorkshire terrier, Bulldogs, Cocker spaniels, Bloodhounds, Saint Bernard’s, and Chihuahuas are more prone to eye infections. Persian and hairless cat breeds are more commonly at risk of eye infections. If you suspect that your pet has an eye infection, consult your vet immediately. Eye infections that are left untreated can lead to severe damage such as blindness.
The common symptoms and signs of eye infections include:
- Eye discharge that appears watery or mucous
- Cloudiness of the iris
- Rubbing or scratching of the eye
What Causes Eye Infection?
Eye problems may develop as a result of various bacterial infections, viral infections, canine distemper virus, allergies or birth defects. Sometimes physical damage to the eye caused by foreign objects lodged in the eye can also cause eye infections.
Other causes of eye infections include eye diseases like dry eyes, anterior uveitis, ulcerative keratitis, and glaucoma, internal diseases, feline respiratory disease, Lyme disease or irritants such as smoke, reactions to drugs, chemicals or polluted water.
Diagnosing Eye Infection
The diagnosis of an eye infection is based on the symptoms and a thorough eye examination which involves the conjunctiva, external eyelids and third eyelid.
Certain tests such as an ophthalmoscopic examination, Schirmer tear test to check if enough tears are being produced or fluorescein staining test to check for ulcers or scratches on the cornea may also be performed. Additional tests such as bacterial cultures, sensitivity tests, allergy testing, conjunctival scrapings or biopsy may also be performed.
Help for Eye Infection
Treatment depends on the cause of the eye infection. Eye infections are usually treated with antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medications in the form of drops or ointment. Because the eye is a very sensitive area and can be very painful, pets do not like things being placed in their eyes, you have to be very careful and gentle when administering medications.
In more severe cases, surgery may also be performed. Your vet will show you how to clean the eye area and remove discharge – this can be done with warm clean water or a salt solution.
Natural and holistic treatments are becoming increasingly popular amongst pet owners as a gentler alternative to conventional medications. Treatments such as herbal remedies are safe and effective without being addictive. Herbal ingredients such as Arctium lappa (Burdock), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Chelidonium majus and Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet)
support overall eye health functioning and promote good vision.
More Information on Eye Infection
There are a number of things that you can do to maintain eye health
and prevent eye infections from affecting your pet and these include:
- Keep your pet’s head inside moving vehicles as foreign objects may become lodged in their eyes
- Do a daily maintenance check of your pets eyes, particularly if they are prone to infections and other eye problems
- Clean your pet’s eyes regularly by wiping away a build up of discharge with eye wipes – use a sterile eyewash or tear stain removal treatments
- Keep hair out of your pet’s eyes by trimming hair regularly
- Ensure that your pet has an annual veterinary checkup which includes an eye examination
- As far as possible, keep your pet away from irritants such as smoke, dust, spray, chemicals or contaminated water
- Keep a watchful eye on your pets especially in situations where they can experience trauma such as fights with other animals