Information on the causes of canine and feline eye disorders and diseases.
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What is Eye Disease?
A dog or cat’s eyes are very sensitive and important tools of detection used in every day exploration. Eye disease can affect both dogs and cats and is more likely in those animals that are reaching the later years of their lives.
Related eye conditions include:
- Glaucoma – an elevation of pressure in the eyeball due to an obstruction
- Conjunctivitis – inflammation of the mucous membranes
- Dry eye / Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) – tear production stops or is decreased
- Eye infection
- Cataracts – white opacities in the lenses of the eyes that impair vision or cause blindness
- Cherry eye (more prevalent in certain breeds) – a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid
- Entropion (watery eye) – eyelashes turn inward and scratch the cornea, causing the eyes to water
Symptoms of an eye condition may include:
- Red bloodshot eyes
- Thick gooey discharge (let your veterinarian see it before washing it off)
- Eyes that water constantly (your dog or cat may try to wipe it’s eyes on furniture)
- A grape sized red bulge from the corner of the eye
See your veterinarian immediately if your dog or cat:
- Has redness in the eye that doesn’t improve in a day
- Is squinting
- Is keeping her/his eye closed
- Has a swollen hard eye
- Has a cloudy cornea
- Eye problems accompanied by loss of appetite or lethargy (lack of energy)
What Causes Eye Disease?
Eye disease may have a number of causes. Eye problems may be hereditary, found predominantly where breeds have been highly specialized. Degeneration of cells and tissues due to old age is the most common cause in dogs and cats.
Diagnosing Eye Disease
Because eye problems are varied and occur due to a number of factors, your veterinarian will most likely ask you a number of investigative questions. It is important that you take note of when your pet’s eye problem started and what you noticed first. A thorough physical and ocular examination will be performed. Your vet may also:
- Look in the eye with an ophthalmoscope
- Use anesthetic eye drops to numb the eye and get a better examination
- Check behind the third eyelid for a foreign body
- Measure eye pressures
- Perform a Schirmer tear test to check for dry eye
- Use a few drops of fluorescent eye stain to rule out a corneal scratch or ulcer
- Use blood and urine tests to detect serious causes of uveitis, such as infection
- Check your pet’s blood pressure and kidney status (if hypertension is suspected)
- Scratches on the surface of your pet’s eye are not always visible and may need a specific diagnostic test: the fluorescein test. This is a bright orange substance that is placed in your pet’s eye and will show fluorescence in areas where the cornea has been damaged.
Help for Eye Disease
Treatment depends on the cause of the eye condition and may include eye drops or ointments. Serious eye disease may require surgery, anti-inflammatory drugs or intraocular pressure-lowering drugs. These drugs may have side effects for your pet – so the risk and the reward should be weighed up – speak to your vet about your pet’s quality of life.
Tips to prevent Eye Disease
- Good nutrition is vital. Feed your pet’s high quality pet food or organic foods high in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
- Have your vet check your pet’s eyes when you visit for regular check ups
- Keep daredevil dogs from riding with their heads sticking out of the car window—you never know what will fly into their eyes.
- Remember to check your pet’s eyes when they’ve been out in long grass, grass awns have a nasty habit of wriggling their way into the corners of your pet’s eye and cause much discomfort.
- Keep a careful eye on your dogs when introducing a new kitten into the house. Many a dog has had to be treated for corneal scratches after a terrified kitten tried to protect itself from a big, wet curious doggy nose!