They say that your eyes are the window to your soul. Well, they are also the window to your state of health! There are plenty of diseases that affect the health of your dog’s eyes, with many secondary diseases and hereditary eye problems in dogs, so regular checking is vital.
You don’t need a veterinary degree to know what healthy eyes look like, and it’s something you can check every day when you look into your faithful hound’s eyes. If you don’t gaze lovingly into your dog’s eyes all that often – how about setting aside a few minutes for a mini home checkup once per month?
Remember, the majority of eye diseases can lead to blindness if left untreated. Your veterinarian can run all of the tests, diagnose the exact problem and prescribe a suitable treatment… but only if your dog is actually in his office and the condition hasn’t progressed to an irreparable state.
Make that judgment call when you spot something that doesn’t seem right. Trust me. Your dog will thank you for it! Your veterinarian will, too, as the faster you seek their attention, the easy it will be to treat the condition.
7 Common Eye Problems In Dogs
how to prevent and deal with them
Prevalence of Eye Problems In Dogs
To say that dogs are susceptible to eye problems is an understatement. For an animal that seems to have its head stuck in every hole, ditch and gap in the hedge, the possibility of injury or infection is about as likely as weeds growing in the lawn.
Humanity may have selectively bred many good traits into our many and varied breeds, but we’ve also bred some inherent problems in there, too – some minor, some major. To make matters even more challenging, the symptoms of major and minor problems can be shockingly similar.
Dogs Most at Risk of Eye Problems
Any dog can get an injury, infection, or allergy. But did you know that some breeds are more predisposed to genetic eye problems in dogs? A dog with bug-eyes and a flat nose is more likely to have corneal problems, and that includes:
Those with droopy eyes and saggy, loose facial skin are more likely to have eyelid problems. These breeds include:
- Chow Chows
- Shar Pei
- Great Danes
- And Mastiff breeds
Dog’s with long coats are more likely to experience inflammation from the excess hair around their eyes. These breeds can include:
- Old English Sheep Dogs
- Yorkshire Terriers
And finally, primary glaucoma is more prevalent in some breeds than others. Although no common trait has been found in this case, the dogs most at risk include:
- Basset Hounds
- Cocker Spaniels
With that said, let's take a look at the most common eye problems in dogs, their symptoms, prevalence, how to deal with them, and how to prevent these issues.
1. Cataracts in Dogs
The eye lens is made up mostly of water and protein, with everything arranged perfectly for light to pass through and for your dog to have optimal vision/ eyesight. Sometimes, some of the proteins clump together and appear as a cloudy blob on the surface of the eye. Initially, this will have little effect on the dog’s vision, but left untreated can lead to blindness.
Symptoms are slow to develop but are alert to the cloudiness of your dog’s eye or a white or blue-ish tint. Some owners notice signs of reduced vision by their dog bumping into things or not recognizing people that they should. Another potential sign is an increased intake of water and an increase in urination.
The only real solution to cataracts is surgery. Here it is important to note that cataracts left untreated can develop into glaucoma or retinal detachment, so time is of the essence.
Your veterinary ophthalmologist will first check that the rear of the eye is normal and then remove the afflicted lens. A new lens is then implanted to restore normal vision. An artificial lens is not a viable option in some cases, and the dog can be left without – his vision will be affected, but likely less so than if the cataract was left without treatment.
After surgery, your dog should have his exercise restricted, will need to wear a cone of shame, and may be given medicine / topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to help with the healing process. There will need to be re-checks, but the future looks very bright for dogs post-surgery.
2. Glaucoma in Dogs
Glaucoma is a severe condition where the balance of fluids in the eye is disturbed; this leads to a buildup of pressure in the eye. The fluid – also known as aqueous humor – is ordinarily regulated by the body to keep the eye in its correct shape, with a continuous exchange between the inner eye and circulating blood.
Sometimes, the balance is disturbed, with aqueous humor produced more quickly than it can be removed. This condition can affect one or both eyes.
Owners may notice their dog's eyes look sore or cloudy, and they may have a discharge. The pupil's appearance can change and might be dilated, larger than normal, and exposed to bright light may not contract quickly.
Sometimes the warning signs are stumbling over normal objects or excessive barking because this is a painful condition, and there may be some behavioral changes associated with pain. In more advanced stages, the eyes may bulge or appear to have a greenish sheen.
Once diagnosed, there is a clear course of treatments for this condition, varying slightly depending on the underlying cause. Normally the treatment would consist of applying topical eye medications and administering systemic medications.
This is a progressive condition, and the medications are used to lower the pressure of the affected eye. This maintains the dog's sight for as long as possible to eliminate pain and provide the pooch with a good quality of life.
At your vet's disposal, there are various means to help manage glaucoma, and medical management is often preferable to surgery. In most cases, the vet will only choose to operate if all other options have been exhausted and they’re not proving successful.
The goal with any treatment for this condition is always to reduce the pressure in the eye, maintain vision, and eliminate any pain. Common treatments include:
- Surgical options include small implants, called shunts, being placed in the eye.
- Laser therapy
- Injection of drugs directly into the eye
- Cryosurgery (freezing) of cells that produce too much aqueous humor
- Or Surgical removal of the affected lens.
As with all other eye problems in dogs, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome. The prognosis for the first eye is generally poor because the diagnosis isn’t made until the disease is in an advanced state. In general medical treatment for the second eye is more successful and can delay glaucoma for many months.
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3. Conjunctivitis in Dogs
This is one of the most common eye problems in dogs. Conjunctivitis is a condition where the outer layer of the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid becomes inflamed.
There are many causes for this painful condition, including viral, bacterial, injury, or allergy. Some breeds are more likely to be afflicted, especially those with elongated narrow skulls and deep-set eyes like the Afghan hound, Dobermans, and Poodle.
This condition is also called ‘red eye’ and for a good reason. Symptoms include red and swollen eyes, a sticky discharge, and pawing at the eyes. It can affect one or both eyes.
Treating ‘red eye’ usually depends on the type of conjunctivitis diagnosed. Typically, it looks something like this:
Viral – There are no specific remedies. Your dog’s body will fight the virus naturally. Bathing the eyes with cold, pre-boiled water, one piece of cotton per eye per application, will give some relief.
Bacterial – Your vet may prescribe some antibiotic eye drops and suggest that you bathe your dog’s eyes up to twice daily.
Allergies – Your best option may be to administer eye drops to help with the itchiness and swelling, as well as having a designated area for your dog that can be kept as clean as possible.
Various herbal compresses can be safely administered at home, such as Aloe Vera, Chamomile, and Eyebright. Some long-established remedies include grating fresh potato or freshly chopped plantain leaves to use as a soothing compress.
Your vet will conduct a thorough examination of your dog’s eyes. By doing this, he’s looking for foreign objects and may take a sample to test for bacteria. He might also apply a dye that will enable him to look at the internal eye structures, and in some cases, he might test for internal pressure.
This is a prevalent ailment, and as such, you can rest easy knowing that your vet has a heck of a lot of experience with diagnosing conjunctivitis. So don’t worry – he won’t conduct unnecessary tests.
Conjunctivitis is really easy to treat, although it can be frustrating for dogs who experience repeated cases. It’s best to focus on treatment. This is a common problem, and even the most chronic conditions can be effectively treated.
4. Corneal Ulcers in Dogs
Corneal ulcers are caused by various injuries, infections, or irritants to the eye and should be treated by your vet. These ulcers can be either minor or major or sometimes somewhere in between. They can also be caused by Entropion, a painful condition characterized by the eyelids growing inwards towards the eye.
Some breeds are more predisposed to this problem, including:
- Shar Pei
Common symptoms of this problem include:
- Excessive eye-watering
- A film or cloudiness
- Discharge of pus
- Excessive squinting or rapid blinking
When it comes to eye problems in dogs, pretty much every ailment offers the same symptoms. This can make it a little bit harder to determine the specific problem that your dog is suffering from, but a quick trip to the local vet will be able to figure it out!
There really is no viable alternative to veterinary intervention, and for this one – you want to seek out treatment as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to the eye.
Minimizing corneal scarring is vital, and to do so, you must follow the treatment plan prescribed by your vet to the tee. Some ulcers only require eye drops or ointment, whereas some deeper ulcers may need surgery followed by a course of medication.
In the very worst cases, which don’t respond to the above treatments – the only option is removing the eyeball itself. This might sound drastic, but our pets are tough cookies and bounce back pretty quickly once the source of pain is removed.
As long as you are focused and carry out all of the recommended treatments, the recovery rate is really quite good.
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5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Dogs
Also known as Progressive Retinal Degeneration (PRD). This is a chronic condition where the retina deteriorates, losing function and effectiveness before ultimately leading to blindness.
The loss of sight with these eye problems in dogs is gradual, allowing the dog to acclimatize to his deteriorating vision and, thankfully, is also painless. Genetics play a large part in deciding if the dog will be afflicted, breeds most likely to be affected are many, they include:
- Japanese Akitas
- Bull Mastiffs
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Siberian Huskies
This is a slowly evolving condition, and symptoms can be vague. One of the first signs to be noticed is night blindness. Maybe your dog is fine all day long but comes the evening; he may be more hesitant when walking, knock into obvious things and be reluctant to jump on or off of his favorite bed.
The appearance of the eye will also change, as with most eye problems in dogs. The pupils will remain dilated, becoming cloudy, and may take on a grey patina with a greenish sheen.
There is no remedy for this condition, but certainly, keeping furniture and objects in the same place will help your dog navigate in the dark.
Unfortunately, science has yet to find a cure for this progressive condition. The best advice is to try to maintain a familiar environment for your four-legged friend and know that he’s not in pain. Like many dogs before him, he’ll manage fine with his gradual loss of vision, and likely – he’ll accept it more easily than you.
Not all dogs lose their sight entirely. There have been plenty of dogs who retain some peripheral vision.
6. Cherry Eyes in Dogs
This is one of the most common eye problems in dogs, especially in young dogs, where the tear gland attached to the third eyelid slips or suffers a prolapse resulting in a swelling that is generally pea-sized but can be much larger. Some breeds are more prone to this condition than others, including:
- Cavalier King Charles
- Boston Terriers
- Shih Tzu
This condition can look quite dramatic and is easy to spot. Characterized by an inflamed cherry red swelling on the edge of the dog’s eye, this can become irritated and ooze pus, signifying that infection may have set in.
Although surgery is the usual route, there are instances when eye drops and massage can get the gland to slide back into the correct position.
There are generally two surgical routes to take with this condition, and like so many afflictions of the eye, quick diagnosis and treatment lead to a better recovery. The goal of the surgery is to reposition the gland, but if that is not possible – it will be removed. The longer the gland is out of place and exposed to the elements, the more risk there is of inflammation and infection.
Surgery is usually very successful, either repositioning the gland or removing it. If removal was necessary, then eye drops will be needed for the rest of the dog’s life for essential lubrication of the eye.
7. Entropion in Dogs
One of the most painful eye problems in dogs, Entropion, happens when a dog’s eyelids grow or fold inwards, leaving the eyelashes to rub against the eyeball itself, causing acute irritation. Certain breeds are more likely to suffer from this condition, including:
- Shar Pei
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
This is a fairly easy spot because it is the result of a deformity of the eyelid. Puppies as young as two weeks old can be affected by Entropion, and it is not uncommon for these dogs to have a few surgeries as they grow and their faces change shape.
Some of the painful symptoms can be relieved at home by applying eye drops, but this is another condition where surgery is the only effective treatment.
Surgery has proven to be effective in treating entropion, and the sooner you see your veterinarian, the sooner a treatment plan can be worked out. Even puppies can benefit from surgery to relieve this painful condition, although they may have to go back to have more permanent surgery when they reach adulthood. The importance of puppies having temporary surgery is to avoid long-term damage to the eye and relieve pain.
If you caught this early enough, there should be no damage to the eye itself, and once the surgery is completed, the problem can be considered to be effectively treated. There may be some post-op inflammation or infection, but these are easily treated with antibiotics or eye drops.
This problem will not get better by itself; it will only get worse, ultimately leading to a miserable, painful life and blindness. You cannot treat this problem exclusively with medication, but thankfully – the prognosis is excellent with the help of your veterinarian!
Hopefully, you will have noticed before any damage was caused to the eye itself. Your dog will need to have a Blepharoplasty, which is a widespread procedure similar to plastic surgery.
While eye problems in dogs are prevalent in our precious pooches, the good news is that treatment is not only always effective – but affordable too. Sight is such an important sense, and without it – your dog may lose a large amount of independence which can detrimentally affect his quality of life.
Therefore, I encourage you to spend a few minutes now and then having a quick look at your dog's eyes and the surrounding area to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape! And, hey, even if you do spot eye problems in dogs, you will likely have spotted it quickly enough that the prognosis will be good!