Eyes are one of the most sensitive organs and require utmost care. Here’s a list of common eye problems in pooches and how we can cure or prevent them. Eyes are the window to our souls and of course to our health. Here are some of the eye problems that can affect your pet.
Symptoms: As in humans, the cataract in canines is also genetic and causes the clear lens behind the pupil to become cloudy or white. It causes the vision to deteriorate with time, eventually leading to a point of blindness. Contrary to cataract, Nuclear Sclerosis is a common and normal condition of aging, where the lens changes to bluish gray (not cloudy or white). With nuclear sclerosis, the vision of your pet can become blurry but it does not lead to complete blindness or other significant vision problems that are caused by cataract.
Treatment: Dr Neelima Paranjpe of Pluto Pet Clinic, Mumbai added that surgery is the only option to remove the affected lens, but the success rate varies on dog to dog. “Some take it easily, while others are not very comfortable with the entire process and stitches keep itching post surgery, which poses a great risk,” she added.
Symptoms: It can be hereditary or the result of constant inflammation, wherein the eyelids turn in and press the eyelashes against the eye. In this condition, the eyelashes grow abnormally, placing them in direct contact with sensitive eyeball tissue which can lead to constant irritation of cornea. The common symptoms would be inflamed eye, heavy watering and the pet constantly pawing or scratching their eyes. If the condition is left untreated, the eyelashes continuously rub on the eyeball. In addition to pain and constant watering of the eye, in some cases even ulcers appear on the dog’s cornea, which can cause scarring and vision loss. Dogs frequently have eyelid spasms as well.
Breed-specific: Talking to Dr Neelima Paranjpe, we found that this is a breed-specific problem and according to her, the most common breed to get affected is Rottweiler. Another breed which is at a great risk to get affected by in-growing eyelids is Pug as their eye sockets are very shallow and the eye balls are nearly popping out. Hence, pet parents need to take extra care of a Pug’s eyes. “Even a small scratch could lead to great problems. It is a genetic developmental problem which arises due to indiscriminate breeding of pedigreed dogs,” she added.
Treatment: There are several ways to treat this problem. Firstly, the hair can be plucked for immediate solution. But this is not a long-term and permanent solution because the hair would re-grow and cause the same problem again. Secondly, Cryotherapy can be considered as one of the options in which the hair follicles are frozen at their base along the eyelid. It is a rather effective method, but again the lashes often re-grow. Thirdly, Electrolysis is another permanent method of removal which involves placing a tiny needle inside the hair follicle and then killing it with a pulse of electricity. Although the method is effective, the entire procedure can be expensive and time-consuming if many lashes are involved. Lastly, Electrocautery can also be considered as a treatment option which involves burning away the hair. The risk of scarring from this procedure is high.
Symptoms: Medically known as Nictitating Gland Prolapse, it is a condition wherein your pet’s third eyelid, which are technically called nictitating membranes get affected. Nictitating membranes are thin, opaque sheets of tissue that in their normal position are underneath the lower eyelids and under normal conditions these are not visible. These membranes are associated with glandular tissue that is responsible for tear production, which is essential to keep the eyes adequately lubricated. They also serve to protect the sensitive cornea from physical damage. When the fibrous attachments which hold the nictitating membrane to the lower eyelid becomes weak or loose, a visible red masses bulging outward from the lower inside corners of the dog’s eye can be seen. The main symptoms include irritation, dryness, redness (conjunctivitis), swelling, inflammation, etc.
Breed-specific: Dr Pavan Kumar from Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru said that any dog can develop the problem of Cherry Eye, but there are certain breeds who are at a higher risk of developing it in both eyes. These include Beagle, Bloodhound, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Saint Bernard and Shar-Pei. He also said that the problem affects both males and females equally and can occur at any age.
Treatment: Although it looks alarming, but the condition can be totally cured with the help of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications and if required, surgery. In most cases, surgical correction is the only suitable permanent treatment option. But removing the tear gland greatly reduces normal tear production, leading to severe dry eye and increasing the dog’s risk of developing a disorder known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) as he ages. It should be kept in mind that if the tear gland is surgically removed, then the pet would require daily supplementary treatment with moisturising eye drops for the rest of his life.
Dry Eye is a disorder of the glands that normally produce the liquid part of tears, medically called the lachrymal glands. The dogs affected with KCS or dry eye do not produce enough tear film to keep the eye properly lubricated.
Conjunctivitis or pink eye
Symptoms: Conjunctivitis is the most common ailment affecting the eyes of the dog. It is similar to the conjunctivitis that affects the human eyes. Conjunctivitis is a bacterial or viral infection that can be very painful for the dog. Dr Pavan explained that Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the tissue lining the eyelids and attaching to the eyeball near the cornea. The conjunctiva can become irritated due to allergies which may be induced by pollens, grass, etc or from infections caused by virus, bacteria, or fungi. If the white portion of the eyeball (sclera) is also inflamed, this condition is occasionally referred to as ‘pink eye’.
The main symptoms include swollen eyelids, redness and inflammation, excessive tearing or thick discharge. The consistency and type of discharge help vets understand the cause of the problem. Usually infections caused by bacteria, fungi, etc create a thick yellow or greenish discharge. The eyelids may actually stick together when shut for a long time. This result from the accumulation of white blood cells or pus excreted into the area in an effort to fight off the infection. Allergies, on the other hand, generally cause a clear or watery discharge.
Treatment: If left untreated, it could permanently damage the cornea. Consult your vet immediately, if you notice any of these symptoms and proper treatment can be given in the form of ointment or eye-drops. Since eye-drops are watery solutions, make sure you put them regularly after a few hours or as suggested by the vet. Ointments tend to last longer as compared to eye-drops.
Symptoms: Entropion is a physical condition wherein the eyelids roll inward. It can occur to either the upper or lower eyelids. This causes the hair in the lids to come into contact with the cornea causing constant irritation and spasms.
Breed-specific: According to Dr Neelima, the most common breed who gets affected due to Entropion is Rottweiler.
Treatment: Entropion is extremely painful for the dog and usually requires surgical treatment to improve.
Symptoms: Ectropion is a physical condition wherein the eyelids roll outward, exposing the sensitive inner eyelid to the elements.
Breed-specific: Dr Neelima said that usually breeds with loose facial skin and drooping loose lower lids suffer this condition, such as St Bernard, Napoleon Mastiff, Golden Retriever, Labrador and Cocker Spaniel.
Treatment: The treatment involves drops or ointments to help with any infections that occur.
If your pet is suffering from any of these eye-related problems, there are high chances that the vet may suggest to put eye-drops. But putting eye-drops can be a real trouble sometimes. It is seen that pets refrain and run away from eye drops because of two reasons. The first reason is the pain associated with them. Since your pet is already in pain and when you touch the eye to put eye-drops it becomes a matter of stress for the pet. Also there are chances that your beloved is experiencing trouble with the ingredients of the eye-drops. To solve this problem, you can ask your vet to give a less irritant version or ointments so that the pet does not suffer.
Tips to follow…. As the old age adage goes, prevention is better than cure, here are a few tips to keep your pooch’s eyes healthy:
- Watch out for any of the symptoms of eye problems that were discussed above and consult a vet if you notice anything unusual.
- Make sure you clean your pet’s eyes gently with a damp cotton ball.
- When going for a fun ride, don’t let your dog ride with his head out the car window. Foreign substances and dust can easily get in your pet’s eyes and cause infection or injury.
- Your pet’s eyes are as sensitive as the eyes of your other family members, so avoid exposing them to chemicals, pollutants and dust.
- Keep their nails short so that they don’t hurt themselves while playing or scratching.
(With inputs from Dr Neelima Paranjpe, Pluto Pet Clinic, Mumbai; Dr Pavan Kumar, Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru; Dr Jaspreet Mauj, Vets for Pets, Ludhiana; Dr Prabhakaran Palanichamy, The Friendicoes, New Delhi; Dr Goutam Mukherjee, Get Well Pet Centre, Kolkata; and Dr Hemant Jain, Dogs, Cats & Birds Clinic, Nagpur).
Following are the common eye problems in pooches: corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer and glaucoma. Here’s more on corneal abrasion, ulcer.
Symptoms: The cornea is covered by a protective surface layer of epithelial cells, which is damaged by any irritation, such as a scratch or foreign body. This results in swelling at the site of the injury as well as edema. When viewed under magnification, it appears hazy and opaque. Sometimes, misdirected eyelashes also result in corneal abrasions in the upper part of the cornea.
Treatment: Consult your vet immediately to avoid complications, such as keratitis and corneal ulcer. Broad-spectrum topical antibiotic drops or ointments are prescribed every four to six hours to prevent infection.
Symptoms: Similar to a corneal abrasion, it is deeper and involves the middle and sometimes the inner layer of the cornea. Though it is commonly caused by trauma, it is also associated with keratoconjunctivitis sicca, corneal dystrophy, diabetes mellitus, Addison’s disease, or hypothyroidism. Corneal ulcers are extremely painful and cause severe tearing, squinting, and pawing at the eyes. Dogs frequently avoid light. Large ulcers are visible to the naked eyes as dull spots or depressions on the surface of the cornea.
Treatment: Consult your vet immediately to avoid serious complications and even loss of the eyes. Your veterinarian may recommend injecting antibiotics directly into the eye beneath the conjunctiva. Sometimes, surgery is also recommended.
Symptoms: Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that often leads to blindness. It occurs when fluid in the eye is produced faster than it can be removed, leading to a sustained increase in intraocular pressure, which causes degenerative changes to the optic nerve and the retina. An eye with acute glaucoma is exquisitely painful, with tearing and squinting. The affected eye feels harder than the normal eye and has a fixed, blank look due to the hazy and steamy appearance of the cornea and enlarged pupil.
Breed-specific: It is commonly found in Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Samoyeds and other breeds.
Treatment: Acute glaucoma can produce blindness in a matter of hours. Hence, consult your vet immediately.
Dr Hemant Jain
The eyes of healthy dogs are clean and bright. Dogs have greater field of view than humans because their eyes are located on the side of their heads. Doberman and Hound groups of dog having wide set of eyes can see range of 270 dg. Dogs are colour blind. Dogs have better sight in bad lighting than humans.
Daily examination of eyes is necessary. If there is discharge or mucus from the eyes, it should be gently cleaned daily cotton wool soaked in boric lotion or simply cold water. Boric lotion is prepared by dissolving two teaspoonful of boric powder in half a pint of boiling water. Allow this to cool and then bottle it.
If the eyes are sore and inflamed or if there is profuse watery discharge weeping or heavy lidded eyes, it may show sign of infection. Consult your vet immediately.
Dr Prabhakaran Palanichamy
Eye diseases are traditionally divided into congenital-developmental and hereditary, trauma, inflammatory, immune-mediated and others, and eye tumors. These include prolapse of a dog’s third eyelid, cataracts, corneal ulcer, eye injury and eye irritation.
Red eye in dogs may signal many inflammatory conditions and infectious diseases like conjunctivitis, blood in the anterior chamber of the eye. Inflammation of the Eyelids and Cherry Eye are other common problems in dogs. Instances of Scleritis, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Watery Eyes and Corneal Diseases are also found.
Most of us tend to take our own eyesight for granted, until it starts failing. The same goes for the eyes of our dogs. Surgery is the only proven treatment for cataracts. The procedure currently used in dogs is the same as that performed in humans. It is a type of ultrasound (called phacoemulsification). An artificial lens implant can be placed in the eye to further improve vision. The success of cataract surgery in dogs is about 90 percent.
In all cases, early treatment is important in order to prevent blindness. Even if it is too late to prevent the loss of vision in one eye, you could save the other eye. If all treatments fail, the eye may have to be removed (enucleated). But eye implants are available. They are costly, of a cosmetic nature only, and do not save the eyesight.
To prevent eye problems, it is advised to add antioxidants rich diets, Lutin/Zeazanthin, Lycopene, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) and Omega 3 Fatty Acid which prevent cataract formation, reduces AGE formation in diabetic retinopathy, and may slow or diminish the risk of aging or cataract.
Dr Goutam Mukherjee
Some of the common symptoms of eye problems include excessive discharge from the eye, squinting, film over the eye, sensitive to the light, redness, cloudiness on the eye, bumping against objects (cannot see properly), and bulging or sunken eye. Here are a few common eye problems and how to prevent them:
Corneal opacity: In this, you will find a thin film over the eye. Sometimes, it occurs due to deficiency of vitamin A. It is advised to give high dose of vitamin A to cure and prevent it, especially to pregnant female-dogs. You can add cod-liver oil, carrots, milks, eggs, etc to your pet’s diet to prevent this condition.
Conjunctivitis: It is an inflammation of the conjunctival membrane that covers the surface of the eye ball. Eye becomes red, watery or whitish discharge comes from the eye. Human conjunctivitis is not contagious to dog and vice versa. Wash the eyes with saline solution (a pinch of salt add a cup of lukewarm water) 3 to 4 times a day. Consult your vet.
Corneal ulcers: It is an inflammation of the cornea, very common in Pug, Bulldog, Boxer, etc.
Dew claw surgically removed prevents self injuries to the eyes. Other precautions include – at the time of bath, don’t pour shampoo on the head and face of the dog. If you find any change in corneal colour, consult vet immediately to save eye sight.
Other common problems of dogs include Cherry Eye, Glaucoma and Cataract.
Here are few tips to take care of your dog’s eye:
- Everyday examine your dog’s eyes to find out any change occurs or not.
- Please check whether your dog’s hair are always touching cornea and irritating his eye or not. If it touches, it should be trimmed regularly with blunt-end scissor.
- At the time of bath, put some eye ointment before giving bath or at the time of applying anti-tick aerosol spray.
- Don’t pour shampoo on the head and face of your pooch as it can cause damage to the eye.
- Following foods can help to keep your dog’s eyes healthy: egg yolk, milk, carrot, green vegetable and meat feed supplements containing Vitamin A, Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acid, cod liver oil, etc.