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, tumors 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, as shown in the photos on this page. 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 labeled 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.
This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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