All Pets Veterinary Clinic
SEVEN COMMON EYE PROBLEMS IN PETS
They say that the eyes are the window so the soul. While that may or may not be true,
the eyes can certainly be a very visible indication of a pet’s health. This is the reason
that eye problems are among one of the more common complaints among pet owners. The
remainder of this article will look at seven common eye problems in dogs and cats.
Tear staining is common in many small dogs such as Poodles and Shihtzus. This
condition is much more obvious in white or light colored dogs because the tears will stain
the fur along the nose a rust or reddish color. The discoloration is a source of great
concern to many pet owners because of its unsightly appearance. One of the more common
causes of tear staining is excessive hair along the corner margin of the eye lid. Tears
will accumulate along the lower eyelid and “hitchhike” on the fur and run down the face.
Conditions that cause blockage of the nasolacrimal ducts can exacerbate the situation.
Various treatments for this condition are available including freezing or laser removal
of the excessive hairs, frequent grooming/trimming of the hairs along the nose, flushing of
the nasolacrimal ducts if they become occluded, and the usage of various stain removing products.
Eye debris or “eye boogers” are common in the corner of the eyes of many pets. Like
humans, it is normal for a small amount of dried debris to accumulate in the corners of the
eyes on a daily basis. “Normal” debris will be brown or clear colored and can be removed
with a small piece of tissue or a cotton ball as needed. Eye debris/matter is of concern
when it becomes yellow or green in appearance or if it is associated with squinting, light
sensitivity, redness of the eye, or signs of blindness. Dry eye or KCS can cause an
excessive amount of dry, greenish colored debris to accumulate along the eyelid margins
and can be very painful. Additionally, many other conditions can cause increased amounts
of eye debris so it is important to seek medical attention if eye debris increases or changes.
Conjunctivitis results in the appearance of a pink to red, puffy tissue along the upper
or lower eyelid margins. In severe cases the conjunctiva can become so inflamed that the tissue
appears to cover the eye. Conjunctivitis is typically painful and causes light sensitivity so
affected animals will often squint. Viral infection is typically the most common cause of
conjunctivitis, especially in cats. Other infections (bacterial, fungal), trauma, eye
irritants, and foreign bodies can also cause conjunctivitis. Treatment will vary based on
the cause and the condition of the cornea but will most often involve the use of eye drops.
Cherry eye or a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid results in a visible, red
bulge in the corner of the eye that is closest to the nose. It occurs more commonly in
younger animals or puppies and in certain breeds such as Cocker Spaniels. If caught
early, it may be correctable with the use of certain eye medications. However, it may
reoccur or require surgery to be repaired permanently.
Corneal ulcers or scratches on the surface of the eye are typically the result of
physical trauma, chronic irritation, or chronic infection. Most ulcers are superficial
and will heal very quickly with proper treatment. However, some ulcers, especially ulcers
with complicated contributing factors, can be very difficult to manage if the underlying
cause is not identified and treated concurrently. Animals with corneal ulcers will
typically squint and have signs of eye discomfort. They eye may water or have a
green/yellow ocular discharge. Conjunctivitis may occur simultaneously. Treatment
involves the use of an antibiotic drop and the correction of any underlying cause.
Foreign bodies trapped within the tissues of the eye are a common summertime cause
of eye pain and eye irritation, especially in pets that spend a lot of time outside.
Small plant debris such as grass and seeds can become entrapped within the eyelids or
conjunctiva and cause tearing, eye pain, squinting, rubbing, conjunctivitis, and/or
corneal ulcers. Treatment involves removal of the foreign body and medication for corneal
damage, if present. Some animals can have hairs that grow on the third eyelid or in the
conjunctival tissues of the eye (ectopic cilia) and can cause similar signs. Removal of
the abnormally located hairs will resolve the eye irritation.
Glaucoma is the result of an increased pressure within the eye and is caused when
the normal fluid balance within the eye becomes compromised. When fluid cannot leave the
eye, the pressure will increase. The result, if not treated early and aggressively, can
be permanent blindness. Signs of glaucoma include an increased eye size/bulging of the
eye, increased blood vessel size in the white part (sclera) of the eye, redness, pupil
dilation, eye pain, depression, lack of appetite, and blindness. Since glaucoma
typically occurs in one eye at a time, owners don’t often notice that the animal has
lost vision until it is too late. Glaucoma is a medical emergency and needs to be
treated immediately in order to restore vision and prevent permanent damage.
Treatment may include the use of various eye medications, oral medications, and IV
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
7 March 2008