The eye is a complicated structure, and several conditions can affect your pet’s eyes, causing problems and potentially jeopardizing their vision. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team wants to preserve your pet’s sight, and we explain four common eye conditions that may affect your four-legged friend.

#1: Corneal ulcer in pets

The cornea is the eye’s clear outer layer. Corneal ulcer signs include excessive blinking and tearing, eye swelling and redness, keeping the eye completely closed, and pawing or rubbing the affected eye. If you suspect your pet has a corneal ulcer, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team should evaluate them as soon as possible, because the condition can quickly develop into an infection. In severe cases, surgery is necessary to support the corneal tissue or to remove the eye. Corneal ulceration or erosion can be caused by numerous issues such as:

  • Trauma — If one pet scratches another pet’s eye, their cornea can become ulcerated. In addition, if your pet vigorously rubs their face, they can self-inflict ocular trauma, leading to a corneal ulcer.
  • Foreign body — A foreign body, such as sand, dirt, or a grass awn, can lodge between  the eyelid and your pet’s eye, damaging their sensitive cornea.
  • Infection — Viral and bacterial infections can lead to corneal ulcers, especially in cats.
  • Conformation — The hair or eyelashes of flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) pets and those who have multiple facial folds may rub against the cornea, causing an ulceration.
  • Epithelial dystrophy — This hereditary condition most commonly causes recurrent corneal ulcers in boxers, Cavalier King Charles and cocker spaniels, beagles, Afghan hounds, and Alaskan malamutes.
  • Neurologic issues — Neurologic issues that prevent your pet’s eyelids from closing properly can lead to corneal ulceration.
  • Endocrine diseases — Endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, Cushing’s, and hypothyroidism, increase a pet’s corneal ulcer risk.
  • Chemical irritation — Soaps, shampoos, and other household products can cause a chemical corneal ulceration if your pet gets them in their eyes.

#2: Cataracts in pets 

Cataracts are lens opacities. If your pet has cataracts, their eyes may appear cloudy. In addition, they may bump into furniture, have difficulty finding food and water bowls, and be reluctant to move in unfamiliar surroundings. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team may prescribe medications to help decrease your pet’s eye inflammation and slow cataract progression. However, surgery is necessary to remove the cataract in cases where a lesion significantly obstructs a pet’s vision. If a cataract involves 60% of the lens, vision loss is often noted, and if the opacity involves 100% of the lens, your pet will be blind in the affected eye. Cataract causes include:

  • Chronic inflammation — Chronic ocular inflammation (i.e., uveitis), often resulting from infection, disease, or trauma, can lead to cataracts.
  • Diabetes — Diabetic dogs frequently develop cataracts. Within five months of a diabetes diagnosis, 50% of dogs develop cataracts. Within a year of a diabetes diagnosis, 75% of dogs develop cataracts. Within 16 months of a diabetes diagnosis, 80% of dogs develop cataracts.
  • Aging — Senior pets have an increased cataract development risk.
  • Nutritional deficiencies — Cataracts have been linked to an amino acid deficit. 
  • Breed — Certain breeds are predisposed to cataracts. Dog breeds that commonly develop cataracts include cocker spaniels, French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, Boston terriers, and miniature poodles. Cat breeds that commonly develop cataracts include Persian, Birman, Siamese, Russian blue, and Himalayan cats. 

#3: Dry eye in pets

Dry eye (i.e., keratoconjunctivitis sicca [KCS]), occurs when inadequate tear production prevents appropriate eye lubrication. If your pet develops this condition, their signs may include painful, red, and irritated eyes. Affected pets often have a thick, mucoid ocular discharge. To help your pet remain comfortable and prevent complications, such as corneal ulcers, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team will treat your four-legged friend’s dry eye with topical meditations, which they will likely need for the rest of their life. If your pet’s dry eye signs are severe, they may need surgery to reposition their salivary gland so it can provide lubrication to their eye. If your pet develops dry eye, the condition may be the result of one of the following causes:

  • Immune-mediated condition — Dogs’ most common dry eye cause is immune-mediated destruction of the tear-producing gland tissue. Certain breeds, including cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, and West Highland white terriers, have an increased risk. 
  • Systemic infection — Canine distemper infection and feline herpesvirus infection can lead to chronic dry eye. 
  • Sulfa drugs — Sulfa-containing antibiotics can cause a pet’s dry eye.
  • Trauma — If the tear gland is damaged during trauma, it can lose the ability to produce sufficient tears.
  • Neurologic problems — Secondary to an inner ear infection, the tear gland can lose nerve function, resulting in decreased tear production.

#4: Glaucoma in pets

Glaucoma occurs when intraocular fluid cannot drain properly, creating increased pressure inside the eye, which can damage the optic nerve, retina, and optic disc. If your pet has glaucoma, their signs may include eye enlargement, watery ocular discharge, cloudy eye, and sudden blindness. To decrease the intraocular pressure and control your pet’s pain, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team will prescribe medication. If medications do not lower your pet’s eye pressure, they may need surgery to help prevent ocular damage. Glaucoma can be a primary disease caused by hereditary eye abnormalities. In other instances, the disease is secondary to another condition. In pets, secondary glaucoma is most common, and causes include:

  • Inflammation — Uveitis can cause debris and scar tissue to block the eye’s drainage angle.
  • Lens luxation — The lens can dislocate, blocking the eye’s drainage angle.
  • Cataracts — Pets who have cataracts can develop glaucoma because ocular inflammation inhibits fluid drainage.
  • Bleeding — Trauma or retinal detachment that causes bleeding in or around the eye can prevent fluid drainage through the angle.
  • Tumors — An ocular tumor can physically obstruct drainage or cause inflammation that inhibits drainage.

If your pet’s signs indicate they have an eye condition, they should have a veterinary evaluation as soon as possible to help preserve their vision. Schedule your pet’s eye examination with our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team.