How do I know if my pet has an eye problem?
The signs that your pet has an eye issue may include squinting, or rubbing at the eye, redness to the white part of the eye, cloudiness to the center of the eye, excess tearing or discharge build up around the eye. These symptoms are indicators that the eye may need to be examined.
If the eyes are red can that just be from allergies?
Allergies can cause red eyes, but also infection, elevated pressure inside the eye, irritants such as dust or shampoo, or abnormalities associated with eyelids or tear production can all make the eye red. Only your veterinarian can determine the severity of the problem and find the cause.
Since these symptoms are similar, can’t I just get some eye medication?
Without knowing exactly what parts of the eye are affected, we do not know which medication to use without an examination. In some cases, an eye infection may be caused by a foreign body or ulcer to the surface of the eye. Sometimes treatment with medication alone will not resolve these problems. It is important that your pet be examined to diagnose the problem and be able to assess a starting point so that follow-up examinations can tell us if issues are resolving. Also your pet may not complain until the problem has gotten severe, so any abnormalities should be discussed with your veterinarian.
How do you know which medication to use?
First, the eye is examined with an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that provides magnification and light. This examination allows us to evaluate eyelids for abnormalities such as abnormally placed eyelashes, or defects in the surface of the eye called the cornea.
The next steps involve a baseline of tests we need to make a diagnosis:
- Schirmer Tear Test: this test determines if tear production is adequate
- Fluorescein Stain: this test makes sure the cornea is intact without breaks or ulcers.
- Tonometry (Eye pressure test): this test can diagnose glaucoma (high pressure) or uveitis (low pressure)
How are eye problems treated?
Eye drops will be necessary to treat eye issues. The type of the eye drops will vary based on the problem diagnosed. Any infection involving eyelids or other supporting structures around the eye may require oral medication as well.
The use of a rigid Elizabethan Collar (E-collar/lamp shade collar/Cone) is essential to prevent any further eye damage. Though it may be difficult to see your pet wearing a collar, this simple device can mean the difference between the eye healing quickly or degenerating rapidly.
In complicated cases of non-healing ulcers a veterinary ophthalmologist/specialist may be required to perform advanced surgeries.
What are some common eye problems:
Dry Eye or KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) – This condition is due to lack of adequate tear production. Signs include red painful eyes, and thick ropy green discharge.
Corneal Ulcers – An ulcer is a painful wound in the surface of the eye. This can be caused by trauma, misdirected eyelids, lack of tear production, aging corneas.
Cherry Eye (prolapsed 3rd eyelid gland) – A gland responsible for tear production resides just inside the third eyelid. When this gland dislocates out of position it appears as a smooth round pink or red mass similar to a cherry pit at the inside corner of the eye. Once out of its protected position the gland can become inflamed and no longer produce tears.
Conjunctivitis – This means inflammation of the thin membranes covering the eye. In people this is called “pink eye”. In pets this condition can be caused by allergies, irritants or infection.
Glaucoma – This is a condition caused by high pressure inside the eye. Since the eye does not stretch easily a build-up of pressure can damage the nerve that allows for sight. This is an acutely painful condition and is treated as a true emergency. Signs include squinting, red eye, dilated pupils and pain making your pet less likely to eat, drink and act normally. Medication can help remove fluid from the eye and decrease pressure but this condition almost always results in vision loss in the affected eye(s).
What is the prognosis?
Most superficial eye ulcers and cases of conjunctivitis will resolve with treatment.
Other chronic conditions such as Dry Eye or Uveitis will require lifelong medication. Several examinations may be necessary to assess progress of the condition.
How important is it to treat an eye issue?
Pets with eye problems can be painful and miserable. Failure to address a superficial issue such as an ulcer in a timely manner can cause the problem to worsen and even the eye to rupture resulting in permanent vision loss. Time is of the essence with eye issues and need to be treated promptly and reassessed often.
Is there anything I need to know about administering eye medication?
NEVER instill anything into your pet’s eye without approval from your veterinarian; you could make the problem worse. When applying medication avoid touching the tip of the bottle to the eye itself.
You may need help with applying medication for your pet; you will need to hold the upper eyelid open to get the medication on to the eye.