There are many different factors that come into play in caring for your dog but one that owners frequently miss is eye care. Dogs are prone to developing a number of eye problems and even something as simple as getting water in your dog’s eye can cause problems. In this article you will learn the basics about caring for your dog’s eyes as well as information about some of the most common dog eye problems and their symptoms.

Tips for Dog Eye Care

As is true for all aspects of your dog’s health, the key to catching eye problems before they have time to progress is to maintain a healthy awareness of your dog’s eyes. It is always a good idea to perform a routine weekly health check on your dog to look for developing problems and examining your dog’s eyes is an important part of this health check. Below you will find some tips for examining your dog’s eyes and for maintaining good eye health:

  • Examine your dog’s eyes in a well-lit area and look at them head-on.
  • Check your dog’s eyes to make sure they are clear and bright – the pupils should be equal in size and the area around the iris should be clean and white.
  • Make sure there is no discharge or crust in the corners of your dog’s eyes.
  • Gently take your thumb and roll down the bottom eyelid to look at the lining – it should not be red or white, it should be a healthy pink.
  • If you need to remove crust or discharge from your dog’s eyes, use a clean cotton ball and carefully wipe outward from the corner of the eye.
  • For long-haired breeds, you may need to trim the hair around the eyes occasionally to keep it from irritating your dog’s eyes.
  • When bathing your dog, be very careful about keeping your dog’s eyes dry – you should also avoid contact with soaps and any topical medication (like flea/tick repellent).
  • Avoid rolling the window down all the way when driving with your dog – debris or an insect could get into your dog’s eye and cause irritation.
  • Keep an eye out for signs that your dog is experiencing eye pain or irritation – he might paw at or rub his eye.
  • Be aware of any eye conditions to which your dog might be predisposed based on his breed.
  • Keep up with your dog’s semi-annual vet visits and make sure the vet gives your dog an eye exam to look for developing problems.

Following these basic tips will help to not only prevent your dog from experiencing any damage or irritation to the eye but it will also help you to catch any developing problems early enough to treat them.

Common Eye Problems In Dogs

In following the tips mentioned above you can greatly reduce your dog’s chances of developing an eye problem. There are, however, a number of eye-related conditions that you cannot prevent. Some eye conditions affecting dogs are genetic and others are simply unavoidable for certain breeds. Below you will find a list of the most common eye problems affecting dogs as well as tips for treatment and prevention.

  1. Conjunctivitis – this eye problem is commonly known as “pink eye” and it generally describes irritation or inflammation of the tissue around the eye. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, injury to the eye, bacterial infection, or a virus. Symptoms of this condition include redness, inflamed eyelids, watery eyes, stringy discharge, squinting and pawing at the eyes. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the condition but a cold compress and/or medicated drops typically resolve the issue.
  2. Cataracts – a cataract is simply an opacity that occurs in the lens of your dog’s eye. This condition is often genetic but it can also result from old age or injury to the eye. Cataracts can impact your dog’s vision and, if the cataract is left untreated, it may luxate and float around the eye, blocking fluid drainage which can lead to more eye problems including glaucoma. Surgical treatment options are available for cataracts but, in some cases, no treatment is required.
  3. Glaucoma – there are two different forms of glaucoma – primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is typically caused by a problem with fluid drainage or excess pressure in the eye while secondary glaucoma is usually caused by an infection. Treatment options for glaucoma include medication to reduce pressure within the eye, draining of the fluid, or, in very severe cases, removal of the eye. As long as the condition is caught early, it can easily be managed.
  4. Cherry Eye – all dogs have a third eyelid but, unlike cats, it is typically not visible unless it has become inflamed. Cherry eye is a condition in which the third eyelid becomes irritated causing the tear gland to bulge out of the eye – this can lead to further irritation and conjunctivitis. Treatment options include surgical reparation of the gland – artificial tears may also be required for a period of time until the gland regains normal function.
  5. Entropion – this is a genetic condition in which part of the eyelid becomes inverted or rolls inward, causing irritation to the surface of the eye. Entropion is fairly common in short-faced and giant breeds and it almost always presents before the dog reaches 1 year of age. This disease may be treated with lubrication via artificial tears but, in many cases, surgery is required to correct the position of the lid.
  6. Ectropion – this condition is the opposite of entropion and it involves the rolling of the lower eyelid outward. This often causes irritation of the eye which may lead to excessive tearing, facial staining, and related bacterial infections. Treatment options for ectropion typically involve lubrication of the eye with artificial tears or, in severe cases, surgical shortening of the eyelid to reduce irritation.
  7. Progressive Retinal Atrophy – this is a condition that affects the retina of a dog’s eye, causing loss of vision and eventual blindness. PRA is a genetic condition and, unfortunately, there currently is no treatment for it. This condition results in symptoms like night blindness which may lead to a progressive loss of vision and eventual blindness in the affected eye(s). Fortunately, most dogs adapt well to the loss of vision.
  8. Epiphora – also known as eye discharge, epiphora is a condition involving excessive tearing. Excessive tearing often leads to staining at the corners of the eyes – this is most obvious in dogs with white or light-colored fur on their faces. Epiphora typically occurs as a result of improper drainage from the tear duct but it can also be a symptom of another eye condition. Treatment options may involve surgical flushing of the tear duct or other treatments, depending on the cause of the condition.

Additional Eye Care Tips

The key to maintaining good eye health for your dog lies in knowing what the potential problems may be and doing what you can to avoid them. By learning about the most common eye problems affecting dogs you can be on the lookout for symptoms and you can bring them to the attention of your vet as soon as they appear.

If you are worried about keeping your dog’s eyes dry during a bath you can apply a protective ophthalmic ointment – this will protect your dog’s eyes from shampoo and other chemicals you need to apply to or near his head.

If you need to trim the fur around your dog’s eyes, consider asking your veterinarian or a professional groomer to show you how so you do not accidentally make the problem worse. Caring for your dog’s eyes is not difficult, it just requires a certain degree of observation and some preventive knowledge.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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