Eye Care for Dogs!

You've seen the love in your old dog's eyes since he was a pup. As our dogs age, once clear eyes might seem clouded over as cataracts develop. A dog's eyes are the most vulnerable part of his body and foreign objects can easily damage them causing an eye infection, eye pain or severe eye damage. Cataracts are not the only affliction older dog eyes experience; there are also eye diseases that can develop.

Have your dog's eyes checked regularly. If your older dog's eye shows any irregularities it is very important to contact your vet. A dog's eye is a very delicate, irreplaceable organ and while cataracts may not be treatable, an eye disease could be.

If you have any doubt, go to the vet, as mild conditions can cause a senior dog's eyesight to deteriorate quite quickly. Do not put anything in or near the eye that is not specifically labeled for canine ophthalmic use (particularly antiseptics), and don't use an old eye medication prescribed by your vet for a previous situation. It is important that any growths or swellings near your dog's eyes be treated by your veterinarian immediately to avoid potential complications.

Eye Problems in Dogs

  • Blue Eye - is a term used to describe cloudy corneas as a result of an adenovirus type 1 infection. Adenovirus type 1 is a severe viral disease affecting dogs of all ages. Usually the liver is affected, hence the name hepatitis, but occasionally the eye is also involved, hence the term 'Hepatitis Blue Eye.

  • Cataract - literally means 'to break down.' This breakdown refers to the disruption of the normal arrangement of the lens fibers or its capsule. This disruption results in the loss of transparency and the resultant reduction in vision. Cataracts often appear to have a white or crushed ice appearance and are found in the lens of the eye.

  • Chalazion - is a cyst in the eyelid that is caused by inflammation of the meibomian gland (gland at the rim of the eyelid - responsible for the supply of an oily substance that makes the closed eyelids airtight ) usually on the upper eyelid. Chalazions are usually painless apart from the tenderness caused when they swell up. A chalazion may eventually disappear on its own after a few months, though more often than not, some treatment is necessary.

  • Cherry Eye - Unlike people, dogs have a 'third eyelid' that contains a tear gland and is located in the corner of each eye. Under normal circumstances, this gland is not visible and aids in the production of tears. For some reason, which is not completely understood, the gland of the third eyelid prolapses or comes out of its normal position and swells creating the condition known as cherry eye.

  • Collie Eye - also known as scleral ectasia syndrome and collie ectasia syndrome, is an inherited condition in which certain tissues in the eye of the fetus did not transform normally, resulting in various eye abnormalities.

  • Conjunctivitis - is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the tissue lining the eyelids and attaching to the eyeball near the cornea. The conjunctiva can become irritated due to allergies induced by pollens, grasses, etc., or from infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. If the white portion of the eyeball (sclera) is also inflamed, this condition is occasionally referred to as 'pink eye.' Conjunctivitis is the most common ailment affecting the eye of the dog.

  • Corneal dystrophy - is an inherited condition resulting in corneal opacities in both eyes. They are usually symmetrical being in similar locations in each eye. The opaque areas generally contain fatty deposits. Most dogs with corneal dystrophy are six months of age and older. Different types of corneal dystrophies are seen based on the location of the fatty deposits within the cornea. Breeds most affected appear to be Airedale Terriers and Shetland Sheepdogs.

  • Corneal Injuries - The cornea is the transparent front covering of the eyeball. It is less than 1 millimeter thick and consists of several complex layers. It is the most sensitive part of the body and readily reacts to irritants from both outside and inside the eye. The cornea's transparency depends on a number of factors that maintain correct water content within the corneal tissues themselves.

    • Changes in any of these factors through injury or disease may cause the cornea to lose its transparency and become partially or totally cloudy. Corneal cloudiness may be caused by trauma, allergic reactions, infections, birth defects, chemicals, and other irritants. Treatment depends on the patient's age and the cause and severity of the injury.

    • Treatment will be based upon your pet's individual needs. Corneal deterioration may progress rapidly after injury, so the eye should be treated as soon as possible. Pain often accompanies this condition, and medical management will also be directed at eliminating discomfort. Source Dr. James Farnham

  • Corneal Ulcers - is a break in the outer layer or epithelium of the cornea. Uncomplicated ulcers, although initially painful, should heal in 3 to 4 days with appropriate treatment. Those ulcers that persist longer than this period of time often prove to be complicated ulcers. Source

  • Disorders of the Nasolacrimal Drainage Apparatus - The nasolacrimal drainage apparatus is the escape route for tears and consists of three parts:
    • The puncta: There are four, with one each at the inside corner of each eyelid, just on the inside of the lid margins.
    • The lacrimal sacs: There are two, one for each eye. These are dilated or widened areas that connect the two ducts that extend from each punctum. Dacryocystitis is the term used for inflammation of the lacrimal sacs.
    • The nasolacrimal ducts (tear ducts): There are two and each extends from each lacrimal sac and continues along the muzzle under the lining of the roof of the nose.
  • Disorders of the nasolacrimal drainage apparatus include congenital deformities (birth defects), infections, foreign bodies such as plant awns or seeds, and tumors. The disorders may occur on just one or on both sides.

  • Distichiasis - is an abnormal condition in which extra eyelashes appear along the lid margin(s) where ordinarily they should not grow.  This condition is inherited, but prolonged eye irritation may also cause the unwanted lashes to appear.

  • Trichiasis is a similar condition in which the eyelashes grow from normal areas but turn inward and touch the eyeball.

  • Ectropion - is the turning out (eversion) of the eyelid.  Besides being unattractive, ectropion can cause irritation because it exposes the sensitive inner lining of the eyelids and eyeballs to irritants. It also allows drying of the eyeball due to increased tear evaporation. It may also prevent efficient spreading of the tears during the blink reflex.

  • Entropion - is a rolling in of the eyelids. It may cause the eyelashes to rub against the sensitive front layer of the eyeball (cornea) and is often uncomfortable or painful. It can also cause serious eye damage.

  • Enucleation (eye removal) - is the surgical removal of the eyeball. It is a last-resort treatment for very serious eye diseases or injuries after all other alternatives have been carefully considered. Modern surgical techniques allow minimum disfigurement and maximum comfort to the patient. After the eyeball is removed, the eyelids are sutured permanently closed.

  • Epiphora (excessive tearing) - results in persistent wetness and often staining of the area below the eyes. This is not only unsightly but may become irritating to your pet, since it creates an excellent bed for bacterial growth. Causes include allergies, infections, foreign matter, abnormally located eyelashes and adjacent facial hair that rub against the eyeball, defects or diseases of the tear drainage system, birth defects of the eye. Source Dr. James Farnham

  • Eyelid Tumors - Older dogs commonly develop eyelid tumors (cancer). As in humans, cancer can be either benign or malignant. Fortunately, eyelid tumors in dogs are usually benign and do not spread to distant tissues. However, eyelid tumors do slowly or quickly grow, and can destroy the structure of the eyelid, in addition to rubbing on the eye. It is usually best to remove them when they are still small.

  • Glaucoma - is a very common disease in humans and also very common in dogs. Some medical conditions are difficult to understand, but glaucoma is not. It merely means that the pressure fluid inside the eyeball (or globe) is excessively high. When this occurs, internal structures are destroyed. It is similar to high blood pressure causing a vessel within the brain to rupture and blood flooding into the surrounding tissue crushing brain cells. In lay terms this is referred to as a stroke. In the eye, the elevation of the pressure of the internal fluid to dangerous levels affects almost every tissue inside the globe. In most cases, this renders the eye blind and useless.

  • Horner's Syndrome - The symptoms generally include a sunken in eye (enophthalmia) with a small pupil (miosis), a droopy upper eyelid (ptosis) and a prominent third eyelid. Horner's syndrome must be differentiated from Uveitis which also produces a constricted pupil and a droopy looking eye. Horner's syndrome is associated with damage to the sympathetic innervation to the eye.

  • Keratitis - is an inflammation (with or without infection) of the clear front layer of the eyeball (cornea). It may be a serious threat to vision. The cornea has 4 distinct layers and is less than a millimeter thick. Normally it contains no blood vessels or pigment and is transparent. Disease or injury may cause cloudiness, pigmentation, vessel ingrowth and ulcerations.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) - is the technical term for a condition also known as 'dry eye.' Inadequate tear production is the cause. This may be due to injuries to the tear glands, such as infections or rauma. The nerves of these glands may also become damaged.

  • Lens Luxation - The lens is normally held in position by small fibers called zonules, or the suspensory ligaments. The zonules are attached to the equatorial perimeter of the lens and to the ciliary body to keep it in position. Should the zonules break the lens can either become loosened (subluxated) or completely detached (luxated). When the lens completely tears free of its zonular attachments and falls forward into the anterior chamber, we call this an anterior luxation Source

  • Nictitans Gland Protrusion (cherry eye) - The third eyelid (membrana nictitans) lies between the eyelids and the eyeball at the inside corner of each eye. Its purpose is to protect the eye and to help contain and spread tears over the cornea. The third eyelid also contains tear-producing glands and therefore contributes to the overall lubrication of the eye. The gland of the third eyelid lies within the substance of the third eyelid and occasionally protrudes over the free edge of the third eyelid.

  • Pannus (chronic superficial keratitis) - is a progressive, degenerative disease of the transparent front of the eyeball (cornea). It affects primarily German Shepherds, but may also affect other breeds. As the disease progresses, blood vessels, pigment and scar tissue become incorporated into the outer layers of the cornea. If the disease continues, the cornea loses its transparency and blindness may result.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy or degeneration (PRA or PRD) is the name for several diseases that are progressive and lead to blindness. First recognized at the beginning of the 20th century in Gordon Setters, this inherited condition has been documented in over 100 breeds, and mixed breed animals as well. PRA is not very common in cats.

  • Retinal dysplasia - refers to a disorder in which the cells and layer of retinal tissue did not develop properly. Usually first noticeable in puppies about six weeks of age, the retina will appear to be layers of folded tissue rather than flat. This can only be seen with the aid of an ophthalmoscope.

  • Strabismus - is a term used to describe the abnormal positioning or direction of the eyeball. Normally, the eyeball is held in place and moves from side to side and top to bottom under the influence of small muscles which attach directly to the eyeball. Occasionally one muscle may be longer or stronger than the muscle located on the opposite side. This causes the eyeball to veer off in an abnormal direction.

  • Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (Sard) - a vision loss syndrome associated with changes in appetite and water consumption in dogs. This condition, known as sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS), may strike any pure or mixed breed of dog. These pets are generally between the ages of 7 and 14 years of age, with females predominating over males. Research indicates these pets have total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness. Source

  • Ulcerative Keratitis (corneal ulcer) - The cornea is the transparent front layer of the eyeball. It is less than 1 millimeter thick and consists of several complex layers. It is the most sensitive part of the body and readily reacts to irritants or stimuli from both outside and inside the eye. Ulcerative keratitis is corneal inflammation caused by disruptionin one or more layers of the cornea, starting from the outside going inward.

  • Uveitis - is inflamation of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. These major structures of the eye are very sensitive and perform numerous functions required for vision.
    • Anterior uveitis: the iris and ciliary body are affected.
    • Posterior uveitis: the choroid is affected.
    • Uveitis: the iris, ciliary body, and choriod are affected.