Dog Owners Guide To Puppy and Dog Eye Problems

For a dog eye problems can be completely debilitating – there are many different types of eye problems that can affect dogs and puppies including cataracts, conjunctivitis, keratitis, glaucoma, cherry eye, tumors, entropion, corneal ulcers…the list goes on…

The eye is an amazing organ that has developed (both in dogs and humans) to recieve light and images (basically whatever you pooch happens to be looking at). These images will then be transferred into nerve messages which will then be passed into the brain to be interpreted as something that your dog can see.

How does a dogs eye work?

If you view the canine eye as similar to a camera you will be able to understand how the organ works. The light will initially pass through the cornea and then through the pupil (the black circle at the centre of the eye – in dogs the pupil is normally brown). The amount of light that is allowed to travel through is controlled by the iris – as the light passes through the size of the pupil will change depending on how much light is allowed through.

The light that passes through is then converted by the retina into a nerve signal that will be passed to the brain. However, just before the light is passed through to the brain (as a nerve impulse) the light rays are focused by your dog’s lens which is behind the cornea.

Just behind the cornea and in front of the lens is an area referred to the anterior chamber. The anterior chamber is filled with a liquid that is produced and drains through another part of the eye referred to as the drainage angle (this is on both sides of the eye) and makes sure that the liquid is always clean and healthy.

Do dogs really have three eyelids?

The simple answer to this is yes. Your dog’s eye is protected by an upper eyelid, a lower eyelid and finally to make sure that the eye is protected your dog is able to move the third eyelid (it is actually a membrane) from the corner of each eye to protect each eye.

Just like in humans a dog’s eyes produces tears (through the tear glands) and these help to clean each eye to make sure that they remain moist and healthy (they also help to flush out any dust or any irritants).

Ok lets talk about puppy and dog eye problems

Although we have covered a few puppy and dog eye problems on this page – at the bottom of the page you will find links to specific puppy and dog eye problems (in a little more detail).

Lets start with a particularly unpleasant eye problem that causes untold misery to a number of dogs and puppies…

Dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Just the same in dogs and puppies as in humans there are tear ducts that produce a water solution that keeps the eye clean, lubricated and healthy. However, when these start to fail and stop producing any liquid it leads to ‘dry eye’. The symptoms of this condition can include inflammation and redness, discharge and the eye may become further damaged and lose it’s natural transparency.

To test whether your dog has ‘dry eye’ (which is caused by diseased tear glands) the vet will probably use a test strip that tests how many tears are produced over a period of sixty seconds – this will inform the vet if your dog has the condition. Treatment for ‘dry eye’ is normally through eye drops (anti-inflammatory and/or immune modulating eye drops).

Conjunctivitis

This condition occurs when the conjunctiva becomes inflamed – it can be caused by distemper, allergies, injury and trauma. With this condition the symptoms might be slight or severe. With mild symptoms the eye maybe slightly red or inflamed – with the tear glands producing more tears. However, with really severe conjuntivitis the eyes might become so inflamed that they are unable to open leaving your dog effectively blind (this is called blepharospasm).

If one eye is experiencing conjunctivitis then it might only be one eye that is infected. However, if both eyes are infected then your dog’s eyes might be experiencing disease.

The treatment for this condition will involve the eyes being bathed in warm sterile water with anti-inflammatory and antibiotics possibly also being prescribed.

Uveitis

This is one of those puppy and dog eye problems that causes severe and enduring pain. This condition is due to the iris and the areas around the iris becoming inflamed. Tears will be over produced and your dog’s eye will be very watery. The pupil will stop reacting properly to light and will appear smaller than usual. They iris may also appear duller than usual and discharge might appear in the anterior chamber. If this is not treated properly the eye may become so bad that your dog develops glaucoma.

Treatment for this condition will include eye drops (anti-inflammatory – eye drops might also be prescribed to dilate the pupil). By dilating the pupil it will help to stop it from possibly adhering to the lens.

Lens Luxation

This condition is more common in certain breeds and is due to inherited weakness of the ligament that keeps the lens in place. As a result of the weakness the lens falls into the anterior or posterior chamber. Surgery is vital otherwise the eye sight will most probably be lost and if glaucoma starts to affect the eye it may have to be removed.

Glaucoma

This condition is caused when the pressure inside the eye increases to such a level that it swells and becomes really painful. To start with the eye might be a little swollen but as it becomes worst there might be discharge and as the eye swells the eyelids may close.

Treatment for glaucoma in dogs may include medication to reduce the level of aqueous that is being produced. With many puppy and dog eye problems surgery is required and this is one of those conditions that may involve a small hole being drilled through the sclera (this will help to restore drainage). However, if the eye is so badly affected it may need to be removed – but this is a last resort.

Cataracts

This is another of those puppy and dog eye problems that can affect humans as well as dogs. Cataracts can affect your pooch at any age however it is more common in older dogs. The treatment for the condition will normally involve the removal of the cataracts – however in older dogs the condition maybe as a result of disease so is more difficult to remove (so surgery will not be an option). Symptoms of cataracts will include diminished vision and opacity of the eye lens.

Entropion

Out of all the puppy and dog eye problems this one causes serious irritation – imagine someone constantly brushing small hairs against your eye ball (repeatedly). So to explain exactly what happens – basically the eyelid and lashes start to turn inwards so that the eye lashes repeatedly rub against the eye ball. It is possible that all of your dog’s (multiple) eyelids are affected and both eyes can be affected at the same time.

This condition will normally affect dogs that are still growing leaving the eye ball sore, red and very inflamed. As the eye ball is repeatedly irritated the tear ducts will start to produce more tears. If the condition is left untreated the eye ball and cornea can become infected with ulcers starting to appear on the cornea.

As with most puppy and dog eye problems they need treatment as soon as any symptoms are noticed. With Entropion the treatment will consist of the vet surgically removing a small part of the eyelid (the outside surface). This will enable the eyelid to return to normal.

Ectropion

This condition is the opposite of Entropion and occurs when the eyelid starts to turn outwards. The treatment for this will also involve a small surgical operation – however it is not always as successful as surgery on Entropion.

How to recognize puppy and dog eye problems

Below are some of the symptoms that your dog or puppy might exhibit if he or she has a problem with his eye.

1. Does your pooches eye look different? You will normally always be the first to know if something just doesn’t look right. A common symptom of an eye problem is redness and swelling. The eye may also look discolored.

2. Your dog or puppy might attempt to scratch or paw at the eye due to pain, itching or a mixture of the two – this can cause more damage so it is vital that early symptoms are treated fast by a vet.

3. Watch out for a change in the color of your dog’s eye (especially the surface). With some puppy and dog eye problems the color of the eye changes due to pigment deposits being deposited on the eye surface.

4. A scratch or trauma due to an accident or injury might leave white scars on the eye. Remember the eye should have a nice transparent appearance and not be opaque.

5. Discharge or excessive tear production is a sign of puppy and dog eye problems.


1. A Guide to canine cataracts: Discover the causes, symptoms and treatment for cataracts in dogs.

2. A Guide to canine cherry eye: Discover the causes, symptoms and treatment for pink eye.

3. A Guide to canine glaucoma: Discover the causes, symptoms and treatment for this nasty and painful eye condition.


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