Eye Injuries in Pets

Eye injuries to your dog or cat can quickly turn into a serious medical problem. Knowing how to handle the problem can help speed up their recovery.

Experts at WebVet.com recommend that if your dog or cat has an eye injury, it should get immediate attention.

Common Causes

Injuries to the eye are common in dogs and cats that spend time outdoors, fight or ride with their head out of car windows. Sticks, grasses and grains of sand can rub into or against the animal’s eye, causing irritation and injury. This is especially a problem in breeds with bulging eyes or pushed-in faces, such as pug or Pekingese dogs and Persian cats. Cats that fight are also prone to eye injury. Serious blows to the face, such as being hit by a car, can cause deeper eye damage.

Blows to the head can bruise the eyeball, which may bleed internally. Such damage can predispose pets to glaucoma by blocking the passage of fluid out of the eyeball. Sharp blows may also detach the retina, which is the nerve-rich area at the back of the eye, responsible for translating light images into vision. A retinal detachment can seriously impair vision.

Irritated or Inflamed?

Irritation from dirt, debris and dust can cause eyes to become red from congested blood vessels in the eyelids and tissue surrounding the eyeball, a condition known as conjunctivitis. Irritation can also lead to secondary bacterial infection in your cat and dog. Inflamed eyes tend to weep or may produce a thicker whitish or yellowish fluid that is often a sign of bacterial infection.

Painful Injury

Scratches on this sensitive outer portion of eye can be painful causing your pet to squint and rub at the eye. Left untreated, such scratches can develop into ulcers. Superficial corneal ulcers may heal relatively quickly, but deeper or infected ulcers tend to scar and become discoloured, permanently interfering with the passage of light and compromising vision in the affected eye.

Standard Treatment

Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s eyes for signs of irritation and may use an ophthalmoscope to look for splinters or deeper damage. Sometimes a special fluorescent dye is used to check the cornea for scratches.

Irritated eyes are usually treated with antibiotic drops or ointments that soothe the eye and fight infection. Corticosteroid drops can also calm irritation and inflammation but should not be used in the presence of corneal ulcers. Periodically rinsing your pet’s eye with eye wash can remove debris and speed healing. Warm compresses applied to the outside of the eye are also soothing.

Deep scratches or ulcers on the cornea need to be protected until they can heal. In these cases, treatment may include temporarily sewing the eye closed or sewing the third eyelid to the upper lid. These surgical procedures cover the eye like a patch, protecting it from further damage. Your vet may also prescribe topical drops that relax the muscles of the eye, relieving painful spasms that often accompany corneal damage.

The length of time for recovery depends on the injury but on average less serious eye problems will heal within two weeks.

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