Eye Conditions in Dogs and Cats

Updated: 5/31/24
AMC ophthalmologist doing eye exam on French bulldog

Since your pet’s eyes are front and center every time you look at them, abnormalities of the eyes are easy to notice. Below are descriptions of some of the more common eye disorders in dogs and cats.

Older dogs commonly have a visible cloudiness to their eyes. The cloudiness is normal aging of the lens, called nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis does not compromise vision, and is often mistaken for cataracts. Cataracts are an abnormal cloudiness of the lens caused by a buildup of protein or pigment in the lens which interferes with normal vision. In dogs, genetics and diabetes play a role in cataract development. Canine cataracts can be removed surgically, followed by placement of an artificial lens. Cataracts are uncommon in cats.

Dry Eye
Dry eye is a decrease in tear production and occurs in dogs, especially those with bulgy eyes, like pugs. Treatment requires lifetime eye medications to stimulate tear production.

Cherry Eye
Under the third eyelid of dogs and cats is a small tear gland. In certain breeds, such as bulldogs, cocker spaniels and Burmese cats, the gland pops up and forms a red mass in the eye, colloquially known as “cherry eye.” This abnormality typically occurs in young dogs and cats. Treatment involves tacking the gland back in place with a suture.

One of the most common eye abnormalities pet families recognize is a red eye. Glaucoma is one cause of a red eye. The redness results from a painful increase in pressure inside the eye. Management of glaucoma can be challenging and involves drops, ointments and even surgery.

Corneal Ulcer
Another cause of a red eye is a corneal ulcer, a sore on the clear part of the eye. Corneal ulcers are common in dogs with dry eyes, as a sequela to feline viral respiratory infections, or trauma. A dog or cat with a corneal ulcer will squint or rub their eye because ulcers are painful. Typically, application of antibiotic ointment and oral pain medication correct this condition.

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is probably the most common eye problem on the list, since allergies are common in dogs. Allergic conjunctivitis is yet another condition resulting in red, weepy eyes. Distinguishing it from red eyes due to glaucoma or a corneal ulcer requires testing the pressure inside the eye and measuring tear production. Making the correct diagnosis is critical, since the treatment for each is different. Management of allergies with antihistamines or immunotherapy, plus anti-inflammatory eye ointment usually resolves allergic conjunctivitis.

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AMC's Ophthalmology Service provides scheduled and emergency care for companion animals with eye and vision problems. Under the direction of a renowned, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, we offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment to alleviate vision disorders in dogs and cats, ensuring the highest possible quality of life.

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