Eye Conditions

eye conditions in pets

Because your pet’s eyes are front and center every time you glimpse their cute little fur faces, abnormalities of the eyes are easy to recognize. And, of course, none of us would want our vision compromised by an eye disorder, so we worry about our pet’s eyes as well. Below are descriptions of some of the more common eye disorders in dogs and cats.

Cataracts
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
The eyelove campaign on television and the internet promotes awareness of dry eye in humans. 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.

Glaucoma
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.

Next time your pet gazes lovingly at you, make sure they are doing it with picture perfect eyes.

Meet the Breeds: Ask a Question

During the last weekend of September, The Animal Medical Center staffed an information booth at the American Kennel Club’s annual Meet the Breeds Show at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. I spent several hours answering questions from pet owners on Sunday afternoon. The questions were important ones for all pets, so I decided to share my answers with everyone through The AMC blog.

Are caterpillars toxic?
A concerned dog owner found her dog snacking on the big, furry caterpillars that had invaded the potted plants on her terrace. Certain insects can injure pets if they are venomous, like wasps or bees. Most caterpillars are not venomous and are not listed as toxic on Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Hotlines' websites. Although Survivorman eats caterpillars, the hairs on the skin of certain ones can be very irritating and for me, just thinking about a dog swallowing these hairy little creatures makes me gag. It is best not to let your dog (or cat) eat caterpillars, but consumption of one or two probably carries a low level of risk.

Is a one hour walk a day enough for my older dog?
Just like your doctor recommends you practice a well-rounded fitness routine, your dog needs more than a walk on a nice flat street. The Mayo Clinic recommends exercise include aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise and balance training. Challenge your dog by walking up and down hills. Be sure to include games like fetch to encourage your dog to run to increase her heart rate. Don’t forget to include stairs as part of your dog’s routine. For stretching and balance fitness, view The AMC’s exercise tips for dogs.

My 7 month old Chihuahua has a pink lump that comes and goes in the corner of his eye. Is this serious?
Without seeing this dog, I can only speculate as to what the problem is. However, I am guessing the dog has a condition veterinarians call “cherry eye.” Cherry eye is the tear gland from the third eyelid, an important source of tears to keep your dog’s eyes moist, and it occurs most commonly in Cocker Spaniels and English Bulldogs. The AMC’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexandra van der Woerdt recommends the gland be tacked back into place during a minor surgical procedure to preserve its function. The cause of cherry eye is suspected to be a weakness in the ligament that holds the gland in place.

My dog woke up one morning and couldn't walk, so I gave him some of my medications and now he’s better. Should I keep giving the pills?
The answer to this question is not about pills but about the need to see your veterinarian to get pet-safe prescriptions. Every year, thousands of dogs and cats are sickened from accidental ingestion or purposeful administration of human medications. Veterinarians do sometimes prescribe human medications for dogs and cats, but you should never give your pet any medications without clearing it through your veterinarian first.