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Dog Eye Problems and Care

Dog Eye Care

Your dog's eyes are just as tender as your own - perhaps even more so. But caring for them doesn't have to be a mystery. Here are a few things you can do to protect your dog's precious vision, as well as some common eye diseases to look out for.

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- First, avoid activities where your dog may be hit in the face. For example, if you throw a stick for him, be sure you aim it well away from his face. If accidentally struck, he may loose an eye.
- Similarly, don't allow your dog to hang its head outside your car window; flying insects and debris can easily damage his vision.
- When you bathe or groom your dog, don't allow soaps or powders to get into his eyes. Use a lubricating eye ointment provided by your veterinarian whenever you wash your dog. A drop of baby oil in each eye will also offer protection, but be sure to get the okay from your vet first.

If your dog has long hair around his eyes, trimming it will go a long way toward preventing irritation and infection. If your dog has dust or dirt in his eyes (perhaps after a romp in the park), you can gently wash his eyes by mixing together 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour this concoction onto a cotton swab and squeeze the liquid into your dog's eyes. Do not touch your dog's eyes with your hands or with the swab.

If there is a large object in your dog's eye (like a thorn), take him to his veterinarian right away.

When grooming your dog, also make a habit of gently cleaning around his eyes. Using the same salt water mixture, pour the liquid onto a cotton swab (not a Q-tip or a towel), and carefully clean around your pet's eyes. Wipe from the outer corner toward the inner corner. This washes away anything irritating that's collecting around his eyes, and helps protect against eye scratches and infections. Do not use any eye drops in your pet's eyes, unless specifically instructed to do so by a veterinarian.

Excess Mucus
Any sign of mucus around your pet's eyes demands immediate attention from a veterinarian. Mucus can be a symptom of a condition called conjunctivitis. This is contagious to both dogs and humans, so keep a sharp eye out for it. (And always wash your hands after touching or cleaning around your dog's eyes.)

Excess Tearing
Similarly, many dogs tear excessively and "stain" the hair surrounding their eyes. Most veterinarians think this is caused by a bacteria or yeast infection. I n other dogs, allergies may cause tearing. In still other dogs, an ear infection may be the cause. (After bathing your dog, always gently dry his ears.)

Whatever the cause, if your pet has excessive tearing, have him checked out by your vet, to ensure that nothing serious is going on. Your veterinarian may then recommend an eye wash to control tearing. If you want to remove the staining that tearing sometimes causes, your vet may recommend a product for you to use. (It's never a good idea to use homemade recipes for removing tear staining, because if they are even slightly mis-measured, they may permanently damage your dog's eyes.)


Other Diseases

In all cases, if anything looks unusual about your dog's eyes, have your veterinarian examine him immediately - because there are several serious conditions that may endanger your dog's eyes.


Eyelid Problems

One common problem among dogs is called abnormal conformation. This means that the dog has something other than a tight-fitting, almond-shaped eyelid. This may lead to a more serious medical problem called entropion (when a dog's eyelid rolls inward, causing painful irritation). Entropion should be treated with surgery.

Eyelid tumors (cancer) tend to be found in older dogs. Happily, such tumors usually start out benign and don't spread easily. However, if the tumor isn't treated, it may eventually grow and destroy the eyelid. Tumors should be removed by your veterinarian while they are still small. In 80 to 90% of cases, eyelid tumors do not reappear after surgery.

Some dogs have abnormal hair growth on their eyelids. Hairs grow from the oil glands found on the dog's eyelid and either stick out from the glands at the opening edge of the eye (called distichia), or the inner surface of the eyelid (called ectopic cilia).

Distichia is usually irritating to the dog, and may result in squinting or rubbing of the eyes. Ectopic cilia is quite painful, often causing ulcers to grow on the dog's corneas. Young dogs are most commonly struck with this eye condition. Both distichia and ectopic cilia may be treated with surgery.

PTEG - Prolapsed Third Eyelid Gland

Some dogs are also born with a condition that allows a gland in their third eyelid to be exposed on the outside of their eye. (The third eyelid is for protection of the eye, and includes tear glands.) When a dog has this condition, he appears to have a round, pink object in the inside corner of his eye(s). This condition is called Prolapsed Third Eyelid Gland, or PTEG. Dogs with PTEG are at risk for developing dry eye; dogs may also experience pain or discomfort, and vision is sometimes affected. Treatment for this condition is also surgical, but even with surgery, a small percentage of dogs still develop dry eye.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is exactly what it sounds like; the dog's eye becomes dry and irritated. Veterinarians believe the most common cause of dry eye is the dog's immune system mistakenly attacking tear glands as a foreign object to be destroyed. The immune system attacks, the tear glands cannot produce enough moisture, and eventually the eyes become more and more dry. Dry eye often leads to infections, injured corneas, and blindness. Symptoms of dry eye include red eyes, squinting, rubbing of the eyes, a yellow discharge, and cloudiness of the eye.

Dry eye is most commonly found in middle aged to older dogs. West Highland White Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingese, Bulldog, Pug, and Lhaso Apso are most prone to this condition.

At the first sign of dry eye, take your dog to his veterinarian.


Cataracts and Glaucoma

You may think of cataracts and glaucoma conditions as only affecting humans, but dogs may also develop both diseases. Some breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, and Schnauzers are predisposed to cataracts. Dogs who have diabetes also often develop cataracts.

A large cataract seriously impedes a dog's vision, and will eventually make him blind. However, surgery can completely restore his vision. Cloudiness of the eyes is one sign of cataracts, but may also be a sign of other conditions.

Glaucoma can also lead to blindness. Symptoms include redness of the eye, cloudiness, tearing, swelling of the eyeball, and sensitivity to light. Laser surgery is used to treat glaucoma in dogs.


The Bottom Line:

Despite your best efforts to prevent eye problems in your pet, some dogs will go blind, probably due to genetics. But experts tell us that vision isn't as vital to dogs as it is to humans. Dogs have a much more pronounced sense of smell and hearing, which they rely on heavily. Dogs who do go blind can typically move around easily, as long as they are in a familiar environment.

Nonetheless, protect your dog's vision as much as possible, and you'll have a happier, healthier "best friend."

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