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Eye Problems in Dogs

Top 18 Eye Problems in Dogs

Eye problems in dogs are caused by diseases and conditions that affect the normal anatomy and physiology of the eye. Dog eyes are similar in anatomy to humans, consisting of the cornea, pupil, iris, sclera, retina, and upper and lower eyelids. Damage to any of these parts causes eye problems in dogs. Dog eye diseases are not always serious, but some cause vision impairment and permanent damage if left untreated. 

Dogs with eye diseases have symptoms like eye redness, excessive lacrimation, swelling of the eyelids, squinting, changes in opacity, and pain upon touching the eye. As dog eyes are sensitive, the discomfort makes them less active and playful and more irritable. 

Treatment for an eye problem in dogs starts with discovering the cause. Ophthalmic solutions are to be topically administered daily. Conditions like cataracts, entropion/ectropion, and cherry eye require surgical intervention. 

1. Conjunctivitis 

Conjunctivitis, or Pink Eye, in dogs, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the layer of tissue that lines the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. Conjunctivitis occurs when the pink tissue that is seen when reflecting the eyelids is swollen and red. The condition inspires the term “pink eye.” Conjunctivitis is seen as a symptom of other ophthalmic diseases. 

Conjunctivitis results from canine distemper, canine herpesvirus, glaucoma, corneal ulcers, anterior uveitis, and ophthalmic tumors. The symptoms of conjunctivitis are reddening around the moist mucosal tissue around the eye and under the eyelid, excessive lacrimation, and squinting. Correcting the underlying ophthalmic condition is the treatment for conjunctivitis in dogs. The vet prescribes ophthalmic solutions that contain medications such as antibiotics, beta-blockers, or immunomodulators to correct the cause of conjunctivitis.

Check the eyes regularly to prevent the development of conjunctivitis in dogs. Keep the dog’s eyes clear of debris and fur, and immediately take them to the vet if abnormalities appear. Conjunctivitis occurs in any dog breed but is more prone in dogs with short snouts and large round eyes, such as pugs, bulldogs, and shih tzus. 

2. Keratitis

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea, the eye's transparent outer layer. Corneal ulcerations, chronic superficial keratitis, pigmentary keratitis, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca cause corneal inflammation. 

Dogs with keratitis have cloudiness or hazy discoloration of the cornea, increased eye vascularization, squinting, excessive ocular discharge, and redness. The treatment for conjunctivitis in dogs is correcting the underlying ophthalmic condition. The vet prescribes ophthalmic solutions that contain medications such as antibiotics, beta-blockers, or immunomodulators to correct the cause of conjunctivitis. Surgery is needed for anatomical disorders such as the inward growth of the eyelashes (entropion). The persistent contact of the eyelash and cornea causes corneal inflammation. 

Home remedies for treating keratitis are not recommended as they lead to further damage to the eye. Take the dog to the vet immediately after noticing corneal injury or abnormalities. Brachycephalic breeds with short muzzles and prominent eyes, such as pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Bulldogs, get corneal ulcers more often. Chronic superficial keratitis is common in German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds. 

3. Uveitis

Uveitis is the inflammation of the middle layer of the eyeball, which contains the choroid, ciliary body, and iris. Anterior uveitis occurs when the iris and ciliary body become inflamed. Posterior uveitis is when the choroid is inflamed. Panuveitis happens when all the uveal structures are inflamed.

Dogs with uveitis have a “bloodshot” appearance of the eye, squinting, increased ocular discharge, and corneal edema, with visible opacity that covers the eye. Uveitis is a painful condition resulting in decreased behavior, irritability, vision, fear of light, and persistent rubbing at the eye. 

Glaucoma, diabetes, Lyme disease, rabies, distemper, and deep physical trauma to the eye are all causes of uveitis in dogs. Treatment for uveitis is based on the underlying ophthalmic disease. 

4. Blepharitis

Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelid. Blepharitis causes a swollen appearance to the skin that covers the eyeball. Common causes of blepharitis are congenital abnormalities, allergies, infection, trauma to the eye, and tumors. 

A quick remedy for blepharitis is applying a warm compress to the affected eye for 10-15 minutes thrice daily. Consult a veterinarian when the swelling does not subside within 24 hours, or there is marked redness and irritation. 

Blepharitis is treated by identifying and addressing the cause of the eyelid swelling. Surgery is necessary for congenital abnormalities and tumors. 

5. Cherry eye 

Cherry eye is the prolapsing of the third eyelid. The condition is common among many breeds of dogs, such as Cocker Spaniels, Shuh Tuzs, Bulldogs, American Bullies, and Pugs. The appearance is that of a “cherry” popping out of the medial canthus (inner corner of the eye). 

Cherry eye is a non-painful and non-infectious dog eye disease caused by the weakening of the fibrous attachment that anchors the gland down. 

The treatment for cherry is surgically placing the gland back into a pocket and closing it shut. Cherry eye causes the gland to dry up and desiccate if left untreated. 

6. Corneal ulcers

Corneal ulcers are sores on the cornea, the outer portion of the eye. The ulcers appear as a marked indentation on the cornea, accompanied by inflammation and redness. Corneal ulcers are caused by conditions such as trauma to the eye, chemical burns, keratoconjunctivitis, and endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s disease or Diabetes mellitus. 

The treatment for corneal ulcers is to identify and treat the underlying cause. The veterinarian prescribes ophthalmic solutions to treat subsequent infection and inflammation and repair the eye's epithelial cells. 

7. Entropion

Entropion is the abnormal inward growth of the eyelid. The eyelashes constantly cause abrasion on the cornea, leading to corneal inflammation and eventual ulceration. Entropion is a developmental problem in dogs such as the Bull Mastiff, Chinese Shar Pei, Chow Chow, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, and Rottweiler. 

The treatment of entropion in dogs involves surgical correction of the anatomical defect. The eyelid is surgically reversed and sown into place to revert to its normal outward direction.

8. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the abnormal intraocular pressure (IOP) buildup inside the eye. Glaucoma is a painful condition that causes permanent blindness when the optic nerve and retina become damaged. Dogs with glaucoma have swollen, sore, red eyes with increased discharge.

The lack of drainage of aqueous humor causes glaucoma. Diseases such as uveitis, anterior dislocation of the lens, tumors, intraocular bleeding, and congenital malformations in the ocular drainage angle cause glaucoma.

The treatment for glaucoma is to reduce IOP with medication or surgery. Long-term medicines, such as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors or beta-blocking agents, control the IOP buildup. The treatment is often combined with ophthalmic analgesics to manage the pain. In severe cases, veterinary ophthalmologists surgically drain the excess aqueous humor. 

9. Dry eye

Dry eye is the “drying out” of the eye due to inadequate tear production by the lacrimal glands. The condition is also called Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS). The effect of eye dryness is inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissues. Dogs with dry eyes appear to have milky eyes covered with thick mucoid discharges accumulated over the eyes and eyelids. Dry eyes cause impaired vision and discomfort.

KCS is caused by diseases that affect tear production, such as canine distemper, hypothyroidism, medication response, damage to the tear glands, immune-mediated disease, and neurogenic disease. Dry eye in dogs is treated with ophthalmic drops that contain cyclosporine or tacrolimus. The goal is to stimulate tear production and replace the tear film.

10. Epiphora

Epiphora is the excessive production of tears from the eyes. The condition is a sign of underlying irritation or inflammation of the eyes. Dogs with epiphora have marked wetness under the eyes and at the canthuses. The dampness spreads across the periphery of the eye. 

Common causes of epiphora are trauma, chemical burns, corneal ulcers, allergies, and eye infections. A blocked nasolacrimal duct is also able to cause epiphora in dogs. The treatment of epiphora is the identification and treatment of the underlying cause. 

11. Cataract

A cataract is a condition of having a cloudy or opaque lens in the eye. Cataracts in dogs are most commonly inherited or caused by metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus. Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Boston Terriers, and French Poodles are susceptible to hereditary cataracts. Dogs with cataracts have cloudy eyes, a change in eye color, poor vision, and signs of discomfort. 

The treatment of cataracts in dogs is surgical correction. Veterinary ophthalmologists surgically remove cataracts to restore normal vision. Ophthalmic drops and topical medications are not used to treat cataracts, which must be examined by a veterinarian immediately. 

12 Eyelid Lump

Eyelid lumps are fleshy bumps that appear on the upper or lower eyelids. The masses are either non-harmful styes or tumors of the eye. Eyelid styes in dogs are like pimples that protrude on the skin when oil glands in the eyelid become impacted and infected. Tumors such as meibomian gland tumors, melanomas, papillomas, and chalazion are more serious causes of eyelid lumps in dogs. Biopsy or aspiration is the method of diagnosing the origin of eyelid lumps. The sample is histologically examined to check for evidence of malignancy. The treatment for eyelid lumps in dogs is through surgical removal.

13. Watery Eyes

Watery eyes are caused by excessive tear production from the tear gland. The increased wetness is a sign of underlying irritation or inflammation of the eyes. Dogs with wet eyes have marked dampness under the eyes and at the canthuses. The damp surrounding area makes it prone to tear staining.

Common causes of watery eyes are trauma to the eye, chemical burns, corneal ulcers, allergies, and eye infections. A blocked nasolacrimal duct causes watery eyes in dogs. The treatment of epiphora involves identifying and treating the underlying cause and removing irritants.

14. Red Eyes

Red eyes are a common sign of eye irritation. The condition is a sign of underlying irritation or inflammation of the eyes. Dogs with red eyes are often accompanied by other signs, such as pain upon touching the eye, excessive lacrimation, squinting, and discomfort. 

Common causes of red eyes in dogs are trauma to the eye, chemical burns, corneal ulcers, allergies, eye infections, uveitis, keratoconjunctivitis, tumors, and keratitis. The treatment of red eyes is the identification and treatment of the underlying cause.

15. Cloudy Eyes

Cloudy eyes are when the eyeball has a milky white or hazy appearance. Healthy eyes are supposed to be clear, bright, moist, and responsive. Opacity in the eye is a sign of ocular or systemic disease. Eye opacity affects vision by interfering with how the lens focuses light, making the dog show signs of poor vision.

Common causes of cloudy eyes in dogs are uveitis, cataracts, keratoconjunctivitis, keratitis, corneal ulcer, and glaucoma. Dogs that have cloudy eyes should be seen by the vet immediately. The treatment of cloudy eyes depends on the underlying cause. 

16. Eye Discharge

Eye discharge is the result of lacrimation from the tear glands. The tear glands produce tears and discharge in response to irritation, infection, and disease. Eye discharge is associated with irritation and severe diseases such as canine distemper, uveitis, keratoconjunctivitis, cataracts, and glaucoma. Treatment for eye discharge in dogs depends on identifying and resolving the underlying cause. Physical examination rules out irritants and abrasions. 

17. Visible Third Eyelid

Visible Third Eyes are when the dog's third eyelid protrudes at the sides. Third eyelid protrusion in dogs resembles a small, thin sheath of tissue popping up at the side of the eyeball. The sheath gives the impression that the eye is rolling back at the head, even at a normal position. 

Visible third eyelids in dogs are caused by conditions such as masses behind the eye, an inappropriately small globe, dehydration, and Horner’s syndrome. Surgery for the visible third eyelid is needed to restore the gland to a normal position. 

18. Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is the abnormal development of the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that converts light into signals sent to the optic nerve, making it an essential part of ocular function. Retinal dysplasia in dogs is primarily an inherited condition that happens during early fetal development. Most dogs with retinal dysplasia do not show any obvious signs, but some develop blindness at certain spots (blind spots). There is currently no treatment for retinal dysplasia in dogs

What Causes Eye Problems in Dogs?

The causes of eye problems in dogs are listed below.

  • Anatomical defects: Changes in the standard structure of the eye lead to chronic irritation, inflammation, and pain. Cherry eye and entropion are conditions that cause constant abrasion to the cornea. Corneal abrasion leads to the development of non-inflammatory keratitis and corneal ulceration. Ectropion makes the lower eyelid droop and constantly exposes the conjunctiva, leading to irritation and conjunctivitis. 
  • Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases like rabies, distemper, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Toxoplasmosis cause eye problems. These diseases have ocular manifestations, which often result in anterior or posterior uveitis. Systemic diseases cause bilateral changes in the eye, making them look cloudy, inflamed, and irritated.
  • Metabolic Diseases: One of dogs' most common metabolic diseases that cause eye problems is diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the deterioration of retinal vasculature with the formation of cataracts. Cataracts resemble a milky or cloudy center in the eye surrounded by a colored iris and white sclera. The cloudiness leads to marked visual impairment with subsequent behavioral changes due to poor eyesight. 
  • Increased intraocular pressure (IOP): IOP is caused by diseases such as optic neoplasms, congenital glaucomas, melanocytic glaucoma, and traumatic glaucoma. Increased IOP results in swelling or bulging of the eyeball and pain at the head. The lack of proper flow of the aqueous humor in the eye leads to an abnormal pressure buildup inside. The condition is painful and uncomfortable, leading to permanent blindness once the retina is affected. 

Does an Eye Problem Lead to Blindness in Dogs?

Yes, eye problems lead to blindness in dogs. Ophthalmic diseases worsen over time if left untreated. Dog vision problems need to be identified as soon as possible using clinical signs, history, and laboratory examination. Persistent eye problems and inflammatory conditions cause permanent damage to the anatomical structure and nerves that supply the eye. The resulting blindness in dogs is irreversible when the optic nerves and retina are severely damaged. 

Diseases such as Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) cause rapid and irreversible blindness in dogs. The cause of the disease is idiopathic but linked to autoimmune disease. Conditions such as ivermectin toxicity cause acute blindness in dogs through retinal edema. Blindness stemming from a dog vision problem results from an underlying cause. 

What is Ivermectin Toxicity in Dogs?

Ivermectin toxicity in dogs occurs when high doses of Ivermectin are ingested, causing a severe adverse reaction. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic medication used to treat intestinal worms, filarial worms, and some species of mites. 

The maximum safe dosage for ivermectin is 600 micrograms/kg. A dosage excessive of 600  600 micrograms/kg is considered an overdose and causes adverse side effects such as ataxia, depression, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, and temporary blindness. 

Certain breeds of herding dogs, such as Collies, Australian Shepherds, English Shepherds, Whippets, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Silken Windhounds, are deficient in the multiple drug resistance gene-1 (MDR-1). This deficiency makes them highly sensitive to ivermectin and causes adverse effects at even 100 micrograms/kg of ivermectin. 

What are the Symptoms of Eye Problems in Dogs?

The symptoms of eye problems in dogs are listed below.

  • Eye redness: Redness is a common sign of eye problems in dogs. A normal, healthy eye is bright and clear, with virtually unnoticeable vasculature. Redness occurs at the sclera, conjunctiva, or eyelids. The vasculature becomes thickened and obvious when there is irritation. Eye redness is 
  • Eye-watering: Eye problems cause excessive lacrimation, which is the eye's mechanism for cleaning the area and washing off irritants and debris. Irritation, persistent abrasion, allergic reaction, and trauma are eye problems that lead to watery eyes. Excessively watery eyes cause marked dampness around and under the eye that crusts over when it dries.
  • Pain: Dogs exhibit an obvious pain response to eye problems. Touching the eye or anywhere near the eye causes the dog to flinch or cry. Some dogs will have behavioral signs of pain, such as lack of appetite, refusal to play, and lack of physical activity. Severely affected dogs become aggressive when touched. 
  • Swelling: Some eye problems in dogs cause significant swelling. Cataracts and uveitis cause mild to severe proptosis, which looks like the eye doesn’t fit in the socket. The swelling is associated with pain and discomfort. Blinking decreases due to the swelling, as the eyelids have trouble covering the eye. The swollen dog eyes are predisposed to drying and desiccation. 
  • Cloudy eyes: Healthy eyes are bright, clear, and responsive to light. Opacity in eye color is a sign of ocular or systemic disease. A hazy appearance interferes with proper light reflection. Cloudy eyes are caused by cataracts, uveitis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), and glaucoma.

How Eye Problems Can Cause Behavioral Problems in Dogs?

Eye problems can cause behavioral problems in dogs by impaired vision and discomfort. The dog becomes less active, irritable, and weak due to constant pain and inflammation caused by the eye problem. 

There are many causes of eye problems in dogs, ranging from simple irritations and abrasions to more severe cases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and lens dysplasia. Diagnosing eye problems in dogs depends on the dog’s medical history and performing a physical examination. Information such as the onset of signs, duration of problem, and environment are essential data the veterinarian gathers for eye problems. 

The eyes are visually inspected for clarity, light reflectivity, response to touch, color, moisture, and anatomic structures. Further tests are conducted when abnormalities in eye structure and function are found. 

Treatments that help alleviate the painful side effects of eye problems and soothe the pain and inflammation include CBD Oil for dog behavior problems. Take the dog to the vet immediately when noticing persistent eye problems in dogs. 

What is the Treatment for Dry Eye in Dogs?

The treatment for dry eye in dogs is stimulation of tear production and recovery of tear film. Medications such as cyclosporine and tacrolimus are used to manage dry eye. The medicines are immunomodulators that increase tear production and decrease swelling. Antibiotic eye drops are used to treat secondary bacterial infections from dry eyes. Eye lubricants are used to dampen the eye and consistently prevent further damage. 

Is it Possible to Treat Eye Problems at Home?

Yes, it is possible to treat eye problems at home. Minor irritations, conjunctivitis, and blepharitis are manageable at home by removing the irritants and managing swelling. Washing the eye with clean running water helps to remove debris. Eye drops that have sodium hyaluronate help clean and lubricate the eye. Blepharitis is managed with 10-15 minutes of warm compresses. Consult a veterinarian for treatment of persistent eye disease in dogs.