Your pet’s eyes are probably the first thing you look atthat soulful gaze, the intense knowing stare, or the way the corners wrinkle ever so slightly when they’re feeling mischievous. Vision isn’t the primary sense for dogs and cats, but sight is still a critical part of how they navigate and interact with their world, making ocular conditions and diseases a significant concern.

Here are the most common eye conditions we treat at the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek.

Dry eye in pets

Dry eye (i.e., keratoconjunctivitis sicca [KCS]) is an irritating condition caused by inadequate tear production. Dry eye can be a primary condition or develop in response to an injury, disease, or surgery. Pets with dry eye require daily artificial tears to keep the eye healthy, lubricated, and comfortable.

Eyelid disorders and pets

The eyelids and eyelashes protect the eye from dryness and debris, but this normal function can be prevented by several inherited conditions, including:

  • Entropion — During entropion, the eyelids roll inward causing the lashes and nearby hair to rub against the sensitive cornea. Without surgical correction, entropion can lead to chronic ulceration, permanent scarring, and vision loss.
  • Distichiasis — Distichiasis occurs when small hairs grow from tiny ducts along the eyelid. These nearly invisible hairs rub against and irritate the eye and can cause painful corneal ulcers. Affected pets may require daily topical medication or surgery (e.g., laser or cryotherapy) to seal the ducts and stop inappropriate hair growth.  

Cherry eye in pets

Dogs and cats have a third eyelid that is responsible for tear production and usually is hidden beneath the eye’s inner corner. This cherry-shaped gland may protrude over the eye temporarily during stress or illness, or more persistently when the supportive structures are weak. Persistent protrusion is known as “cherry eye,” or third eyelid prolapse. Although the condition isn’t painful, surgery is often necessary to tack the gland back into place. 

Conjunctivitis in pets

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the clear membrane over the eye and the eyelid lining that is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, irritation (e.g., allergies), dry eye, or blocked tear ducts, or can be secondary to another eye injury or disease. Affected pets are visibly uncomfortable (i.e., red eyes, squinting, and discharge). Treatment includes oral or topical antibiotics and addressing any underlying conditions.

Corneal injury and ulcer in pets

The cornea is the eye’s clear outer layer that is especially vulnerable to injury and irritation. Corneal ulcers are painful eye wounds caused by irritation (e.g., foreign material, distichiasis), trauma (e.g., scratches, punctures), other disease processes, and insufficient tear production.

Corneal ulcer treatment depends on the wound’s depth, but often includes topical treatment to address pain and prevent infection. Deep wounds can require surgery by a veterinary ophthalmology specialist.

Cataracts in pets

Cataracts, which can affect one or both eyes, are non-painful inherited abnormalities that occur when the eye’s previously transparent lens (i.e., the structure that directs light to the back of the eye, or retina) becomes cloudy or opaque. Pets lose their vision when light can no longer reach the retina. Surgery is necessary to remove the cataract and restore vision.

Glaucoma in pets

Glaucoma is an emergency condition in which the pressure inside one or both eyes reaches dangerous levels. This can damage critical structures, including the retina and optic nerve, and cause permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is incurable, extremely painful, and an emergency situation. Medication and surgery can help regulate the pressure inside the eye, but are often not successful, and eye removal is necessary to provide the pet with long-term comfort.

Progressive retinal atrophy in pets

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that can strike affected pets early or late in life and causes irreversible blindness as the retina (i.e., the eye structure that transmits images to the brain) deteriorates, and gradual blindness results. Owners may initially notice their pet struggling to see in dim light and this progressively worsen during the day. Although no PRA treatment exists, the condition is non-painful and many pets adapt quickly to their vision loss.  

Concerned about your pet’s eyes? When you should see the veterinarian

Your pet’s eyes are the windows to their soul, and changes in their eyes can be a cry for help. Eye conditions can change rapidly and can be emergency situations, so you should seek veterinary care at the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek for your pet with ocular signs, including:

  • Pain — Squinting, avoiding bright light, pawing, or rubbing
  • Inflammation — Visibly red, irritated, and bulging or swollen eyes or eyelids
  • Discharge Tear-like discharge is normal in some pets, but excessive tearing or yellow-green discharge can indicate irritation or infection
  • Vision changes — Hesitation in low light, refusing to enter certain rooms or spaces, bumping into objects or furniture
  • Eyelid masses and foreign objects — Seeds, grass awns and debris, for example, can irritate the eye and lead to corneal ulcers 
  • Dislocated eye — Proptosis, which is common in brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced) breeds and other breeds with protruding eyes, is a veterinary emergency. Careful handling and prompt surgical replacement is necessary to preserve the pet’s vision.

Keep your pet’s eyes bright and tail wagging with routine wellness care at the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek. Each comprehensive examination includes an ocular assessment to detect early eye health and vision changes. Contact us to schedule an appointment or request a telemedicine consult.