Have you got an eye, for eyes?
Sunday, 1 March 2020 2:00 PM
Where is this year going? Can’t believe we’re already nearly a quarter through the year! March has come around way too fast for our liking - that’s for sure!
But with another month means it’s time for another blog! We hope you enjoy what we write, and if you ever want to hear about something we haven’t covered before, please provide us with some feedback in the comments below. Also if you’ve read a previous blog and want to re-read it, you can do so by clicking down on the left hand side.
Now where was I…? Oh yes- this month’s blog! Our focus is on eyes! We haven’t really focussed on eye diseases before, so we thought we’d bring it to the discussion table and chat about a few common eye conditions we see here at the clinic.
Eye diseases cover a whole range of different conditions, so let’s get an ‘eye-dea’ of what things might be happening when our furry friends get a sore eye.
The obvious symptoms include your pet keeping their eye shut and not wanting to open it, weeping and/or coloured discharge coming from eye, but there could be more going on that you aren’t aware of.
Let’s look at some of the issues that might be going on:
The conjunctiva are the mucous membranes that cover the inside of a dog’s eyelids, both sides of the third eyelid and some parts of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is an interchangeable term that simply means “inflammation of the conjunctiva.” The symptoms of conjunctivitis include reddened and swollen conjunctiva, eye drainage and discomfort.
Conjunctivitis should be thought of as a symptom of disease, not a disease itself. Many conditions cause conjunctivitis in dogs, including physical irritation (like dust or ingrown eyelashes), infections (bacterial or viral) and allergic reactions. Treatment for it depends on the underlying cause, and is something that should be treated by a vet. And before you worry too much- it is not something that can be passed on from dog/cat to human.
As you may have read above, dogs have a third eyelid. They have two that are easily seen and an extra one that normally hides from view below the inner corner of the eye. The third eyelid is home to a tear producing gland which is normally ‘invisible’, but some dogs have a congenital (meaning they are born with it) weakness of the ligaments that hold it in place. When these ligaments fail, the gland pops out of its normal location and looks a bit like a red, fleshy mass (referred to as a “cherry”) stuck in the inner corner of the eye. Because the gland is exposed, the usually moist tissue is uncovered and is exposed to air and other irritations.
Medications can be used to help treat the inflammation and if there is an infection involved, but surgery is a common path that has to be taken to successfully fix the issue.
The surface of the eye is covered with a clear, skin-like tissue called the cornea. Just like the skin, the cornea can be injured, and lacerations (cuts), punctures and ulcers are all quite common in our four-legged fur-kids. Trauma is usually the culprit, like when a dog runs through tall grass and gets poked in the eye or they get a grass seed stuck in their eye. In other cases, problems with the eyes themselves (like poor tear production or ingrown eyelids) can put them at risk for corneal damage. If your pet has a corneal wound will often rub at the affected eye and squint because of pain. The eye may also be red and weep a lot.
Treatment for corneal wounds involves preventing or treating infections with antibiotic eye drops or ointments, managing pain and giving the cornea time to heal. In severe cases, surgery or other treatments may be needed to protect or repair the cornea and promote healing.
This condition is basically when the eyelid grows in on itself. Entropion causes hair to rub on the surface of the eye, resulting in pain, increased tear production and can cause damage to the cornea. Entropion can be a congenital problem and is common in breeds like Sharpeis, Mastiffs, Bull mastiffs, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards.
If your pet has an entropion, it requires surgery to correct the problem. Eye ointment is often prescribed prior to surgery to treat irritation or damage caused by the entropion, but won’t fix the problem. If left untreated, it will cause a fair amount of discomfort to your pooch!
The lens is located in the middle of the eye and it is normally clear, but sometimes part or all of a lens develops a cloudy, opaque spot called a cataract. Cataracts block light from reaching the back of the eye resulting in poor vision or blindness, depending on the severity. Cataracts are often confused with a normal aging change that affects a dog’s lenses called senile nuclear sclerosis. Both conditions give the pupils (the normally black centre to the eye) a white, grey, or milky appearance. It can be determined in a consult with one of our lovely vets which one it is.
Cataract surgery is available for dogs here in S.A., but it is a procedure that is done at the referral clinic in Adelaide. If this is not an option, it is important to recognize that most dogs adapt very well to having poor vision.
Senile Nuclear Sclerosis
As mentioned above, this condition can be mistaken for cataracts. Nuclear sclerosis, or Lenticular sclerosis is the medical term for the bluish transparent haze that develops in the lens of the eye in middle-aged to senior dogs. This is considered a normal change in the lens associated with aging, and is observed as a cloudiness or bluish discoloration on the pupil.
Within the eye, the production and drainage of fluid is precisely balanced to maintain a constant pressure. Glaucoma occurs when this balance is disrupted and pressure within the eye increases. Symptoms include pain, eye redness, increased tear production, a visible third eyelid, and corneal cloudiness, dilated pupils and in advanced cases, an obviously enlarged eye.
This is quite a serious condition, so make sure you contact the clinic quickly, as delaying treatment can cause our beloved animals to go blind. Medications can help treat this, but surgery is sometimes needed depending on how severe the case is.
Dry Eye, known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
When our pooches get dry eye, their tear glands produce fewer tears than normal. Tears perform important functions like removing potentially damaging material from the surface of the eye and nourishing corneal tissues. Unsurprisingly, a lack of tears can cause big problems including corneal ulcers and damage
Mild cases of KCS can sometimes be managed with frequent application of an artificial tear solution, but medications that stimulate tear production are usually necessary.
So there you have it! We know – it’s an information overload!! But there are many eye diseases that can affect our cats and dogs lives and these are the most common that we see during our consults.
The most important thing to go away from the blog is that if your fur-kids are showing any symptoms or signs that they have a sore eye, don’t ignore it. Book an appointment with one of our vets sooner rather than later, as leaving things untreated could lead to unfortunate outcomes for your pets.