Eye Problems In Dogs

Dogs suffer from approximately the same eye problems humans due.  These problems fall into roughly three categories:  injuries, diseases, and congenital abnormalities (birth defects).  Some breeds of dogs are more prone to certain injuries or diseases because of the shape of their eye, their genetic tendencies, or their play habits.  All of these factors should be taken into account when evaluating a breed or specific dog to determine whether that dog is for you.

Injuries usually fall into two categories:  poking and scraping.  A dog may get bitten in the eye during a fight, by a snake, or some other altercation.  This puncture releases fluid from inside the eye that helps to maintain the proper environment for the eye to see.  In severe cases, the eye may lose all of its fluid.  This usually results in blindness.  A simple puncture wound may heal and leave the dog with little problems, however.  In any case, this is an emergency requiring immediate veterinary care.

Scrapes occur when the dog gets hit in the eye with a branch when running, scratches an itch too vigorously, or comes into contact with another object without it puncturing the eye.  This is also an urgent situation, as the scrape can become infected and rob the dog of the sight in that eye.  A trip to the veterinarian is definitely in order.

Dogs suffer diseases ranging from pink eye to glaucoma, just as humans do.  Some of these are passed from dog to dog much as a cold passes through a kindergarten class.  Others, such as glaucoma, are associated with certain breeds or medical problems.  Glaucoma is an over pressurization of the eye that eventually pinches the optic nerve and causes blindness.  Now, there are drops that can be put in the eye to control the problem. Your dog need not go blind from glaucoma any more.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that strikes poodles and some other breeds.  It causes the degeneration of the retina.  Dogs go blind from it and there is no cure.  However, there are genetic markers for the most common strains, so be sure that any dog you purchase from a breed prone to PRA comes from parents who test as clear of the gene that transmits the problem.

Finally, there are the congenital problems.  These can be as simple as small tear ducts that cause the eye to tear at the corner because the tear ducts cannot drain the tears from the eye as fast as they are produced.  The problems can be as complex as missing or incomplete eyes.  Some problems, such as when the eye lids turn inside out and the eye lashes rub the eye raw, can be corrected by surgery.  Some, such as a missing eye, cannot.

While you cannot correct genetic problems with a dog’s eyes, you can check to make sure the dog you buy does not have such problems.  Check the parents.  Do they appear to have healthy eyes?  Have they been tested for common hereditary problems in their breed?  For example, buy only poodle puppies from a litter where both parents test clear for PRA.

Inspect the puppy.  Are the eyes bright, clear of discharge, and seem to track movement?  Do the eyelashes irritate the eye?  Does the dog appear to see you?  Puppies at about 6-8 weeks should be able to focus on you fairly well.

Ask about the parents, prior litters, and the parents’ siblings.  Have any of them had an eye problem?  If so, what was it?  How was it resolved?  Is it hereditary or environmental?  If hereditary, has the puppy tested clear for it?

Japanese Chin

Eyes are said to be the windows to the soul.  Make sure your puppy can see out of them and into to your soul by:

  • checking for common eye diseases before purchasing the dog,
  • making sure the dog plays in a safe environment, and
  • inspecting the dog daily for eye injuries or the beginning signs that there is a problem. 
  • treat problems promptly to reduce the risk of blindness as well as keep the dog comfortable. 

Do these things, and your dog will be protected from preventable eye problems.  Both of you will be happier then.

Return from Eye Problems In Dogs to Ear Care for Dogs

"Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant." - Unknown